Bangladesh is in deep political crisis. The January 5 national elections have been conducted and there have been allegations against the Commission and the Chief Election Commissioner, Kazi Rakiuddin Ahmed of partisan (his son has been an uncontested winner in these polls). The turnout has been low. Moreover, during the run-up to the elections and during the polls itself, there has been substantial loss of life and damage to public and personal property. The polity and state institutions have been smothered to a great extent. The political impasse is likely to continue as the Opposition 18-party alliance led by Begum Khaleda Zia with strong cadre-based support from the Jamaat Party, which has been fighting the Bangladesh National Party's (BNP) battle on the streets and mohallahs with the help of sister groups like Hephazat-e-Islam, is unlikely to relent.
There is a significant difference between the earlier political struggles between the Awami League (AL) and the BNP with its anti-AL forces to the no-holds-barred political contest now. The anti-AL political forces, particularly the core Islamists of the Jamaat Party are apprehensive that a gradual political transformation of Bangladesh to a more secular political-social orientation will damage their fundamental political interests of Islamising the nation. On earlier occasions, from the late seventies, the political contests were more for direct control of state power. Now there are wider implications. The political outcome of upheavals and churning towards some degree of democratisation in the Islamic countries in the past two years may have also had their impact on the Jamaat and its allies
Continous strikes and dharnas have paralyzed life and destabilized the economy of this South Asian nation of 150 million people. The estimated annual average cost of general strikes, or hartals as they are called in Bangladesh, is between 3 percent and 4 percent of the country's $110 billion gross domestic product (GDP) reports the Daily Star. Political violence has also spiraled out of control, with around 322 people killed in political clashes this year ' the highest death toll outside a conflict zone ' according to Dhaka-based human rights group Odhikar.
Bilateral trade between India and Bangladesh has been adversely affected by the political turmoil in that country. Movement of goods has been halted at the borders shared by the two and many Indian traders have had to cancel their visits to Dhaka."Indian traders have been badly affected by the ongoing tension in Dhaka. Exports from India to the region have slowed down completely. We have been asked by the Indian authorities not to send goods until the situation improves," said M. Rafeeque Ahmed, president, Federation of Indian Export Organisation.
The Bangladesh customs department has urged its Indian counterpart to stop sending trucks with export consignments, because the land port warehouses at the Bangladesh borders are full with no space to handle further imports. This has happened since there has been no movement of goods within Bangladesh for the last one and a half weeks due to strikes
Let's look at the history of Bangladesh's Political turmoil..
1947 - British colonial rule over India ends. A largely Muslim state comprising East and West Pakistan is established, either side of India. The two provinces are separated from each other by more than 1,500 km of Indian territory.
1949 - The Awami League is established to campaign for East Pakistan's autonomy from West Pakistan
1970 - The Awami League, under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, wins an overwhelming election victory in East Pakistan. The government in West Pakistan refuses to recognise the results
1971 - Sheikh Mujib arrested and taken to West Pakistan. In exile, Awami League leaders proclaim the independence of the province of East Pakistan on 26th March. Just under 10 million Bangladeshis flee to India as troops from West Pakistan are defeated with Indian assistance.
1975 - Sheikh Mujib becomes president of Bangladesh. The political situation worsens. He is assassinated in a military coup in August. Martial law is imposed.
1979 - Martial law is lifted following elections, which Zia's Bangladesh National Party (BNP) wins.
1981 - Zia is assassinated during abortive military coup. He is succeeded by Abdus Sattar.
1996 - Two sets of elections eventually see the Awami League win power, with Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, becoming prime minister.
2000 December - Bangladesh expels Pakistani diplomat for comments on the 1971 war. The diplomat had put the number of dead at 26,000, whereas Bangladesh says nearly three million were killed.
2002 July - Pakistani President Musharraf visits; expresses regret over excesses carried out by Pakistan during 1971 war of independence.
2004 Opposition calls 21 general strikes over the course of the year as part of a campaign to oust the government.
2007 January - A state of emergency is declared amid violence in the election run-up
2010 January - Five former army officers are executed for the 1975 murder of founding PM Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
2013 December - Supreme Court upholds death sentence on Islamist leader Abdul Kader Mullah of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, who was convicted in February of crimes against humanity during the 1971 war of independence.
2014 January - Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gains a third term in elections.
INDIA- BANGLADESH TRADE RELATIONS:
India and Bangladesh share more than 4096 km contiguous border. Both the countries can benefit immensely by enhancing bilateral trade and investment. Being one of the major players in South Asia, both India and Bangladesh greatly impact the socio-political and economic demography of the region and relations between them influences the fate of South Asia. India is poised to become the third largest economy in the World. It will mean that Bangladesh can get access to its burgeoning middle class market, estimated between 350-400 million people. Many studies have indicated that when a major economy coexists side by side with smaller countries, spillover effects of the major economy's growth on the smaller economies is often high. India's trade with Bangladesh has witnessed rapid growth in recent years. Currently, China is the largest trading partner of Bangladesh. However, India is likely to emerge as the largest trading partner in the coming years according to FICCI.
India Bangladesh Bilateral Trade
Below we mention top five commodities that are being exported to Bangladesh from India and imported from Bangladesh to India
India's Exports to Bangladesh Top 5 commodities
India's Imports from Bangladesh Top 5 Commodities
Also being in SAFTA will enhance the bi lateral trade in between India and Bangladesh.
Some of the important sector in which bi lateral trade is very important are
Energy: North Eastern states have hydropower energy of more than 63,000 MW . The region is looking for business investments in the hydroelectricity sector through the build-own operate and transfer basis. Large untapped capacity for power generation in North Eastern India can feed power starved Bangladesh. Thus, cooperation in this sector is a win- win situation for all.
Food Processing: The NER, which is a hub of fresh fruits and vegetables, can act as a source of raw materials for the growing food processing sector in Bangladesh. Furthermore, Indian investment and technology can help strengthen Bangladesh's food processing sector
Tourism: The NER offers unlimited tourism opportunities - with its moderate climate for most of the year, rare flora and fauna, naturals scenic beauty, unique performing arts, and varied cuisine and handicrafts, the region is an ideal spot for tourism. Moreover, there is considerable potential for expanding high - value tourism such as hill and adventure tourism
EFFECT ON INDIA:
At least 2,200 Indian trucks were stranded at the various land ports on both sides of the Indo-Bangla border with goods worth above R200 crore. Of this, goods estimated to cost above R50 crore were perishable. Petrapole handles 80% of the $5-billion Indo-Bangla trade and 900 Indian trucks were stranded at Petrapole alone. Around 700 Indian trucks were stranded at Benapole. The average loss per day were 100-400 crore rupees.
Not only in West Bengal, were other north eastern states also bore the burnt because of these strikes. It had slowed down triggering shortage of cement, stone chips, fish and electronic goods which were imported from Bangladesh.
Bangladesh exports clothes, leather, food, confectionery, stone chips, cement and construction material, jewelry, processed food and fish. Tripura, Meghalaya and Assam export fertilizer, precious stones, fruit, spare parts and forest produce, among others, to Bangladesh.
As the normal trade has been denied due to political unrest, Indian manufacturer are facing hard to procure raw material and sell manufactured product. As per the procurement is concern the manufacturer have to buy the raw material from somewhere else and as a result the cost will go up.
India's internal security establishment is worried over the political uncertainty and incessant violence in Bangladesh. It is being suspected that the unabated violence may have a spillover effect in the north-east as there are reports of religious minorities in Bangladesh being targeted. This, sources say, could see retaliation on minorities in troubled states of north-east like Assam and revive a situation similar to May-June 2012 when it saw raging riots. In an electoral year, this could further spill over to the rest of the country
India may have to maintain a two-pronged approach. At the governmental level, it will have to offer economic benefits and cooperation over a range of areas including some degree of military assistance so that Dacca does not attempt to hurt India's basic interests. However, a regime which is communally oriented and anti-India may have to be dealt on a reciprocal basis but without hurting the basic economic interests of that nation. Alienation of the common people, particularly its rural folk, can have a lasting impact and hence should be avoided. The communal Islamist forces have their political base more in the urbanized areas of Bangladesh and the AL still holds substantial sway in the rural agrarian areas.
Should radical elements gain ground in Bangladesh, the potential threat of terrorism emanating from Bangladeshi terrority could be a great concern, along with attacks on the Hindu minority in Bangladesh, and the lost opportunities for increasing trade and connectivity.
Despite India's support for Bangladeshi independence in 1971, the two countries have had a complex and at times difficult relationship. Both Delhi and Dhaka, under Sheikh Hasina's Awami League government, sought to overcome longstanding distrust in recent years, with reciprocal state visits in 2011 and 2012, and the negotiation of some important agreements to advance trade and commercial ties, resolve long-standing border disputes, and facilitate river water sharing and land connectivity across Bangladesh. The border and river sharing agreements still face obstacles in India but relations are at present the best they have been in years, with robust economic ties, and strong counter-terrorism cooperation underway.
New Delhi has been trying to convince the US of the fact that due to the destructive activities of Jamaat, the situation of the country is gradually going out of control, through discussion.
In the words of the spokesperson of the foreign ministry, 'We believe that as people of a democratic nation, the Bangladeshi politicians will resolve their differences through dialogue.' But despite their statement, New Delhi fears that a huge number of refugees might cross borders. Besides that, they fear the huge capital that has gone to Islamist organizations in Bangladesh including Jamaat might have a negative impact across the border as well. A number of 5000 extra BSF personnel have been deployed, the paper reports. As a border state, West Bengal is worried about this issue too. The Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has taken steps in this matter. The DG of the state police has increased vigilance in the border areas as per her orders.
The recent signing of a new extradition treaty and visa regime between India and Bangladesh, signed by Indian home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and his Bangladeshi counterpart Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, marks a major shift in their relationship. India has long demanded an extradition treaty with Bangladesh, which was not forthcoming due to an adversarial relationship with the previous regime in Dhaka.
With the treaty, New Delhi has gained a way to clamp down on insurgency in the northeastern region of the country, long a hotbed for separatist and insurgent groups who mostly operate from Bangladesh and other neighboring countries. It is believed that senior leaders from the outlawed United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and other underground groups are hiding in Bangladesh. The new treaty will allow India to deport them. Bangladesh also stands to benefit, with India pledging to track down the two convicted killers of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who are believed to be hiding in India.
While both countries largely stand to benefit from the agreement, the issue of illegal immigration is a sticking point. With a porous, shared border more than 4000 kilometers long, many poor Bangladeshis illegally enter India to find work. The new visa regime addresses this issue to an extent. Some analysts say that the issue cannot be handled comprehensively unless New Delhi issues permits to Bangladeshi migrant laborers.
Given historical, political and cultural linkages, neighboring India can hardly be a mute spectator to developments in Bangladesh. The latter's geographical linkages to India's northeast makes Dhaka an important player in our Look East policy architecture. Besides, turmoil in Bangladesh provides fertile ground for anti-India forces to fish in troubled waters. With US withdrawal looming over Afghanistan, Indian leadership can hardly afford a turbulent eastern front.
At this crucial juncture, New Delhi must reach out and support all democratic stakeholders in Dhaka to mitigate distrust and break the cycle of violence plaguing Bangladeshi polity. It must realize that a peaceful, democratic Bangladesh can galvanize the region by serving as an important conduit between South and East Asia. On the other hand, instability will increase regional security challenges and further propagate the legacy of blood in Bangladesh
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