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Insights into Editorial: Agenda for the fourth term in Bangladesh
Sheikh Hasina’s party, which leads the Grand Alliance, has romped back to power for an unprecedented fourth term in office.
The general election has given the Grand Alliance, or, more specifically, the Awami League, a huge majority in the Jatiyo Sangshad, the country’s Parliament, to a point where no effective Opposition is in sight.
A glowing example for other democracies:
A group of foreign and local election observers, who monitored the parliamentary election, has termed the election free, fair, peaceful and on a par with major democratic countries in the world.
The foreign observers of Election Monitoring Forum (EMF) and SAARC Human Rights Foundation (SHRF), also said the just concluded election was “much better” than past elections in Bangladesh and could be a “glowing example for other democratic countries”.
Observers opined that this was a world standard election. We can compare this with the elections of major democratic countries.
The significance of this election:
- First, for the first time in a decade, all the political parties took part in the election (the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, or the BNP, boycotted the 2014 election). In other words, this time voting was based on an inclusive election.
- Second, this was the first time a general election was held under a political government since the fall of the Hussain Muhammad Ershad military regime in 1990.
- The earlier stipulation of elections being supervised by a caretaker administration.
- It stuck to the justified position that a government elected for five years cannot morally and logically hand over power to an unelected administration for three months before a new elected government comes into office.
India and Bangladesh:
- India and Bangladesh, two South Asian democracies, neighbours have the longest common border of over 4,000 km with each other.
- India was the first country to recognise Bangladesh as a separate and independent state and established diplomatic relations with the country immediately after its independence in December 1971.
- India’s connections with Bangladesh are cultural, social, civilizational and economic.
- But, Bangladesh-India relations are perhaps the most complex bilateral equations in the subcontinent.
- India welcomed the “successful completion of the parliamentary elections in Bangladesh”. Indian Prime Minister “expressed confidence’’ that the “partnership between India and Bangladesh will continue to flourish under her far-sighted leadership’’.
- The prime minister also reiterated the priority India attaches to Bangladesh as a neighbour, a close partner for regional development, security and cooperation, and a central pillar in India’s ‘neighbourhood first’ policy.
- However, the India-Bangladesh relations can be summarised as hanging on three ‘T’s- Tackling Terrorism, Trade + Transit, Teesta Treaty.
- There is an growing mutual trust and political comfort between Delhi and Dhaka, backed by Kolkata, will have one long-term consequence. It is important for India’s North East as well.
Steering the Bangladeshi economy:
It is the strength of its economic performance that the government has projected before the electorate, to a point where the international community, including the World Bank, has been appreciative of the strides made in the economy.
- Remittances from Bangladeshis working abroad have registered a significant rise,
- The ready-made garments industry has been performing well,
- Growth has gone up, and
- Massive infrastructure projects have been undertaken.
Maintaining Balance in the Foreign Policy:
National history of Bangladesh has been massively distorted by those who exercised power between 1975 and 1996, Ms. Hasina has turned out to be the most powerful political leader in the country’s history, after her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
In the field of foreign affairs, the government has based its approach to the outside world on pragmatism, thus successfully preserving a balance in Bangladesh’s relations with India, China and Russia.
The government has also found appreciation from the international community in its treatment of the Rohingya refugees nearly 1 million refugees have found shelter in Bangladesh following their expulsion from Myanmar.
It has gone out of its way to ensure the safety of the refugees even as it tries, rather fitfully, to strike a deal with Myanmar on the return of the Rohingya.
For China, the most desirable long-term outcome would be to manage its relations with Dhaka in such a manner that Indian anxieties are assuaged and a regional win-win framework linking China-Bangladesh-India is a possibility.
The current challenges for Hasina are to consolidate her domestic agenda and balance her country’s relations with India and China the neighbouring giants.
While India enabled the creation of Bangladesh, it is a complex relationship with a number of areas of discord, including illegal immigration.
In the next five years, it will be the government’s responsibility to go beyond an emphasis on economic progress to ensure rule of law and democracy, in the form of a properly functional Parliament, a free judiciary, and an efficient executive.
Ms. Hasina looks to preside over the centenary of the birth of the country’s founder in 2020 and the 50th anniversary celebrations of Bangladesh’s independence in 2021.