Bangladeshi leader Sheikh Hasina has swept back to power in the recently held general elections in the country. Hasina’s Awami League led alliance has won 288 on seats out of 298 seats in the Bangladeshi Jatiya Sangsad (parliament). Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the main opposition party, has stayed out of the electoral fray the in absence of its leader Begum Khaleda Zia, who is behind bars. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has congratulated Hasina on her consecutive wins. However, the Bangladeshi elections were marred by widespread violence. The Daily Star, a leading English Bangladeshi daily reported that at least 15 people were killed in the violence that surrounded the elections in 13 districts namely Noakhali, Rangamati, Chattagram, Cumilla, Rajshahi, Natore, Tangail, Narsingdi, Bogura, Brahmanbaria, Gazipur, Sylhet and Cox’s Bazar.
Under the Hasina government, Bangladesh’s economic growth has climbed to an average of around 7% in the last few years. Hasina had promised a 9% growth in her election manifesto. Her landslide win will poise her well to achieve that target. Her sensitive handling of the refugee problem in the wake of the Rohingya crisis has also been appre-ciated internationally. On the flipside, the victory has been underplayed by many experts as reports of widespread rigging and violence emerged from Bangladesh. According to them, the result might not be a true reflection of the public mood in the country.
The anti-terrorist factor and gain for India
Hasina has been steadfast in her stance against terrorism. She has made it clear that she will not allow Bangladeshi soil to be used as a launching pad of terrorist activities. With Hasina at the helm again in Bangladesh, India has a trusted ally on its eastern frontier.
Imankalyan Lahiri, Assistant Professor, Department of International Relations, Jadavpur University told BE, “This result is important for India because it is impossible for India to grow without Bangladesh. To counter the growth of the other regional powers like China and Pakistan, India needs the support of Hasina’s government. On the other hand, Sheikh Hasina has already taken strong actions against Islamist fundamentalist organisations like the Jamaat. The Awami League led government is very important for India to combat terrorism and anti-Indian activities that were operated from Bangladeshi soil. To establish its regional hold, New Delhi needs to have a reliable government in Bangladesh.”
India already has a favourable relationship with Bangladesh. The two countries have participated in 10 bilateral meetings, six video conferences, launched 19 joint development pro-jects and signed more than 90 bilateral agreements in areas like space, Information Technology (IT), electronics, cyber security, civil nuclear energy among others in the last five years. It is expected that with Hasina back in power in Bangladesh, India will continue with its strategic alliance with Bangladesh which can provide a vital trade link to south-east Asia.
It will also be in the Indian interested to deal expeditiously with the Teesta water sharing issue to better forge an effective alliance with Bangladesh. Lahiri pointed out, “The central government should settle the Teesta issue as soon as possible to convey to the people of Bangladesh that India is with them.”