India will be closely watching political events centring Bangladesh’s upcoming general elections as it is crucial for the next-door neighbour India as well.
This was said in an opinion piece of Tamil Nadu-based The Hindu Business Line.
Its author journalist Pratim Ranjan Bose observed that 'after a 10-year long stability', India-Bangladesh relations are facing fresh uncertainties as Bangladesh heads for general elections later this year.
He also claimed that though India and other global powers welcomed Awami League’s win in the last elections in January 2014 ‘under controversial circumstances’ as a viable alternative to instability, the upcoming elections may not be a repeat of the 2014 editions.
However, many of the western countries and Bangladesh's development partners had obvious reservations about the 2014 elections while India's the then foreign secretary Sujatha Singh supported the elections boycotted by main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
“While Delhi maintains a status quo on Hasina; it is now imperative for her to ‘win’ in an election where all parties participate to come back to power for the third term,” reads the article published on Thursday.
It said that prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s government is ‘suffering from serious anti-incumbency, owing to poor governance and unabated corruption’ and it will be difficult for the government to win in participatory polls.
The article, however, said that the government’s core support base of 35-37 per cent voters appears to be intact.
“And, it might be difficult for the (Awami) League to win a bipolar contest, which has been the norm in Bangladesh so far. Bangladesh’s record of political vengeance might lead to serious instability in the region; which is not in India’s interests,” it observed.
Referring to India’s investment in Bangladesh, the Business Line journalist said that Bangladesh is an important player in India’s ‘Act East’ agenda.
“In the last four years since Narendra Modi became prime minister, India has committed close to $9 billion as credit and aid, and $2 billion for the Rampal power project on soft terms. This is over and above the $1 billion loan and aid offered in 2010,” the article mentioned.
It said Bangladesh is crucial to India from the security perspective.
“Many analysts attribute this hectic diplomatic activity to the China factor. To its credit, New Delhi breached China’s grip over the Bangladeshi army last year by entering into its first-ever defence deals. But, this is just a part of the story. Bangladesh is extremely important to India from the security perspective,” the journalist went on to say.
Mentioning that Bangladesh shares a 4,100-km porous land border with Eastern and North- Eastern India, he said a volatile Bangladesh can create instability in various parts of India.
The article said prime minister Sheikh Hasina deserves credit for ‘clamping down on cross-border terrorist activities.’
“To cut a long story short, India regards Hasina a key player for maintaining peace and boosting development in the region and is keen to protect the bilateral relationship from domestic political upheavals,” it reads.
It added that though the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party is determined to participate in the 2018 polls, many believe the leadership crisis may limit its electoral prospects.
“Not a single anti-India movement was attributed to them in the last five years. Their protests remained peaceful even in the face of serious provocations from the Awami League,” it reads.
The article concludes with the question: "... has the BNP really changed?"