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Decline in Bangladesh’s foreign reserves, potential Chinese debt and Rohingya crisis: Here is why Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India is significant

Sheikh Hasina is visiting India at a time when Bangladesh is facing multiple challenges including a growing economic crisis.

On Saturday (22nd June), Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in New Delhi. She has been on a two-day state visit to India’s National Capital.

This is her second trip just within the gap of less than two weeks. Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India comes at an extremely delicate time because of multiple factors.

A press release issued by the Prime Minister’s Press Wing has provided highlights of the trip stating, that during the visit both the premiers will have a tête-à-tête (one-to-one meeting) followed by delegation-level talks.

During the visit, both Bangladesh and India would sign several agreements and Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) to strengthen the existing bilateral ties further. 

Additionally, discussions on a potential trade pact are expected. Over the past decade, numerous cross-border initiatives have been launched as part of a robust regional partnership plan.

First of all, this trip is taking place when Bangladesh is facing serious economic hardship with an alarming decline in foreign currency reserves with no practical hope of bouncing back from this situation even within the foreseeable future.

Although Bangladesh’s Finance Minister A H Mahmud Ali told reporters the struggling economy and inflation shall be under control within six months, economic experts are saying – such hope or prediction is not based on realities.

Meanwhile, Dhaka has sought US$5 billion soft-loan from Beijing and it is anticipated that during Sheikh Hasina July 9-12 official visit to China, this might be finalized, economists are warning – this soft-loan will ultimately place Bangladesh into China’s debt trap, where Beijing shall attempt to take numerous advantages and strategic benefits.

Meanwhile, since last year’s Israel’s military operations in Gaza, Bangladesh authorities, including Foreign Minister Hassan Mahmud have been extremely critical of Israel and even went further by criticizing Jews.

Taking undue advantage of this situation, Islamist and religious bigots – mostly belonging to ruling Awami League’s rival bloc, including Al Qaeda-connected Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) began capitalizing anti-Semitic policy of the government and started mixing religious bigotry with their political agenda, while anti-Israel, anti-Jews and anti-India elements joined this trend by calling for boycott of Israeli, Jewish and Indian products.

Meanwhile, an asset of Pakistani ISI namely Pinaki Bhattacharya has intensified his anti-India propaganda on social media platforms and in recent days, he has been openly expressing delight stating – India has been ousted from Bangladesh and now China shall enter the scene. He even is publishing video contents justifying Adolf Hitler’s cruelty on Jews and the Holocaust stating Jews are evils and that is why they were hated in Europe. Pinaki Bhattacharya has also intensified his anti-Sheikh Hasina propaganda by mixing it with anti-Israel and anti-India agendas.

Pro-jihadist and anti-Semite broadcast network. such as Al Jazeera English has also joined the ongoing anti-Israel and anti-India sentiment by airing instigative contents.

Ruling Awami League government now cannot pull the lever of such notoriety and ever-spreading propaganda targeting American and European products by branding those as being manufactured by Israeli and Jewish companies.

For the Bangladesh government – now it is genuinely a double-jeopardy although they are responsible for this situation. Double jeopardy because, if the ruling Awami League will attempt to stop the ongoing boycott madness against Israeli, Jewish and Indian products, they will now become target of Islamist forces in the country, while if the government shall remain silent on this matter, it will ultimately result in serious consequence where Jewish buyers of Bangladeshi apparel products may begin cancelling orders by branding the country as anti-Semitic.

It may be mentioned here that Bangladesh’s economy is greatly dependent on export of readymade garments to European and American markets.

Meanwhile, political opponents of Sheikh Hasina are intensifying propaganda stating her government shall collapse maximum by December this year. Suspiciously, state machinery is maintaining reluctance or silence in countering such propaganda despite the fact it is gradually spreading within the vast proportion of the people simply like hellfire.

Political rivals of Sheikh Hasina are saying, Awami League government’s key ally Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been completely weakened following the Lok Sabha elections as BJP failed to get the required majority to form the government. They say, Modi’s government in this consecutive third-term is extremely weak, while it is apparently walking on crutches.

There also are two more challenges for Sheikh Hasina – the over-burden of 1.20 million Rohingyas, with intelligence agencies warning about Rohingya camps turning into hub of international terrorism – and Western plot to carve out a “Christian state like East Timor” taking parts of Bangladesh, Myanmar and India.

These are the two biggest headaches of Sheikh Hasina which are directly threatening the country’s national security and sovereignty. Meanwhile, a significant segment of the Rohingyas in Bangladesh are joining hands with international terrorist groups as well as Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Jamaat-e-Islami and other Islamist forces in the country, including pro-Caliphate Hefazat-e-Islam.

While Sheikh Hasina’s government is struggling in coping with ongoing economic crisis, international media  giving   shocking details of rampant corruption, money laundering and loot of public wealth by a section of people – mostly affiliated with the ruling Awami League, while the state machinery is showing reluctance in taking any action against those high-profile corrupts.

Media report quoting the World Bank says, nearly US$3.15 billion flows out illicitly from Bangladesh every year through offshore accounts while the country smarts from dearth of foreign exchange reserves for over a year now.

According to analysts, a weak government in Dhaka with massive dependence on China may become extremely disadvantageous for Delhi as Beijing may try to use Bangladesh as its geopolitical playground, mostly targeting India.

Simultaneously, Washington, which also is clearly unhappy with Sheikh Hasina’s government may intensify its plots of creating a “Cristian state” as well as by using Rohingyas into terrorist and jihadist activities.

In the past, Sheikh Hasina has visited India on a number of times, where those trips were mostly pleasant. But this time, Sheikh Hasina is visiting India when Bangladesh is facing multiple challenges including a growing economic crisis.

There truly is total uncertainty about the future of Bangladesh, particularly because Washington and its European allies are desperately looking to turn Bangladesh into a vessel state while China on the other hand is attempting to establish its dominance by forcing Bangladesh to create distance from India. This is genuinely a very complicated situation for ruling elites in Dhaka.

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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research scholar, and counterterrorism specialist. He regularly writes for local and international newspapers.

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