More Modi, more anti-India sentiment for Bangladesh – Asia Times

More Modi, more anti-India sentiment for Bangladesh - Asia Times

Standard gratitude came quickly from Bangladesh, the country’s neighbor, after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s record-equaling but restrained election defeat.

Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister of Bangladesh, wrote to Modi to say that he carries the “hopes and aspirations of the people of India” and that he had scheduled a trip across the boundary to enter the Indian party’s oath-taking meeting on June 7.

Yet, in her own ground, Hasina is grappling with the highest levels of “anti- India” attitude among the common populace in subsequent memory.

However, Hasina has had a difficult time putting down the growing chorus of dissident and opposing voices that spread the myth that Modi’s support for her extended tenure, which has been credited with at least four times.

There are many powerful arguments supporting this tale. Hasina was under extraordinary pressure from the United States and the European Union, which are vital importers of the North Eastern nation’s multi-billion dollar apparel products, to ensure a gratis, fair, and diverse electoral process after two contentious elections in 2014 and 2019 that were marked by opposition boycotts and widespread allegations of vote rigging.

Prior to the January vote this year, American pressure grew as the US imposed visa restrictions on Bangladeshis who perceived the obstructing the ballot process, causing widespread speculation about looming economic sanctions against the nation’s important garment sector.

Garments accounted for nearly 85 % of Bangladesh’s total exports in 2023, hitting a record of$ 47 billion in shipments. The US and EU combined took around 80 % of Bangladesh’s clothing sales abroad next month.

But, Indian policymakers officially disapproved of Washington’s strong position on Bangladesh, fearing any sanctions on the garment industry may play into China’s hands, destroy the region and harm India’s security.

According to a number of press reports, New Delhi allegedly facilitated US-Bangladesh’s covert negotiations to evade sanctions. Obaidul Quader, the general secretary of the Awami League, praised India for its aid of the vote on January 7.

Shortly after the polls, although, a group of Bangladeshi bloggers and protesters initiated an” India out” campaign, alleging that the Modi government is supporting Hasina’s continued rule to further its own objectives while overlooking the Bangladeshi opposition’s democratic problems and concerns.

Reports indicate a growing preference for alternatives to Indian products, both domestically and internationally, and that” India out” campaign has gained a significant following on Bangladesh social media channels. The campaign, mirroring a similar boycott movement in the Maldives, has also drawn the attention of New Delhi, prompting official statements on the issue.

The boycott, aimed at exerting economic pressure on New Delhi’s significant exports to Bangladesh, currently exceeding$ 12 billion per year, is part of a broad effort to reduce Dhaka’s dependence on its giant neighbor. &nbsp,

There is no disputing that India has always been unpopular in Bangladesh, even when the country lost independence in the Liberation War of 1971, which India played a significant part in.

Religious differences, which were the main factor in Pakistan’s independence from the Indian subcontinent, are largely to blame for this.

Traditionally, support for India in Dhaka was primarily confined to the Hindu minority and a segment of Awami League supporters, mainly from the elite class.

Since her first term in 1996, Awami League’s Hasina has cultivated strong bonds with India and has consistently defended Dhaka’s close alliance with Delhi, emphasizing its contribution towards the country’s liberation.

India is concerned that a return to power of the main opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party ( BNP ), which was last led by the ultra-right wing Jamaat-e-Islami coalition, could cause a resurgence of Islamist influence in Bangladesh, similar to what happened during their previous administrations of 2001 and 2006.

But Modi’s continued regime adds a different dimension to the “anti- Indian” sentiment in Bangladesh. The Hindutva ideology promoted by Modi’s regime has marginalized India’s 210 million Muslim minority, which has not gone unnoticed in Muslim- majority Bangladesh.

Furthermore, the implementation of the National Register of Citizen ( NRC ) and the Citizenship Amendment Act ( CAA ) under Modi’s regime could potentially displace millions of “unregistered” Muslim citizens from various Indian states, particularly Assam, forcing them to seek refuge in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh, a nation of 180 million people, is already burdened by the burden of more than a million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, which would become even more difficult.

Bangladeshi anti-Indian sentiment has been exacerbated by a number of border killings that have escalating over the past ten years, an unresolved Teesta River treaty that has consistently put Hasina in an embarrassing position on the domestic front, and an unfair trade balance favoring Delhi over Dhaka.

A shift in Delhi’s leadership that allowed Modi to leave would n’t necessarily have slammed anti-India sentiment in Bangladesh. However, Hasina’s attendance at Modi’s oath-taking ceremony on June 7 will give more fuel to anti-India boycotts in Bangladesh.

Faisal Mahmud is a Dhaka- based journalist