South Asia and Beyond

Bangladesh’s Geopolitical Juggle

NEW DELHI: As political temperatures heat up in Bangladesh ahead of elections expected in January, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina finds herself under attack from the US, which has accused her of undermining the democratic election process and imposed visa restrictions on key members of the ruling Awami League and others.

Is Bangladesh a test case for US democracy promotion overseas? If that is so why has the US done nothing about the Pakistani military meddling in the election process or for that matter the army in Thailand?

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The word in Dhaka is that the US is concerned about China’s growing profile in that country, Chinese investment in Bangladesh follows its pragmatic no-questions-asked policy everywhere else an estimated $800 million has come in this year alone, more is expected as discussions between Dhaka and Beijing cover sectors ranging from infrastructure to semiconductors, automobiles and cold storages.

Geopolitical considerations may figure higher up among Washington’s concerns: China is already a key ally of the generals in Myanmar right next door to Bangladesh; it suggests China has plans for the Bay of Bengal which could impact the US posture in the Indo-Pacific.

There seems little doubt that India will continue its support for Sheikh Hasina but with the Bangladesh opposition party the BNP stepping up its lobbying in the US. The pressure on Sheikh Hasina can only mount, she has to ensure the US is somehow placated while also keeping China, a major investor in her country, happy.


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