BNP’s Perilous ‘India-Out’ Gamble: Playing with Fire

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Published on March 28, 2024
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Following their failure to resist the 12th Parliamentary election, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in Bangladesh has adopted a perilous and irresponsible approach: deliberately fueling anti-Indian sentiment while pretending to engage in political tactics. The BNP frequently relies on anti-Indian rhetoric as a response to political losses, which is not an innovative technique. Nevertheless, it appears that their most recent campaign has been borrowed from the Maldives.

The BNP’s decision to embrace the “India out” narrative lacks foresight and is wrong. Instead of analyzing the fundamental reasons for their inability to retain power or provide helpful feedback, they have opted to blame a neighboring country. These strategies serve to divert attention away from internal problems and can create conflict and hostility between nations with strong historical and cultural connections.

The commercial connection between India and Bangladesh is tortuously interconnected and vital for the economic well-being of both countries. India is the biggest trading partner of Bangladesh, with considerable amounts of bilateral trade taking place in numerous industries. The relationship between both countries is marked by shared interdependence, as Bangladesh depends on India for essential imports including raw materials, machinery, and agricultural goods, while India gains from Bangladesh’s exports of garments, textiles, and medicines. Therefore, the implementation of the “India-Out” campaign requires strong support from citizens. But the fact is that there is no public support for BNP’s campaign, which means the future of such a campaign is uncertain.

The significant dependence of Bangladesh on imports from India, especially for crucial commodities such as onions, highlights the lack of feasibility of such an initiative. The nation significantly depends on Indian onions to fulfill its domestic need, with India constituting a significant proportion of its onion imports. If there were a sudden and complete stop or decrease in the amount of goods brought into Bangladesh from India, it would result in a significant lack of supply in the local market. This would cause prices to increase dramatically and lead to strong public protest and criticism. This situation would not only cause a disturbance in the supply of a fundamental food item but also contribute to social discontent and political instability.

Furthermore, the process of identifying alternate sources for these vital imports shortly is challenging, since it requires significant time and resources to build new trade ties and infrastructure. Therefore, the pragmatic and sustainable consequences of cutting off connections with India, particularly in vital areas such as food security, render it an impractical and unviable choice for Bangladesh.

Moreover, the interdependent relationship between both economies implies that any independent decision to cut off connections with India would have extensive repercussions, affecting not just commerce but also investment, infrastructure development, and regional stability. Hence, the success of the “India-out” campaign is closely linked to the economic dynamics of the India-Bangladesh trade relationship, which makes it a difficult endeavor to pursue in practical terms.

Even, the practicality of the BNP leaders carrying out the “India-out” policy in their everyday life is very doubtful, considering their personal and familial dependence on India for numerous essential needs. It is a well-established fact that several leaders of the BNP often travel to India to seek medical treatment, underscoring their reliance on Indian healthcare services for their health and wellness. In addition, it is common for the family members of BNP officials to wear Indian attire, which emphasizes the close relationship between BNP leaders and Indian items. These daily practices are in direct opposition to the rhetoric of the “India-out” movement, highlighting a clear discrepancy between their political stance and their behavior. This inconsistency not only diminishes the trustworthiness of the campaign but also casts questions on the genuineness of the BNP’s motives. This statement emphasizes the intricacies and difficulties that arise when attempting to transform political speech into tangible actions, particularly when individual interests and dependencies come into play.

Moreover, the “India out” movement establishes a perilous precedent for regional politics. In the absence of intervention, this might encourage other political groups to manipulate nationalist emotions for their benefit, resulting in a perilous intensification of tensions and confrontations. Therefore, considering the importance of the relationship between the two countries, the citizens of Bangladesh would not support such an irresponsible movement put forward by the BNP.

The BNP must acknowledge the repercussions of their conduct and give priority to the long-term interests of Bangladesh and the region. Instead of using techniques that create division, they should prioritize engaging in productive discussions and collaborating with all parties involved, especially in India.

To summarize, the decision of the BNP to embrace the “India out” campaign is not only imprudent but also harmful to the country’s interests. All political players must unequivocally reject divisive language and actively strive to promote harmony, stability, and collaboration in the area. Providing anything less would be an injustice to the people of Bangladesh and the wider South Asian community.

Writer: Dr Pranab Kumar Panday; Professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi.

Courtesy: Modern Diplomacy