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Business News/ News / Bangladesh national elections: Sheikh Hasina, other political contenders' approach towards India — Why it matters?

Bangladesh national elections: Sheikh Hasina, other political contenders' approach towards India — Why it matters?

Bangladesh Elections 2024: India and Bangladesh share 4,096-km long border and an “excellent state of bilateral relations, based on deep historical and fraternal ties…” Here's a deep dive into Indo-Bangladesh relationship and why national elections in Bangladesh matters to India.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina at the G20 Summit, in New Delhi. (PTI)Premium
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina at the G20 Summit, in New Delhi. (PTI)

India is closely watching the general elections in neighbouring Bangladesh, as a lot seems to be at stake for the country. India has already established a strong partnership with Bangladesh under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina. Hasina is the current Bangladesh Prime Minister who is seeking a straight fourth term in the general elections on Sunday, January 7.

India and Bangladesh share 4,096-km long border and an "excellent state of bilateral relations, based on deep historical and fraternal ties and shared values of democracy and pluralism," a statement by the government had said after the state visit of Hasina to India in 2022.

Bangladesh shares border with India's West Bengal (2216.7 km), Assam (263 km), Meghalaya (443), Tripura (856) and Mizoram (318 km)

Why is Bangladesh Election important to India?

Sharing a border with Bangladesh makes the country utterly important for India which faces challenges of cross-border terrorism, national security, migration and trade. Here's how Bangladesh is important to India:

Cross-border terrorisms

As Sheikh Hasina came into power in Bangladesh, she helped the India's security burden by clamping down on insurgents, terrorists, and separatists. According to Eurasia review, Bangladesh "maintained close cooperation with India in terms of intelligence sharing and security matters".

Indian had also entered an Extradition Treaty with Bangladesh in January 2013 (during Hasina's rule) to address the security concerns of each other and strengthening mutual trust.

During the tenure of previous Bangladesh government led by Khaleda Zia, India had faced challenges on the terrorism front. Indian had said in its Annual Report 2004-2005 that "India has from time to time, expressed concern" over the activities of the terrorist groups operating from "the territory of Bangladesh through diplomatic channels, as also in the bilateral meetings between India and Bangladesh." However, Bangladesh had then denied harbouring "Indian insurgent groups" on its soil.

ALSO READ: India and Bangladesh boost defence ties at fifth annual dialogue in Dhaka

Illegal migration

Illegal migration is another challenges along the India-Bangladesh border. "The Indo-Bangladesh border is marked by a high degree of porosity and the checking of illegal cross border activities and illegal migration from Bangladesh to India have been major challenges," said the annual report of the Union Home Ministry for 2021-22.

As the Indian government decided to implement the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), Sheikh Hasina had in 2020 reportedly questioned the need for the ACT that fast tracked citizenship for persecuted non-Muslim minorities from three countries.

Gowher Rizvi, the advisor to Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, had told India Today in 2018, his country will take back all Bangladeshi nationals living illegally in India only "if India successfully proves that the illegal immigrants are Bangladeshi nationals".

Trade and economic ties

India's Ministry of External Affairs said in November 2022 that Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia and India is the second biggest trade partner of Bangladesh in Asia. Besides this, cooperation in the power sector also become one of the hallmarks of India-Bangladesh relations in the recent years.

"Despite Covid-19 related disruptions, bilateral trade grew at an unprecedented rate of almost 44% from $10.78 billion in FY (Financial Year) 2020-21 to US$ 18.14 billion in FY 2021-22. Exports to Bangladesh touched above US$ 16 bn as against $ 9.6 billion the previous FY. India is Bangladesh’s largest export destination in Asia," the MEA had said.

Regional ties

The external affairs ministry said India and Bangladesh’s geographical locations complement each other and present an opportunity for both to further develop their connectivity links and economies. In 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina launched three India-assisted development projects, two of which are expected to boost trade and improve connectivity with the Northeastern states.

Bangladesh political parties and their approach towards India:

The above analysis of Indo-Bangladesh ties establishes why Sheikh Hasina's government is important to India. But her party is not the only contesting the polls. As many as 27 political parties are contesting the elections. These include the opposition Jatiya Party (JAPA). The rest of them are members of the ruling Awami League-led coalition, which experts dub as "satellite parties". PTI reported.

Here's a look at approach of key parties towards India:

1. Bangladesh Awami League party

Sheikh Hasina leads the Bangladesh Awami League party. To reiterate the political party's stand towards India, Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen had recently highlighted Hasina's zero tolerance policy on terrorism.

The foreign secretary told news agency ANI," ...Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina with her zero-tolerance policy on any kind of terrorism and her promise not to let any inch of Bangladesh land used for any forces to our neighbours - India and also Myanmar...So, we are very steadfast in that context. That benefited some of the northeastern states in terms of stability and also we see progress. But we would like to go to the next level...."

2. Bangladesh Nationalist Party

Bangladesh's country's main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), is led by the former premier Khaleda Zia. India's might be concerned with BNP, which has been accused of "subverting" India’s interests in the past. However, the party has boycotted the January 7 elections, asserting that no election held under the current government would be deemed fair and credible.

"It is no secret that the Awami League has historically had a better and friendlier relationship with India compared to the BNP," Dhaka Tribune had reported earlier.

Zia had served as the prime minister of Bangladesh from March 1991 to March 1996, and again from June 2001 to October 2006. As of now, Zia is effectively under house arrest as a convict of graft charges.

3. Jatiya Party (JaPa)

The party so far seems to be in favour of India. Just ahead of Bangladesh Elections, Indian had invited a Jatiya Party delegation to New Delhi, in what was seen as "a sign of broadening engagement with the political parties of Bangladesh", The Hindu reported.

Following the Delhi visit, Jatiya Party Chairman GM Quader had said, "India has a lot of investments in this country, so India wants the next government of Bangladesh to be formed through fair elections."

Quader was quoted by the Business Standard as saying, "They [India] said the Jatiya Party has credibility. They will be happy if a fair election can be held after discussion among political parties."

"Discussions were held regarding the interests of the two countries. They have a good idea about Jatiya Party; they consider Jatiya Party a potential party. They hope that their relationship with Jatiya Party will remain cordial in future," Quader was quoted by the Daily Star as saying

Bangladesh Election 2024: Can Sheikh Hasina secure 4th term?

As the BNP boycotted the polls, some reports claimed that the chances have increased for Sheikh Hasina's ruling Awami League to win the elections. However, some others said this has not paved the way for walkover by Hasina, who is eyeing a fourth consequetive term.

The Hindustan Times quoted sources as saying that the "Awami League is not expected to win as many seats as in past elections" amid an an anti-incumbency wave, especially in the backdrop of a recent economic downturn. Hasina's party "will have to depend on the numerous independent candidates," sources added.

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Published: 06 Jan 2024, 08:25 PM IST
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