Politics World Affairs

Why Bangladesh opposition party BNP running “India Out” campaign?

Bangladesh India out campaign

After another one-sided general election which was conducted in January, that saw Awami League (AL) returning to power, the country’s social media influencers rolled out “India Out” campaign. This campaign mirrors similar campaigns which were seen in Maldives. Bangladesh opposition party BNP running “India Out” campaign has now gathered attention of social media influencers. 

Successive elections which were conducted over previous decade in Bangladesh led to significant irregularities and manipulation by AL. This has raised worries and concerns regarding integrity of the country’s democratic processes. 

What is “India Out” campaign?

Group of Bangladeshi influencers along with political activists rolled out “India out” campaign post the January elections. These people claim that Modi government has been ignoring neighbour’s democratic backsliding. Apart from this, India has been continuously backing Sheikh Hasina to remain in power for own self-interest. 

Earlier, the US put pressure on Hasina for the democratic backsliding for numerous months just before election. Now, it has finally accepted Hasina as the PM, and this has frustrated Hasina’s opponents even more. The US President Joe Biden also congratulated Hasina on her victory among other leaders too. The President also expressed his desire to do business with her which will lead to mutual interest.

This time’s victory was Hasina’s 4th consecutive victory, and with this, she is being regarded as longest serving leader in Bangladesh. This has resulted in deep sense of unease among opposition parties regarding political future. They blame India for her return to power yet again. 

In doing so, New Delhi undermined Bangladesh’s democratic aspirations and growth opportunities. Collectively, all these efforts prompted Bangladesh opposition party BNP running “India Out” campaign and, therefore, they are boycotting Indian products in Bangladesh and abroad. 

There are problems in Bangladesh too regarding weakness of institutions like judiciary and law enforcement agencies. These agencies are now been weaponized to crush and demean political opposition and dissent. Activists believe that India is lending continuous support to these institutions.

Pinaki Bhattacharya, physician and a social media activist who is currently living in Paris, made an announcement about “India out” campaign in January month. He urged millions of his followers to stop purchasing Indian products in Bangladesh and abroad.

Bangladesh’s ruling party hits out at opposition

Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina lashed out at opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) after the opposition party’s leaders called for boycotting Indian products. The PM lost her cool after opposition BNP’s leader Rizvi threw away the Kashmiri shawl to support the protests and for promoting “India Out” campaign. 

Although there are several observers who are dicey about efficacy of such a campaign, it was able to attract attention of several Indian media companies and foreign news organisations. Most of the attention it gathered was mainly because this campaign has come close on heels of similar “India Out” movement which was conducted in Maldives. 

Can Bangladesh afford “India Out” campaign? 

On the contrary, there are some experts which have their own doubts regarding effectiveness of this campaign. This is because relationship between India and Bangladesh is deeply entrenched. Apart from this, Bangladesh is now very much dependent on India. This means that achieving total boycott of India is very difficult.

World Bank research stated that Indian exports to Bangladesh came in at ~$324 million in the year 1991. This went up to $868 million in 1996 during BNP’s first tenure. During the second tenure, in 2001, export from India came in at ~$1.06 billion, rising to $1.66 billion in 2006. 

Bangladesh’s prosperity is deeply rooted to close economic partnership with India. India’s proximity to Bangladesh results in natural and evident trade advantage. Some of the advantages include shared land borders and transportation system facilitating movement of goods.

These trades take place at reduced costs in comparison to imports from some other distant locations such as China. India has been regarded as Bangladesh’s second-largest import source, with $13.69 billion worth of goods entering Bangladesh’s borders in 2021-22. Therefore, Bangladesh opposition party BNP running “India Out” campaign is expected to be short-lived as this might significantly impact overall economy of Bangladesh. 

India’s exports to Bangladesh is centred around supply chain for the textile industry. Bangladesh’s garment manufacturing sector, which is being tagged as critical driver for economic growth, is dependent significantly on raw materials and intermediate goods which are being sent from India.  

In 2022, non-retail pure cotton yarn and raw cotton (which made ~20.1% of total import) were India’s top imports. These materials were transformed to yarn and fabric in Bangladeshi factories. After this process, it was being used to manufacture garments for the purposes of domestic consumption and for exports.

India provides Bangladesh Refined Petroleum and this is important for powering industries and transportation. Some other imports consist of pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and machinery. Thus, India and Bangladesh has a very dependent trade relationship. Recently, India made exports of ~50,000 tonnes of onion to Bangladesh ahead of Ramzan.

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