Why is Sheikh Hasina’s victory in Bangladesh important for India?

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Why is Sheikh Hasina's victory in Bangladesh important for India?

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League party has won the general election for the fourth consecutive time. According to the Bangladesh Election Commission, the Awami League won more than 50% of the votes.

As soon as voting began for the general elections in Bangladesh on Sunday (January 7, 2024), the Awami League’s victory was certain. This was because voting in these elections was merely a formality as all major opposition parties, including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, boycotted the elections.

While the eyes of the entire world were on these elections due to allegations of suppression of democracy and human rights violations in Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina’s victory has special significance for India.

Congratulating Sheikh Hasina Wajid on her success, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote in X that “We are determined to further strengthen our sustainable and people-oriented partnership with Bangladesh.”

According to political analysts, the policies of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are similar. He considers both Sheikh Hasina and Narendra Modi to be leaders with a strong image. Both have very good control over their respective matches.

Modi and Sheikh Hasina have given a good boost to the economy of their respective countries. Like Narendra Modi, Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy is also seen as balancing the world’s major powers.

Like Modi’s “New India”, Sheikh Hasina also sings “New Bangladesh”.

India and Bangladesh share a 4,100 kilometer border and have deep historical, cultural and economic ties. Therefore, it is in India’s interest to have a stable, prosperous and friendly Bangladesh.

Analysts say India appears to firmly support Sheikh Hasina’s government. Bangladesh is its closest and strongest ally in South Asia.

Modi govt focuses on Bangladesh

Bangladesh is receiving high priority in the foreign policy of India’s Modi government. In recent years, India has generously provided financial assistance for Bangladesh’s development projects.

Sanjay Bhardwaj, professor of South Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, says, “The Awami League led the freedom movement of Bangladesh.”

He says Bengali nationalism, secularism, democracy and socialism are the basic values of Bangladesh, relating to the strong relations between India and Bangladesh under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina.

He says that India also includes the values of nationalism, secularism, socialism and democracy, so if you look at it this way, the values of both are similar. This similarity of values is bringing India and Bangladesh closer together.

What is the reason for the Indian government’s strong relationship with the Awami League’s Sheikh Hasina government compared to the governments of opposition parties?

On this issue, Sanjay Bhardwaj says: ‘The main opposition party in Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, was formed by a military government. Founded by Ziaur Rahman in 1978, this party is based on Islam. He has received support from supporters of the former Muslim League. “She believes in policies like Pakistan.”

She says: ‘The social base that this party has built is based on support for the army and against India. It has been seen that when this party is in power, it focuses on strengthening ties with countries like China and Pakistan rather than India.’

In comparison, India and Bangladesh signed several agreements during the Awami League regime from 1971 to 1975 and again from 1996 and from 2009 to 2024, he adds.

These include major agreements ranging from the Ganges River Treaty to the establishment of a land border and a bus service between the two countries.

Meanwhile, India also became Bangladesh’s largest trading partner. Bangladesh also became the fastest growing economy in Asia.

Bangladesh and India
Bangladesh and India

The opposition of Bangladesh and India

Before 2009, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party government had an anti-India stance. Many anti-India extremists have been refugees in Bangladesh.

This led to the rise of radical Islamic organizations in Bangladesh. This created a strong anti-Indian atmosphere in the neighborhood which was proving to be a headache for him.

But with the advent of Sheikh Hasina’s government, there was a dramatic improvement in relations between the two countries. Sheikh Hasina’s government helped curb anti-India activities in the northeast.

His government cracked down on those who took refuge in Bangladesh after committing extremist crimes in India. This improved India’s environment in the northeast.

Sanjay Bhardwaj says Sheikh Hasina’s government played an important role in how India tried to further integrate its northeastern part. Sheikh Hasina has good relations with Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee, Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee and when Narendra Modi came to power, relations with them improved.

Sheikh Hasina adopted a balanced foreign policy not only with India but also with China, Japan and Russia, but Bangladesh and India have had the closest and strongest relations during this period.

Growing trade formed the basis of strong ties

Bangladesh has become an important market for India. Bangladesh has become India’s fifth largest export market in 2022-23.

After the United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands and China, India’s largest exports were to Bangladesh. Bangladesh’s export market share rose to 2.7 percent of India’s exports valued at $12.2 billion.

Sheikh Hasina’s government is promoting land and sea connectivity between northeast India and the country. Bangladesh can play an important role in India’s economic ties with South and East Asian countries.

India wants Bangladesh to be a hub for its economic connectivity with South and Southeast Asian countries through the Bay of Bengal.

This is one of the pillars of Act East Indian policy. Dhaka has the secretariat of BIMSTEC which connects eastern countries like Myanmar and Thailand. Japan, a friendly country of India, has also invested a lot in Bangladesh in recent times. In this sense, the role of India is also being considered.

United States, Bangladesh and India
Tensions in relations between the United States and Bangladesh have been in the news for some time. Bangladesh’s tense relations with the United States and Britain have historical reasons as they supported Pakistan during Bangladesh’s struggle for independence in 1971. Therefore, the attitude of Sheikh Hasina’s government towards both countries is a bit distrustful.

The United States has been accusing Sheikh Hasina’s government of authoritarian behavior. Relations between the two countries improved slightly under the Biden administration, but the United States is harassing Bangladesh on human rights issues.

 USA  Bangladesh and India
USA Bangladesh and India

However, in recent times the United States has been seen trying to improve relations with Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina met Biden and his top advisers at the G20 summit in Delhi.

C. Rajamohan writes in the Indian Express that “it appears that the Biden administration has begun to value Indian interests in Bangladesh and is keen to reduce the bitterness in relations with this country.”

Sanjay Bhardwaj says that ‘if Bangladesh conforms to and cooperates with US strategic interests, it does not matter what its stance is on democracy, human rights and other issues. The United States wants South Asian and Southeast Asian countries to cooperate in its Indo-Pacific strategy to counter China.

“India is a member of the Quad,” he says. It is also an ally of the US strategy in the Indo-Pacific. Therefore, India also wants an exchange of interests between the United States and Bangladesh. It is also in India’s interest that relations between the United States and Bangladesh remain good. Bangladesh would also like to improve relations with the United States as it is an important market for Bangladeshi clothing.

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