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In Bangla, India needs to explore alternatives

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The average Indian might be dismissive when it comes to neighbouring Bangladesh, which is seen as a desperately poor country exporting hordes of illegal immigrants and nasty Islamist fundamentalists, but India’s foreign policy and security managers have a different view: Bangladesh to them is a key strategic partner and a friendly neighbour. Their continued support to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, who was elected for a third consecutive term last week, is predicated on the view that without her New Delhi’s Dhaka policy will flounder and sink.

The problem is that Bangladesh’s political Opposition has been browbeaten, intimidated and broken. Prime Minister Hasina’s principal rival, former PM Begum Khaleda Zia, has been found guilty of corruption by the courts and is in jail. Although Begum Khaleda was an implacable foe of India, New Delhi had at one time agreed to support her and her son, Tariq Zia, but had been stabbed in the back and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was allowed a free run in the country.

That betrayal had come as a shock for Delhi and Begum Khaleda was never to be trusted again. New Delhi thus was left with a solitary card in that country: Sheikh Hasina. That, however, can’t be an entirely desirable situation. Too much power in the hands of Sheikh Hasina and her party has bred deep fissures and frustrations within the Bangladeshi society and polity. This is an inevitable consequence of virtual single-party rule and the absence of a functioning Opposition.

Bangladesh has unfortunately not produced any leader charismatic enough to challenge either of the two ladies at the........

© Deccan Chronicle