Indian election: Possible impact on Bangladesh
THE 16th parliamentary election of the Lower House (Lok Sabha) is being held from 7th April in nine phases until 12th May. The results will be announced on 16th May and a new government will be formed thereafter.
Naturally everyone in Bangladesh is thinking how will relation between Bangladesh and India develop after the Indian elections? Will it be the same or different? Answers to the questions will depend on which parties are likely to secure the largest number of seats in the election.
The magic number is to get 272 parliamentary seats to form the national government in New Delhi... Whichever party or parties can cobble together this number of seats, they can form the national government.
Polls in India suggest that BJP is much ahead of the Congress. According to recent Indian NDTV polls BJP is likely to secure 214 seats (116 in 2009) while the Congress may get 104 seats (206 in 2009). Another private channel G-News claims that the BJP may get 218 and the Congress may secure 94-106 seats. However it has been seen that in many instances polls do not translate into reality.
Analysts say BJP's coalition could be possibly built if the BJP gets around 200 seats. Winning less than 170 seats, BJP would have to rely on more coalition partners in which case the party may have to compromise its domestic agenda.
Ordinarily it is correct that foreign policy does not change dramatically with the change of the government because geo-political and economic realities remain as they are and especially with neighbouring countries. However domestic agenda has direct impact on foreign policy. Furthermore another type of pressure that influences foreign policy is based on the political ideology of the party which comes to power.
The above view seems to be corroborated by the Indian High Commissioner who on 7th April, said at a seminar as reported by a new agency (UNB), that “I would suppose that the policy would also remain constant.” Then he was quoted to have elaborated that “the policy will remain the same as long as the fundamentals of the relationship are strong, as long as the two country's interests remain constant and as long as both countries have a general understanding of what need to do”.
On Bangladesh-India relations, although has been many gains in many areas, severe confidence deficit remains with Bangladesh on India's commitment to fulfill its pledges with Bangladesh, such as, signing of the Teesta water sharing, non-ratification of land boundary agreement and continued killing or kidnapping of Bangladeshi citizens at the border.
In the light of the above background, when a new government is installed in New Delhi, the direction of relations may likely to develop on the following situations:
First, if BJP forms a coalition government at the centre, it may implement its hardcore Hindutva agenda including construction of Ram Temple on the site of Babri mosque as indicated in its poll manifesto, Furthermore a resolution of the BJP national council meeting in February in New Delhi said: “The BJP is firmly opposed to any hurried border dispute settlement with Bangladesh and it must be a part of comprehensive solution of all issues, including the most important issue of infiltration,” of people from Bangladesh to India.
Allegation of illegal immigration from Bangladesh is one the mantras of the election campaign of BJP. Many think the allegation is cooked up by BJP to get votes from Hindu extremists.. Once BJP in power, this may possibly result in sending back all Bengali-speaking people from India to Bangladesh, irrespective of their citizenship.
Second, if either the Congress makes a surprising comeback or the third front forms a coalition government, it is most likely to be weak and as a result it may not be able to take any further initiative with Bangladesh.
Third, whether political position of chief minister Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal and leader of Trinamool Congress and those of Asom Gana Parishad party or BJP in neighbouring states of Bangladesh becomes stronger or weaker after the election.
While Ms. Banerjee blocked the Teesta water agreement, AGP, Trinamool Congress together with the BJP blocked the Singh government to implement the land boundary agreement. The reported statement of Mamata Banerjee on border enclaves and Teesta water-sharing during her election campaign in Cooch Behar district on 12th April is not helpful.
There is another view. If Modi becomes the Prime Minister, analysts say that some of his campaign's populist Hindutva policies were used for votes and when one is in power, pragmatic views force a leader to change the policy. Furthermore Modi is reportedly not comfortable with the increasing influence of China in Bangladesh. All these factors may prompt Modi to pursue friendly policies with strategically located Bangladesh because of India's security and economic interests. However, since there are too many unknowns about Modi, ,it is hard to predict in which direction the bilateral relations will shape up if he becomes the Prime Minister. .
In an event of the aforementioned political scenarios, India-Bangladesh bilateral relations will be somewhat different from what exist today.
The writer is former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.