India’s influential role in Bangladesh elections

As Bangladesh approaches its January 7 general elections, India’s role in supporting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s regime becomes influential.

As Bangladesh prepares for its general elections on January 7, attention is drawn to the prominent role played by its neighbouring country, India, in the electoral landscape of Bangladesh. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is poised for a fourth consecutive term, facing minimal opposition as major parties opt to boycott the election, citing doubts about the fairness of the elections. In this political climate, India emerges as a significant factor, advocating for a friendly regime in Dhaka and openly supporting Hasina, who has forged strong ties with India since her initial election in 1996.

India’s stance is grounded in strategic considerations, viewing Bangladesh as a crucial partner essential for the security of its northeastern states. With historical, cultural, and economic ties, India has positioned itself as a steadfast supporter of Hasina, a sentiment that has raised criticism from the opposition, particularly the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The BNP contends that India should support the people of Bangladesh rather than a specific political party, accusing Indian policymakers of hindering their democracy.

However, Indian officials assert that they seek a friendly administration in Dhaka, emphasizing the necessity for stability and a government aligned with their interests. Hasina’s close relationship with India has been instrumental in securing support for her Awami League party, but it has also drawn criticism for allegedly influencing what some term as a “dummy election.”

India’s interest in a stable government in Bangladesh comes from concerns over the potential return of Islamist forces if the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami regain power, echoing events during their coalition government from 2001 to 2006. Additionally, India values its cultural and historical connections with Bangladesh, having played a pivotal role in the country’s independence in 1971.

Despite the benefits of this partnership, irritants in India-Bangladesh relations persist, ranging from water resource disputes to allegations of meddling in internal affairs.

As India navigates its role in the unfolding political scenario of Bangladesh, striking a balance between strategic interests, concerns over Islamist resurgence, and managing perceptions among the Bangladeshi population, the election unfolds. India’s influence in the Bangladesh region continues to remain a dynamic factor with implications for regional geopolitics.