• Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Current Affairs

The Modi Effect

Shakhawat Liton

The Modi wave has generated unprecedented hullabaloo in Bangladesh's political landscape. Political analysts have been analysing the impact on Bangladesh's interests of Narendra Modi-led BJP government in India. They have been focusing on how the bilateral relation between the two neighboring countries will take shape in the coming days. This includes long pending issues like signing the Teesta water sharing agreement and ratification by Indian parliament the Land Boundary Agreement. Political analysts are not very optimistic about resolution of the crucial issues. They predict that the Indian foreign policy towards Bangladesh will remain almost the same. So, it is not wise to expect something better from the new BJP-led government.
Politicians, on the other hand, from both AL and BNP, seem less concerned about the country's interests. Instead they have locked horns over BJP's resounding victory and the Congress' humiliating defeat. Though they have not publicly expressed it, the BNP is happy with the Congress' defeat. Even in the run up to the Indian polls, the BNP policymakers were wishing a win for BJP by ousting the Congress from power. The Congress-led government had vehemently supported the AL-led government in holding the one-sided and voter less parliamentary election on January 5 this year. Buoyed by the wholehearted support of the Congress-led government, the Sheikh Hasina-led government has successfully held the January 5 polls, keeping the BNP out of the elections.
And immediately after formation of the new government-led by Hasina on January 12 evening, the then Congress-led government's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the first leader who had called up Hasina to congratulate her on being sworn in as the prime minister. Monmohan also had sent Hasina a message of felicitation. He conveyed his good wishes and also "wished her and the people of Bangladesh all success in the endeavour to strengthen democratic institutions in Bangladesh". After India's government, some other countries had congratulated Hasina for forming the government through the January 5 polls.
The AL has always had good relations with Congress. BNP policymakers, therefore, believe that the AL had received extra-benefits from the Congress-led government in holding the one-sided January 5 parliamentary polls which was beyond the coverage of the Indian foreign policy. Now, the BNP high commands think the AL does not have such a warm relationship with the BJP. So, the AL-led government will no more be able to enjoy additional advantages in the coming days. Osman Farruk, an adviser to the BNP Chairperson said recently: “The way the Congress government took position over the January 5 election, it seemed that the people of Bangladesh are the counterpart of Indian government. Apart from bilateral issues, we believe that the new government will re-evaluate the Congress government's blind support to the Awami League government over the controversial election.”
According to political analysts, politics in Bangladesh may take a new turn in the coming days during the Modi-led government if the AL-led government fails to maintain a congenial relationship with the new government in India.

Narendra Modi. Photo: AFP
Narendra Modi. Photo: AFP

The way the high commands of the government and the ruling AL have reacted to the results of the Indian polls appears unusual. The change in power in India has made the AL nervous to some extent. Some AL leaders and ministers have been blasting the BNP for being happy over BJP's victory. They have been claiming that relations between the two neighboring countries will not be hampered after the changeover of power in India. "India is not your [BNP] friend, they are our friend. So, there is nothing to be happy about the change in the government in India," said Food Minister Quamrul Islam on May 18. The same day at another discussion meeting, Commerce Minister Tofail said the BNP should understand that external relationships are built up between states, or governments, but not between a government and a particular political party.
Their claims however cannot hide the political reality. In an effort to build good relations with the BJP-led government, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called up the BJP chief and Modi to congratulate them on their victory. She has sent a letter to Modi, inviting him to visit Bangladesh. A high profile delegation of her government is expected to visit India soon to maintain good ties with the BJP government. Whether all these efforts can yield the desired results for the AL, only time will tell. Relations between the Modi-led government and the USA, the key world player that was against the January 5 controversial election in Bangladesh, may also play a crucial role in shaping the future relationships between the BJP and the AL-led government.

 The writer is Senior Reporter, The Daily Star.

Published: 12:00 am Friday, May 23, 2014

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