Bangladesh’s reliance on India, China could increase if US slaps sanctions

Belgium based organisation International Crisis Group warned that violence could surge in Bangladesh in the lead-up to or after voting in the next parliamentary election. Bangladesh’s dependence on India and China could increase further as the US and other Western countries will probably respond with sanctions in response to a rigged or disputed election.

“A rigged or disputed election could trigger fierce anti-government protests. It could also cause the government to increase its dependence on India and China, as the U.S. (and potentially other Western countries) will probably respond with sanctions, such as visa bans on top officials,” The International Crisis Group said this in its  October 2023-March 2024 edition of On the Horizon, that offers a snapshot into emergent conflicts and crises.

The forecast said the ruling Awami League is expected to ignore calls for it to step down and hand power to a caretaker government that would oversee the election, and instead continue a crackdown on BNP members.
Rival supporters could clash in street battles or attack party offices or candidates. Islamist groups could become more active in opposing the government.

Facing the prospect of a rigged poll, the opposition will probably boycott the election and could become radicalised, adopting more violent tactics.

The International Crisis Group also said the insurgency in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) could be reignited and insecurity could worsen in Rohingya camps amid deteriorating conditions.

“The status of a government ceasefire with the Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) is uncertain; the group will probably continue clashing with rival armed forces. Military operations to neutralise a new Islamist group, Jama’atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya, that has allegedly based itself in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, could increase, aggravating tensions and fueling a backlash,” said the report.

The ICG said a turf war between criminal and armed groups, especially Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and rival Rohingya Solidarity Organisation, could intensify in and around camps in Cox’s Bazar district, trapping civilians in the crossfire.

The report further adds that a lack of hope, insecurity and poverty threaten to create a vicious cycle in which desperate Rohingya – particularly young men – join criminal gangs and armed groups out of necessity, further fuelling the violence.