Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

Bangladesh’s Elections: Concerns for India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Bangladesh's Elections


Central Idea

  • In recent months, Western nations, including the US, UK, and EU have been urging Bangladesh to hold free, fair, and participatory elections.
  • These calls have been accompanied by pressure on the Sheikh Hasina government to step down and allow a neutral caretaker administration to oversee the upcoming parliamentary elections in January.
  • While the US has eased its stance under Indian intervention, the EU continues to exert pressure.

This article explores the intricate dynamics of Bangladesh’s political landscape, the potential consequences of fair elections, and the global interests at stake.

Fair Elections vs. Radical Islamists

  • Opposition Demands: The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) demands elections under a caretaker government, which the government has rejected.
  • Potential Outcome: With the BNP unlikely to participate, the elections may result in a one-sided contest favoring the Awami League, returning Sheikh Hasina to power for the fourth time.
  • Anti-Incumbency: After 15 years in power, the Awami League faces significant anti-incumbency, exacerbated by record-high inflation and economic challenges.
  • Economic Crisis: Falling forex reserves, currency depreciation, and mounting external debt have created a looming debt crisis.
  • Chinese Loans: Much of the infrastructure development relies on high-interest loans from China.

Authoritarianism and Islamist Influence

  • Authoritarian Practices: The Awami League’s authoritarian measures, including arrests and harassment of opposition leaders, have fueled resentment among the masses.
  • Corruption and Nepotism: Perceived corruption and nepotism within the Awami League have widened the gap between the government and the impoverished population.
  • Islamist Influence: The Awami League’s encouragement of Islamist groups like Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh has created a toxic environment within the ruling party.
  • Radicalization: Islamist organizations, through religious schools and mosques, have radicalized a significant portion of the population, especially the youth.
  • Islamist Opposition: The Islamist parties, including Jamaat-e-Islami, Hefazat, and Islami Oikyo Jote, now fill the opposition space.
  • Political Analyst’s Perspective: Political analysts argue that the Awami League’s crackdown on the BNP has inadvertently strengthened Islamist parties, which seek to implement strict Sharia laws and turn Bangladesh into an Islamic state.

Potential Outcomes of Equitable Elections

  • Rise of Jihad: Fair and equitable elections may pave the way for radical Islamist parties to come to power.
  • Jamaat-e-Islami: Despite being banned from contesting elections, Jamaat nominees may run as Independents or on tickets from other parties, potentially leading to their victory.
  • Radicalists Victory: Political observers suggest that non-partisan elections would likely result in Islamist parties sweeping the polls and gaining power.
  • Impact on India: The rise of Islamists in Bangladesh could negatively affect India, potentially aligning Bangladesh with Pakistan and China, and posing a threat to India’s interests.
  • Global Concerns: An Islamist-controlled Bangladesh could become a breeding ground for jihadis and a potential failed state, posing a danger to global security.

World’s Interest in the Election Process

  • Global Implications: Given the far-reaching consequences of Islamist rule in Bangladesh, the world has a vested interest in allowing the election process to proceed with limited interference.
  • Focus on Future Actions: While the elections may be flawed or unfair, the priority should be to ensure that after returning to power, the Awami League commits to keeping China at bay, curbing Islamist forces, allowing a responsible and secular opposition to thrive, and cleansing the party of Islamist elements.
  • Securing Bangladesh’s Future: Striking a balance between a flawed elections and securing Bangladesh’s democratic and secular future is essential for the world’s stability and security.


  • The upcoming elections in Bangladesh present a complex dilemma for both the nation and the world.
  • While free and fair elections could bring radical Islamists to power, their absence could lead to continued authoritarianism.
  • Striking the right balance and securing Bangladesh’s future as a democratic and secular nation is paramount to global stability and peace.

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