Domestic Politics of Bangladesh and India–Bangladesh Relations

Anand Kumar is Associate Fellow at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. Click here for detailed profile
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  • September 2014

    The foreign policy of a country generally changes incrementally but in the case of Bangladesh it changes dramatically towards India depending upon which political party or alliance is in power. The ideological cleavage prevailing in the country affects not only its domestic politics but also its relationship with its neighbour India. In this article an attempt has been made to explain why and how the domestic politics of Bangladesh affects India–Bangladesh relations. It explores some of the historical processes that resulted in the formation of community consciousness among the Bengali Muslims. It also discusses the interests of different sections of society, such as the army and traders, who influenced the country’s foreign policy in the post-liberation period as well as those who actively participated in the Liberation War of Bangladesh and who are pro-peasant and friendly to minorities. In this article the focus is on the domestic politics of Bangladesh. The main argument is that since there is no consensus in Bangladesh over how to best serve its national interest, the foreign policies of the two major political parties are completely different and allow the domestic politics of Bangladesh to affect the bilateral relationship with India in a way that is mostly independent of India’s actions. It also suggests that India can only be insulated from Bangladeshi domestic politics after the delegitimisation of anti-liberation forces in Bangladesh, which could happen with the successful completion of the war crime trials.