third term

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 02 Jan 2019 11:06:20

THAT Begum Sheikh Hasina would return for the third term as Prime Minister of Bangladesh was literally a foregone conclusion, given the political condition and also the tenuous state of democracy in the country. When a coalition wins 288 out of 300 total seats in Parliament, it is obvious that such a one-sided mandate comes at certain cost, certain compromises. In Bangladesh, the report card on democratic conduct on account of the political community has not been very brightly written, having been dogged by serious issues. Yet, the election of Begum Sheikh Hasina is worthy of note since it ensures continuity of policies, internal or external. From India’s point of view, the electoral outcome also raises hopes of better bilateral relations. 

In the case of Bangladesh, however, things really did not work well right from the start as the country was formed way back in 1971. Politics of extremely dirty nature, violence, religious dogma, a strange brand of terrorism, political vendetta and ugly games of oneupmanship dominated public life in Bangladesh right from start, so much so that the person credited to have created Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, was assassinated, demonstrating what kind of ugliness underlined the public affairs in the country.

Begum Sheikh Hasina’s election for the third term also came up through all the wrangles and accusations. Yet, it must be conceded that she has been a stabilising force that has kept the nation going in a sensible direction in the past some time. There have been charges of corruption and politics of vendetta. Despite those, Begun Sheikh Hasina has proved to be the best person to be at the helm of a country that has seen a lot of turmoil since its formation 47 years ago.

Though India has often tried its best to accommodate Bangladesh, its conduct vis-a-vis India has been rather improper on many counts. On issues of security and foreign policy, it has often indulged in inexplicable flip-flops, causing consternation on the Indian side. Despite that, in the past few years, India and Bangladesh have worked together to sort out the border alignment issues as well as problems of infiltration of Bangladeshis into India. There still are some glitches alright, but the overall solution has been good.

There still are some issues related to sharing of river water and bilateral trade. But the mature manner of India’s foreign policy handlers has often ensured a fairly smooth resolution of points of differences of approach and opinion. It must be stated with certainty that India’s soft approach to Bangladesh has come in for internal criticism in New Delhi. Yet, the Government (of India) has taken an accommodative approach to help Bangladesh tide over many twists and turns in its own method of handling mutual issues.

The trouble with Bangladesh is that its bureaucracy is not as mature as it is expected to be. This has often led to governance issues internally, which in the long run affects good-neighbourly relations in the region. It is Bangladesh’s good fortune that it has a stable country like India in the immediate neighbourhood from all sides. Had that not been the case, the country would have faced many more serious problems involving national defence and internal security. Now also, on the internal security front, things are not as healthy as they should be. Yet, Begum Sheikh Hasina has found a fairly smooth way of handling things vis-a-vis India. Issues of management of democracy may still haunt her even in the third term. Yet, her return to power does signal a smooth conduct of bilateral relations between Bangladesh and India over the next some years.