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In News:

Context:

  • Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina has won a fourth term in the just concluded Bangladesh elections, which makes her the longest serving head of government that the nearly 50-year-old country has known. 
  • General elections were held in Bangladesh on 30 December 2018 to elect members of the Jatiya Sangsad. 
  • The result was a landslide victory for the Awami League led by Sheikh Hasina. The elections were marred by violence and claims of vote rigging.
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  • The last five years saw the Hasina government take an authoritarian turn, jailing opponents, stifling dissent, and generally responding to all criticism badly. 
  • India is clearly happy at the election outcome. Bilateral relations would further strong.

Why Sheikh Hasina Won?

  • Economic progress: the country’s economic progress which has provided jobs and in turn contributed to what are South Asia’s best social indicators.
  • Weak opposition: The main opposition leader Khalida Zia is in jail.

Importance of the Victory for India:

  • 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. Bangladesh is important for India’s security, connectivity to its northeast region, and implementing its Act East Policy.
  • India’s plans to forge a viable alternative to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation rests on Bangladesh, given its location bridging South Asia and South-East Asia.
  • Important for sub-regional groupings like BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) and the BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal) Initiative.
  • 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.
  • As a friend of Hasina, Delhi is clearly happy at the election outcome.
  • 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’’. Leading PM to describe it as the “golden era” in bilateral relations.
  • 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.
  • India has made trade concessions to Bangladesh, invested more money in the country, and is in the midst of several infrastructure and connectivity projects.
  • India has rightly stayed out of the internal tumult over the last five years or more.
  • The India-Bangladesh relations can be summarised as hanging on three ‘T’s- Tackling Terrorism, Trade + Transit, Teesta Treaty. The only outstanding issue between the two is the Teesta river waters sharing agreement.
  • The Hasina government has shut down camps of terrorist groups operating in India’s Northeast from safe havens in Bangladesh.
  • There is a 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.

Way Ahead:

  • The current challenges for Hasina are to consolidate her domestic agenda and balance her country’s relations with India and China the neighbouring giants and and a regional win-win framework linking China-Bangladesh-India is a possibility.
  • While India enabled the creation of Bangladesh, it is a complex relationship with a number of areas of discord, including illegal immigration.
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