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Is Bangladesh turning into Maldives amid ‘India Out’ campaign? Will it impact trade relations? I EXPLAINED


Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina during a bilateral meetin
Image Source : ANI Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in New Delhi.

New Delhi: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina secured a fourth consecutive term in power earlier this year, driving the Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party to remain on the backbench of the Bangladesh National Parliament House. As usual, the opposition party did not accuse Hasina of its flop performance in the elections. The opposition leaders were swift to charge New Delhi of using its diplomatic influence to uphold the Hasina government in the January 7 elections– a claim India rejected multiple times.

The irritation of not securing enough seats prompted the BNP leaders to swiftly endeavour the tactics pushed by Maldives Opposition leader Mohamed Muizzu to cement his position in the Parliament. Like Male, the BNP also started an anti-India or more precisely “India out” campaign in Bangladesh.  

How did the Bangladeshi opposition push the “India out” campaign?

According to a report by The Frontline, the BNP leaders took the service of influential people living outside the country to convince their citizens to opt for India’s alternative products. As per the report, Pinaki Bhattacharya, an exiled Bangladeshi physician and influential social media activist living in Paris, announced the “India Out” campaign in mid-January. He urged his millions of followers not to buy Indian products in Bangladesh and abroad. Bhattacharya contested “India’s relentless meddling in Bangladesh’s domestic affairs”.

However, he did not exhibit any proof to substantiate his claims.

Although incising anti-India campaign in Bangladesh is not new. However, apprehending Muizzu’s success in the Presidential polls has forced them to opt for the same tactics. Recently, senior BNP leader Ruhul Kabir Rizvi threw away a shawl he was wearing around his shoulders. According to local media reports, the shawl he threw was a famous Kashmiri one. This triggered a war on social media where several other opposition leaders joined the trend and posted similar photos and videos with hashtags- #IndiaOut, #BoycottIndianProducts and others.

India is Bangladesh’s largest export destination in Asia

Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia and India is the second biggest trade partner of Bangladesh in Asia. India is Bangladesh’s largest export destination in Asia, with approx USD 2 billion of Bangladeshi exports to India in FY 2022-23. In FY 2022-23, the total bilateral trade has been reported as USD 15.9 billion. India’s major exports include spices, cotton, cereals, distillation products, plastics, sugars and sugar confectionery, electronic equipment, coffee, tea, mate, articles of iron or steel and others. In exchange, India receives good-quality of fabric from Bangladesh. 

Earlier in February this year, Indian High Commissioner to Dhaka Pranay Kumar Verma said India is Bangladesh’s largest export destination in Asia. Highlighting the importance of multimodal connectivity in unlocking the true potential of bilateral cooperation between the two countries, Verma underscored that better connectivity links and new measures like trade in Indian Rupee will further enhance Bangladeshi exports to India.

How important is India for Bangladesh

It is worth mentioning India and Bangladesh share bonds of history, language, culture, and a multitude of other commonalities. Besides, Dhaka is significantly dependent on India for its other needs. It imports energy such as diesel, gas and electricity. According to the data released by the Ministry of External Affairs, Bangladesh is currently importing 1160 MW of power from India.

Besides, India has extended 4 Lines of Credit (LOC) to Bangladesh in the last 8 years amounting to around US$ 8 billion for the development of infrastructure in various sectors including roads, railways, shipping and ports.

In addition to LOCs, the Government of India has also been providing grant assistance to Bangladesh for various infrastructure projects including, the construction of the Akhaura-Agartala rail link, the dredging of inland waterways in Bangladesh and the construction of the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline. 

Will the “India-Out campaign” impact India-Bangladesh relations? 

The trend in India’s neighbouring nation is not new. However, the anti-India campaign may profit BNP leaders domestically but it would not pose a significant threat to the relations between the two Asian nations. Earlier last month, Prime Minister Hasina publically denounced the campaign and asked the leaders to burn the sarees that their wives wore. As per Hasina, most of the women in the country wear sarees from India. In fact, the Bangladeshi PM claimed family members of the Opposition leaders fly to India for shopping and then sell it in Dhaka. 

“The BNP leaders are advocating for boycotting Indian products. My question is – how many Indian sarees do the boycott campaigners’ wives possess? Why don’t they take the sarees from their wives and burn them?,” Prothomalo quoted Hasina as saying.  “BNP leaders are saying #BoycottIndian products. But “BNP leaders should make sure their wives don’t wear Indian sarees. The day you burn them (your wives’ Indian sarees) in front of the (BNP) office, that day I will believe you are actually boycotting Indian goods.”  

Also Read: ‘When opposition burns their wives’ Indian saris’: Bangladesh PM Hasina lashes out at ‘India Out’ campaign


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