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India: Rahul Gandhi set to become Congress President

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Putting to rest all speculation and debate, Rahul Gandhi, MP, now the youngest member of Nehru dynasty that ruled India for years since its independence in 1947, is all set to take over as the president of Indian National Congress party from his mother Sonia Gandhi.

The high powered Congress working Committee in its meeting on November 20 has decided to make Rahul the new president of the party.

 Sources said Sonia Gandhi would remain a figurehead and could continue as chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary Party. Sonia has held the post of Congress chief since 1998, and is now the longest-serving president of the party. The delay in convening the CWC and the suspense over Rahul’s elevation has been the subject of much debate in the party. It was in November last year that the CWC unanimously asked Rahul to take over, but he wanted to follow the election route.

But while the election process began months ago and went largely as per schedule, the last leg — the election of the party chief — had been delayed. Though this was attributed to the leadership’s preoccupation with the Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat elections, most senior leaders were of the view that Rahul should be elevated before the Gujarat polls.

The announcement followed months of speculation that the 47-year-old scion of the Gandhi dynasty would soon take over from his mother.  Party chief Sonia Gandhi has convened a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) on Monday to approve the schedule for election of the Congress president. The process of election — from the date of notification to nomination, withdrawal, scrutiny and actual election — will take 12 to 14 days.

Rahul Gandhi, whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather all served as prime minister, was the party’s front man in the last general election. But his 70-year-old mother Sonia remains its president. She has not publicly announced a decision to stand down as Congress president, but party official Mullappally Ramachandran said after a meeting of senior leaders on Monday that an election would be held next month for the purpose of elevating Rahul to the new top post. .

On Monday, the party set a December 4 deadline for nominations for president and said any vote would be held on December 16. It held its last leadership election in 2010, when Sonia Gandhi stood unopposed.

Rahul, who entered politics in 2004, was appointed the vice-president of the party in 2013. He has been virtually running the party for some time since ill-health forced Sonia to take a back seat. Lately, he has also led the Congress campaign in Gujarat from the front, and has been strident in his attacks on the Narendra Modi government.

Rahul Gandhi was elected vice-president of the Congress party in 2013 and has long been his mother’s presumed successor. He was strongly criticised for a lacklustre campaign that led to a defeat by Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2014 general election. But few inside the party, which has since suffered a series of state election defeats, have been willing to publicly criticise the family that has been at its helm for generations.

Rahul has long had the reputation of a reluctant leader, although some analysts say he has displayed greater political acumen since the 2014 election defeat. “Earlier, he was too young and didn’t have a lot of experience, so he used to make mistakes sometimes. But now, he has become more seasoned,” veteran party leader Virbhadra Singh told AFP ahead of Monday’s announcement.

Congress has ruled India for most of the period since independence in 1947 and has almost always been led by the Nehru-Gandhi clan, beginning with the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

It is up to the working committee to decide the time frame, but sources in the party said Rahul is expected to take over before the first phase of polling in Gujarat, on December 9. A senior leader said he could take over by the end of November itself.

Sonia Gandhi took over as Congress president in 1998 after the dramatic ouster of two successive party chiefs – PV Narasimha Rao and Sitaram Kesri. She inherited a weakened party that was in power only in four states and had been reduced to 114 seats in the Lok Sabha. She guided the Congress to power in 14 states within a year of taking over and subsequently steered it to victory in the 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha polls after successfully stitching up alliances with a group of disparate political parties.

Rahul Gandhi is taking charge of the Congress when its numbers in the Lok Sabha have dwindled to 44, its organisation is in poor shape and its footprint across the country has shrunk to a couple of states. Clearly, the new Congress president has a tough task at hand, faced with the challenge of strengthening the organisation, re-establishing the party’s credibility and reversing its electoral fortunes.

Unlike her son, who has had the luxury of a 13-year apprenticeship, Sonia Gandhi was a novice when she entered politics. But she proved an adept learner and soon emerged as a leader in her own right. She was well aware of her limitations in managing a complex party like the Congress and was equally conscious of the growing Opposition campaign against her because of her foreign origin. Instead of taking unilateral decisions, Sonia Gandhi adopted a system of extensive consultations with the senior leadership to the extent that she was branded a status quoist. She was so conscious of her inexperience that she hesitated in taking decisions in case she upset anyone. Sonia Gandhi deliberately kept a low profile, never veered from the written script and avoided making any off-the-cuff remarks either in public or in private conversations with party workers. She converted her handicap to her advantage by presenting a carefully cultivated image of an enigma.

Congress led government became  an insensitive dispensation that promoted rampant corruption and nepotism as state cum party policy. That ruin the party and nation.

On the flip side, Sonia Gandhi allowed the party organisation to slide in the decade that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government was in power. Instead of using this opportunity to strengthen the Congress organisation and build a second rung of state leadership, she chose to overlook the drift in the party. The Congress Working Committee was rendered virtually redundant as it met infrequently and never held any honest brainstorming sessions that could have enabled the leadership to get inputs from the ground. The upshot was that the gap between the party and the people widened as Congressmen were busy running after power and positions during the United Progressive Alliance regime. Rahul Gandhi admitted as much on his trip to the United States in September, when he pointed out, “Around 2012, arrogance crept into the Congress party and we stopped having conversations with people.”

Currently, Rahul is busy canvassing for the general poll in Gujarat, the home state of PM Modi and there is a report that BJP might lose the poll there which would be a disaster for the federal government run by Modi. .

As Rahul Gandhi gets ready to take over as Congress president in the coming weeks – with Sonia Gandhi having promoted her son to that post feels elated. The Nehru-Gandhi scion’s elevation has been so long in the coming that now that it is round the corner, the enthusiasm among the cadre is outweighed by growing uncertainty about how the party will shape up under his leadership.

Congress party is a weak structure now one unable to stand even when the ruling BJP is gradually falling following wrong steps through disastrous demonetization and GST. Whether Rahul taking over the party would make any difference to the fortunes of the Congress in the next general poll s remains to be seen.

Rahul Gandhi will be inheriting a party organisation that is in far worse shape than it was when Sonia Gandhi took charge as Congress president. He is not weighed down by any major corruption charges (except the National Herald case, in which he and Sonia Gandhi are accused of conspiracy and cheating with the aim of acquiring properties and assets owned by the National Herald newspaper) As in the case of Narendra Modi, nobody can charge him of promoting his dynasty… he has a family and, at the same time, he does not.”So far there are no reports that his family runs the government.

Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are also temperamentally different. She was a hard worker, a consensus builder and known to be accommodative as she gave party workers a patient hearing and never took hurried decisions. Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, is impulsive, believes he knows it all and is inaccessible to party workers. Another difference between the two is that while Sonia Gandhi was happy to continue with the party’s old and established style of functioning, Rahul Gandhi has made it clear he is not impressed with it and that he wants to change the existing set-up and usher in greater inner-party democracy. In fact, he made no effort to hide his disdain and distrust of established party leaders and workers, convinced they had a vested interest in maintaining status quo in the party.

Despite misgivings about Rahul Gandhi’s leadership capabilities and his style of functioning, news about his imminent elevation has come as a relief to Congress workers as it will provide greater clarity about the chain of command in the party. Congress leaders hope now that the uncertainty over his elevation is over, Rahul Gandhi will become more accessible to the party rank and file to enable him to get feedback from grassroots workers. They also expect faster decision-making and a revamp of the party organisation.

Rahul Gandhi is in dire need of a credible and effective political apparatus, which the Congress is sorely lacking at present. Rahul has surrounded himself with inexperienced and non-political players who have little or no grassroots knowledge.

Importantly, Rahul Gandhi has to start winning elections. So far, his track record on this front has not been encouraging. The party’s win in the last Punjab Assembly elections earlier this year after a string of defeats over the past two years was a morale booster for the Congress vice-president, even though it was widely acknowledged that it was Amarinder Singh who led the party to victory.

All eyes are now on the Gujarat elections, the next battleground that will see a face-off between Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. While the Modi-Shah duo cannot afford to lose their home state, the Congress is putting up a spirited fight, encouraged by growing public anger over the poor implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, the economic slowdown, the agrarian crisis and atrocities against Dalits. The BJP is fighting with its back to the wall as it has far more at stake in Gujarat than the Congress.

Recently, Rahul Gandhi has shown the signs of maturity as a senior leader of the party and he is no longer considered a ‘reluctant leader’ and many find him a lot more dynamic now. He has apparently made BJP a little bit nervous on the ‘poor condition of the economy’, lack of sufficient job creation, and ‘faulty rollout of goods and services tax (GST)’ and demonetization. Rahul Gandhi and his team members have managed to use social media effectively to create a discussion around these issues.

Rahul Gandhi needs to pick issues that he can drum up right now and create enough buzz to dethrone NDA during the general election. But, neither the Congress party nor its leader Rahul Gandhi has really picked up such an issue.

 Voters want to hear how Congress party plans to change the scenario. Now, this is going to be difficult as any statement by Rahul Gandhi would invite BJP’s wrath questioning what steps Congress party took when it was in power.

Rahul Gandhi is fully aware of the infighting Congress party is battling in many states. Rahul faces the uphill task of energising the organisation and making the members go out and meet people, and sustain their efforts till Lok Sabha elections 2019.

Rahul’s future journey requires him to negotiate and enter into agreements with other political parties to challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi during Lok Sabha Elections 2019.

If Congress hopes to come to power at the Centre, the party has to do make serious efforts to improve its performance in Uttar Pradesh

Rahul can learn from BJP on this front. While Narendra Modi is the face of the government, there is Amit Shah who is leading the show from behind and providing all kind of organisation support. Amit Shah is constantly meeting party workers and party leaders to keep them motivated and plug the loopholes that could cost them dearly during the polls. BJP has consciously made efforts to nurture the second line of leadership knowing fully well that one tall leader can pull crowds but winning elections is beyond being a mass leader. He must choose and promote those leaders who have mass appeal and shown strong leadership qualities. Rahul needs to invest his time and energy with young leaders and that should start immediately.

Since he as the leader at the helm of affairs would be held responsible for all the wins and losses, Rahul has to not only steer clear of unnecessary controversies but provide a vision to the party that would enthuse its supporters to rally behind him.

Congress must evolve a strategy to get the party people rid of corrupt mindset that has collectively caused serious setback to the party’s image. Also, more importantly, he must   ensure that his party people do not nourish Hindutva ideology in any manner, thereby helping the BJP and governments. Tolerance for Hindutva promotion is not good for the Congress party that claims to be secular Democratic Party. Already, wrong policies being pursued by Congress party ostensibly to defeat the BJP have alienated Muslims and other minority communities. 

Not many people now trust Congress party.

The end of a fascinating day of two innings 5 days test cricket between guest Lankans and host Indians in India as from a winning position Sri lanka moved on to an almost defeated one but for  poor light  it would have lost to India. Lankan decision to offer a quick 100 to Indian leader Kolhi indeed cost the win of the Lankans. The game was meant to be a draw but Lankans almost helped India win it. India tried tooth and nail in the final session to win this but could not. In the end, the light dipped pretty quickly and India did not have enough time to wrap it up.

Already in a happy mood to violently celibate the victory, Indians are totally disappointed with the shocking lose towards the end.  Rahul is among those top Congress leaders who promoted a school dropout and fake sportboy Sachin tendulkar to the position of Bharatratna. He insulted the honor of India’s highest civilian honor by recommending for a cricketer in order to appease the corporate mafia.

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Regional Power politics and Pakistan foreign policy

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“Under the shadow of Growing antagonism among Regional Powers, Pakistan needs to formulate  pragmatic foreign policy by staying between the lines

Islamabad is undermining its relations with all weather friends situated in Gulf region. Foreign Minister of Pakistan , Shah Mahmood Qureshi issued outrageous statement about the role of Saudi Arabia in organization of Islamic cooperation to raise the Kashmir issue in assertive way. Furthermore , he warned during an interview that if Saudi Arabia did not convene a meeting of OIC’s council of foreign ministers to discuss the abrogation of autonomous status of Kashmir by revoking article 370, Pakistan would go forward to call a meeting of those states who favors  Pakistan narrative over Kashmir and this meeting might be held either  within or  outside of OIC forum.

These statements clearly pointed out the role of Saudi Arabia in Organization of Islamic Cooperation to support Pakistan. It is no doubt that Pakistan and Saudi have been enjoying friendly Bilateral relations and Pakistan always took side of the Arab Brothers States . The role of KSA in improving the economy of Pakistan in difficult times can not be neglected and it has been a major contributor of aids to support the shrinking economy.

In the result of outrageous behavior of Foreign ministers, KSA forced Pakistan to return the $1 billion. In the beginning of Imran’s government, Pakistan’s economy was at the brink of destruction and in this critical situation, KSA extended a $ 6.2 billions package which was comprised of $ 3 billions loans and oil in deferred payments worth of $ 3.2 billions. Now, the situation is in very trouble conditions and KSA demanding her rest of payments and frozen oil credit facility. However with the help of China, Pakistan has returned $ 1 billion to the KSA.

To normalize the tense situation, Chief Of Army Staff, Qamar Javed bajwa along Chief of Intelligence, Faiz Hameed, visited the Saudi Arabia but were not welcomed heartedly. MBS refused to meet and they just called on some official and discussed the matter. In the recent arena, the politics of Middle East region is showing dynamics. UAE and  Bahrain have signed a peace agreement with the Israel and KSA aims to improve relations with the Israel. In response to this, Palestinians showed anger against the Arab states and rejected the agreements. It is very important time for Pakistan  to take foreign policy decisions towards Arab states particularly Saudi Arabia.

Historically, Pakistan shares common religious ties with KSA and due to holy shrines and cities sees with eye of respect. Pakistan is sunni dominated sect states who have strong heart ties with the KSA and supports morally and military at every situation. On the hand, KSA also supported Pakistan in the wars of 1965 and 71 opposed Indian stance over the establishment of Bangladesh. As far it is concerned with the Kashmir issue, KSA supported the Pakistan at every forum in past.

In the same way, the competition between USA and China has put Pakistan into a condition where to take any side would accelerate other to take strict actions. The revisionist Turkey and Iran’s  role in Muslim world is threatening the status quo KSA and its allies. The contemporary world politics is passing through a transitive phase in which new blocks are emerging.

On the dynamic stage of world politics, regional players have activated to exploit the opportunities to fulfill their national interests. To do so, they are forming new blocks particularly in the Middle East and Indo Pacific regions . It is very critical time for Pakistan to formulate a pragmatic foreign policy to deal with other important states. Pakistan is not in a position to execute independent foreign policy. Pakistan has lesser action space due to economic vulnerabilities. An imbalance in imports and exports, the perils of FATF and  the strict policies of IMF bound  Pakistan to not play in the world political field. Albeit, it would be possible if Pakistan tend to improve the economic conditions.

Kashmir is not a sole  a reason but there are several other reasons which are potentially souring the relations . Among them, one of the intense is that Pakistan’s growing relations with the potential political  Islamic states e. g Turkey, Iran and Malaysia. These states are construed as rival of Riyadh leadership in the Muslim world. The Revisionist Turkey under the leadership of the Tayyip Erdogan wants to regain its glorifying status of ottoman empire. The secular Turkey has shifted away from the secular ideology and leading towards the destination to be a theological state. Turkey has emerged as new leader of Anti – Saudi bloc and leading from the front. The historical role of Turkey and Iran in Arab springs cannot be overshadowed.

The Bilateral rations and recent agreements of Iran and China have influential implications over Pakistan via Iran’s relations with Pakistan. China has invested almost $62 billions in CPEC and wants to connect the chabhar port with Gwadar port to gain maximum economic benefits. On the other hand, Arabs state particularly KSA and UAE are playing in the hands of West specifically USA and Israel to get secure position in the Middle East to deter the new enemy Turkey and traditional rival Iran. Recently, UAE and Bahrain has acceded the Israel and signed a peace deal to start formally  diplomatic relations. KSA has aims to stretch the diplomatic and economic relations with Israel. Multiple Arabs states have already recognized the Israel and the most prominent are Turkey, Egypt, Bahrain and UAE. In this Situation, Pakistan needs to clear its position towards Palestinian issue and should reconsider its policies towards Israel to find a permanent solution of Palestinian as well as Kashmir issue.

Moreover, The traditional Rival India is very active in Middle East region and playing its role to strengthen feet in the Muslim world. Various agreements in diverse sectors have been signed among India and other Arab states. KSA wants India as South Asia Strategic partner and UAE had its economic interests in almost world largest market. It is also a prominent reason due to which  KSA is not openly supporting the Pakistan stance over Kashmir issue. Pakistan also sees it a future threat. Pakistan foreign policy always have been Indian centric. In this contemporary situation, Pakistan should not deteriorate its relations with all weather Arab friends but should urge them to take side of Pakistan by exploiting their weak points.

When we comes to the foreign policies of Pakistan towards a friends whose friendships is sweeter than honey and higher than Himalayas, it is very evident that Pakistan always show a soft image. But, in multi polar world, China and USA has undergone into a phase where they are taking steps to harm the economy of each other. Undoubtedly, China has surpassed the USA in economic growth rate but it has to complete billions dollars project yet. In the same way, Pakistan also enjoys good relations With USA to get financial assistance. In the age of New cold war, Pakistan would have to opt a middle ground to take benefits of both aid and economic activities. If Pakistan takes one of side then it would put herself into troubles because still international organizations are under the influence of USA and deeply depends upon the morally, militarily  and economic support of China.

It can be analyzed that it is not only Kashmir but there are also multiple  factors which are intensifying the situations for Pakistan . It is stated that there is no free lunch in international rations. As in the same way, KSA and UAE have their own preferences and interests in arena. Their foreign policy does not allow them to be influenced by someone else. It is very significant time for Pakistan in which important decisions have to be made by the officials but one thing should be keep in mind that we should not make it either us or without us situation but exploit the opportunities.  To increase the number gains and popular support at domestic level, such kind of outrageous statements should not be released until you don’t have strong relative power. Economy plays a very significant role in the states future. Pakistan is economically a vulnerable state and it does not allow it to take independent decisions. Saudi Arabia is the main exporter of Oil to the Pakistan, thousands workers work in Saudi, holy land and always support Pakistan  in the difficult time all these factors should be keep in mind to take any decisions.

If Pakistan aligns with Turkey , Iran and Malaysia block thenit will have to face west and other benefactors resistance. China is also interested in developing good relations with Saudi because they are oil scarce and assisting them in technical developments. Turkey and Iran are not in a position that they would come to rescue the Pakistan. If Pakistan openly opposes the west block then it would have to face repercussions. The international organization like FATF, IMF and united nations considerably led by the United sates and they have already trapped Pakistan in this web.

To face the future challenges in Bilateral relations, Pakistan must secure normalcy in its Bilateral ties with Saudi Arabia to renew the oil facility agreement. On the other hand, it should not relinquish a leading role in a separate Saudi-rivalry block and should prioritize the Kashmir issues. Albeit, it is evident that Turkey can only offers Pakistan clout but not cash. The Iran cannot replace the Saudi Arabia in oil exports to the Pakistan due to under pressure of imposed international sanctions.

Pakistan should reconsider its policies towards Middle East Region. Pakistan should not let anyone to interfere in the matters but it is need of hours to strengthen the economic conditions by maintain a balanced foreign policy towards benefactors .

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Pakistan can maximize the benefits of CPEC by involving China experts

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Mr. Yao Jing, who has been to Pakistan three times at various diplomatic postings – very junior, mid-career, and senior-most position as Ambassador, a perfect expert on Pakistan. He was in touch with Pakistan for almost 25 years, and have deep interaction with various segments of the society, seen several Governments and virtually all political and regional leaders in Pakistan. He has also served in India and Afghanistan and understands well Pak-India, Pak-Afghan relations in a comprehensive manner. Being an Ambassador, he had interaction with the highest level official, military and civil bureaucracy, and leadership. His understanding of Pakistan is unmatched. At the end of his tenure as Ambassador to Pakistan, before departing, in one of his farewell, he expressed that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would be better served if Pakistan would have appointed officials who are experts on the functioning of the Chinese government and its market. He was happy at the progress that had been made between the two countries, and that CPEC was on the right track. Pakistan can maximize the benefits of CPEC by involving China experts.

There exist around 20,000 China-graduates in Pakistan in various fields and various age groups, with various lengths of experience to fresh graduates. The first badge of Pakistani students traveled to China for higher education in 1977-78. Initially, there were very few students, but a sharp increase was witnessed since year-2000 and onward. Currently, there are around 30,000 Pakistani students studying in China, almost all majors field of emerging specializations, in leading Chinese Universities. They are at various levels – Undergrads, Masters, PhDs, and Post.Docs, etc.

A vast pool of around 20,000 China-graduates in Engineering, Agriculture, Health Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Economics, Management Sciences, Social and Natural Sciences are available in Pakistan readily.

China graduates are the human resource required for CPEC, as they understand China in addition to their professional qualification. While studying in China, they interact with the Chinese teachers, students, and society and learns Chinese culture, Traditions, History, Philosophy, Thinking, Ethics, Values, and Psyche, Politics, Governance, etc. Based on their understandings of Chinese systems, they can negotiate with Chinese and work with them in harmony and successfully. The involvement of China-Graduates in the CPEC is key to success and may maximize benefits for Pakistan.

Chinese Ambassador further said,“CPEC is now well connected, much to the satisfaction of both sides,” furthermore. “The biggest concern, if there is one, is that Pakistani officials lack expertise on China, and do not know how the Chinese government works, and also how Chinese companies operate.” Due to a lack of understanding, some time faces misunderstandings and misinterpretations.“In China, for example, we have some experts that advise us on Pakistan’s governance model. There is a lot more to be done for Pakistani authorities to learn the functioning of Chinese markets and governance model,” he added. While considering CPEC as Oxygen to Pakistan’s economy and catalyst for economic take-off the country, there is no single interpreter of the Chinese language in the Government of Pakistan. In the private sector, there are few Chinese language experts, with 50% interpretation capability only. Communication and understanding may be a hurdle, which can be resolved by involving China-graduates simply. Pakistan needs to change its mindset from the Western approach toward understanding China, which may benefit in the smooth execution of CPEC.

Currently, those who are handing CPEC has little knowledge about China and sometimes face an embarrassing situation. It is not an individual’s  fault, but if China experts are given this task, they can perform much better. CPEC is handled by Western-educated or trained personnel, having little or no understandings of China can not achieve the desired results or optimal outcomes. Often, they compare China with the Western World, which is the wrong approach and may lead to a total disaster sometimes. China is a unique civilization, and having its own traditions and values, much different from the West. It will be highly productive, if the Government of Pakistan, utilize the China-graduates and China-trained human resource, to maximize the outcomes of CPEC.

Ambassador Yao Jing is a sincere friend of Pakistan; his advice carries high-value and may be taken seriously. Especially while we are entering into the Second-Phase of CPEC, where the private sector may be involved in Industrialization, Agricultural Sector, and Services Sector, China experts can play an instrumental role and maximize benefits for Pakistan.

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Interpreting Sheikh Hasina’s Foreign Policy

Shariful Islam

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September 28, 2020 marks the 74th birthday of Sheikh Hasina, the Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh. On the occasion of her birthday, it becomes important to examine the foreign policy of Sheikh Hasina and the policy imperatives for Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina brought dynamism in Bangladesh foreign policy. In fact, the peace-centric foreign policy of Hasina becomes pertinent for world peace, stability, and prosperity. To make Bangladesh a developed country by 2041, the constructive, cooperative and peace-centric foreign policy of Hasina can play leading role. Thus, in this birthday, this article attempts to analyse Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy for a peaceful and better world.

Sheikh Hasina came to power in 2009, and took oath for the third time as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh in 2019. This long period provided political stability in Bangladesh except some incidences of political violence at the beginning of 2014. This has also helped Bangladesh to maintain a consistency in foreign policy pattern/priorities. It is argued that political leaders play important role in the field of international relations and foreign policy formulations and executions. The personal characteristics of the leader, i.e. beliefs, motives, decision style, and interpersonal style become critical in understanding the foreign policy behavior of a state (Hermann 2011).

In fact, in the context of Bangladesh where the Prime Minister play vital role in the foreign policy formulations, the beliefs, ideologies, personal characteristics, norms, values, and the bold and visionary leadership of Sheikh Hasina play crucial role in the formulation and execution of an independent foreign policy of Bangladesh based on norms, values and enlightened interest. One can identify the following key parameters of Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy.

First, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh, laid down the foreign policy principle of Bangladesh, i.e. ‘Friendship to all and malice to none’. This policy helped Bangladesh to achieve Bangladesh’s recognition from states around the world and building cooperative partnership. However, except Awami League, this policy is not followed by other political parties in Bangladesh. After coming to power for the second time in 2009, Sheikh Hasina made a strategic shift in the foreign policy formulations of Bangladesh prioritising both India and China in the development trajectory of Bangladesh. Hasina government strongly followed the foreign policy principle, i.e. ‘Friendship to all and malice to none’ in the case of Bangladesh’s relations with both India and China. In fact, Bangladesh has been able to maintain the good relations with all countries including India and China due to the ‘friendship to all, malice to none’ foreign policy principle of Sheikh Hasina. According to Sheikh Hasina, ‘[W]hat’s the problem with it (maintaining ties with both China and India)? We have ties with all our neighbours. Bangladesh has no animosity with anyone because we are following the lesson taught by the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’ (bdnews24.com, July 4, 2019).If the world would follow such peace-centric foreign policy of Sheikh Hasina, the world would be a better place to live in, one can argue.

Second,Sheikh Hasina follows a peace-centric foreign policy. As the earlier section notes, the foreign policy dictum developed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is strongly followed by Sheikh Hasina. For instance, while the major powers in the region and beyond closed their doors to the Rohingya refugees, Bangladesh opened the door for them. As a result, more than 1.1 million Rohingyas received shelter in Bangladesh. Bangladesh with limited resources is providing food, shelter, medicare and other facilities/services to this huge number of Rohingya refugees since 2017. To resolve the crisis, Bangladesh strongly believes in peaceful resolution through mutual understanding and dialogue.

Third,under the Sheikh Hasina government, Bangladesh prioritises economy over security or strategic issues in its foreign policy formulations. At Bangladeshi envoys conference, held in July 2019 at London, Sheikh Hasina has asked Bangladeshi envoys based in European countries to pursue economy diplomacy as top most priority to sustain the ongoing development in Bangladesh. At the World Economic Forum Economic Summit in New Delhi in October 2019, Sheikh Hasina presented Bangladesh as the economic hub in the sub-region and thus asked the global investors to invest in Bangladesh. Under the leadership of Hasina, Bangladesh is setting up 100 special economic zones, with one-stop service across the country to attract foreign direct investments.

The agreements on economic cooperation between Bangladesh and different countries shows the importance Bangladesh attaches to economic diplomacy in its foreign policy formulations and executions. Due to the prioritisation of economy diplomacy, the GDP of Bangladesh has grown from US$102 billion in 2009 to US$302 billion in 2019 (Hasina 2019). In addition, foreign direct investment has also increased from US$ 700 million in 2009 to US$ 3613 million in 2018 (Table 1). In 2018, Bangladesh was the second recipient of FDI in South Asia. In addition, Table 2 demonstrates that the volume of trade has increased between 2009 and 2018 which underscores the priority of economic diplomacy in the foreign policy formulations of Bangladesh under Hasina regime. According to UNCTAD, there is 9.5 per cent merchandise exports growth rate in 2018. Among the export products, 95 per cent covers manufactured goods. According to the UNCTAD statistics, among the top five export destinations of Bangladesh in 2018 included USA (US$ 5672 million), Germany (US$ 5626 million), United Kingdom (US$ 3460 million), Spain (US$ 2709 million), and France (US$ 2288 million).

Table 1: Foreign direct investment flow in Bangladesh (Millions of dollars)

Year2009201020112012201320142015201620172018
Value70091311361293159915512235233321523613

Source: UNCTAD (2015: A5; 2019:214).

Table 2: International merchandise trade: Total merchandise trade (millions of US$)

Sector2005201020152018
Merchandise exports9297191943237939252
Merchandise imports13889278214204760495
Merchandise balance-4 592-8 627-9 669               -21243

Source: UNCTADstat (https://unctadstat.unctad.org/CountryProfile/GeneralProfile/en-GB/050/index.html).       

Fourth, after came to power in 2009, Sheikh Hasina resolved the long-standing maritime boundary delimitation dispute with India and Myanmar peacefully through the help of international regimes. Bangladesh now has sovereign rights on all living, and non-living resources of over 200 nautical miles of Exclusive Economic Zone and up to 354 nautical miles of the continental shelf of the country. Thus, blue economy has become a key area of Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy. Though India and China are rivals in many aspects, Bangladesh has signed Blue Economy agreement with both of them.

Fifth, resolving Rohingya crsis through internationalisation of the issue became a key foreign policy priority for Sheikh Hasina government. Thus, at bilateral, regional and international forums, Bangladesh advocated Rohingya issues strongly.

Sixth, under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh strongly advocates rules-based international order. Thus, Bangladesh promotes the agency of rules-based international order, i.e. regional and international institutions. The country respects the norms of the international institutions like the United Nations. In fact, the constitution of the United Nations is also reflected in the drafting of foreign policy principles of Bangladesh.

Seventh, conventionally, Bangladesh does not participate in power politics whether at regional or international level. Instead, regional and international cooperation based on rules and norms has been the guiding principles of Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy. In fact, cooperation and partnership at bilateral, regional, and global level are key defining features of Bangladesh foreign policy under Sheikh Hasina regime. Bangladesh is a strong advocate of regional and international cooperation. For instance, Bangladesh strongly supports South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multisectoral and Technical Cooperation (BIMSTEC), Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor, Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the United Nations. The country strongly promotes sub-regional cooperation. The country has already allowed India to use its land, water, and ports to access its Northeastern states. For instance, Bangladesh has asked Nepal and Bhutan to use its Saidpur airport, and Chittagong and Mongla ports which demonstrates the importance of constructive engagement with the neighbours and beyond.

Finally,South-South Cooperation is another defining feature of Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy. Bangladesh sees South-South Cooperation as an effective mechanism for development cooperation among the Southern countries. For instance, Bangladesh has included South-South Cooperation in its National Policy for Development Cooperation. Bangladesh has been awarded ‘South-South Award’ in 2013 to make a remarkable progress in the poverty alleviation. In addition, in September 2018, Bangladesh has received a special award in Bangkok from the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and UNESCAP in recognition of its outstanding contributions to South-South Cooperation.

This article also focuses on some policy imperatives. First, the above identified eight defining features of Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy need to be promoted in the days to come especially economic diplomacy. Second, the dearth of scholarship on Bangladesh foreign policy studies implies that it becomes important to promote foreign policy studies in the country. In this regard, the role of the state, and scholars becomes important. Bangladesh is a rising power which requires both knowledge production and dissemination. Consequently, Sheikh Hasina government needs to promote foreign policy scholarship both in the country and beyond.

Third, it becomes also important to promote the soft power diplomacy of Bangladesh. In this context, nation branding (a peaceful country, an emerging economic power, a strong promoter of regional and international cooperation) to the world community becomes crucial. Bangladesh’s contributions to the world peace and stability needs to be highlighted by writing op-eds, making presentations, publishing research articles and so forth by both the policy and academic community.

Fourth, internationalising the Rohingya issue will be another key issue area of Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy in the days to come. In this context, the role of active diplomacy at both Track I and Track II level becomes crucial. There are more than 10, 000 University teachers in Bangladesh who can write a piece on the Rohingya issue and publish it at regional and international media. This will be imperative to internationalise the issue and thus resolve the crisis.

Fifth, deepening economic cooperation, attracting foreign direct investment, promoting trade and commerce, sustaining the development partnership with major and emerging powers will become serious challenge for Sheikh Hasina government in the post-COVID-19 era. Thus, it becomes important to rethink Bangladesh foreign policy and diplomacy based on economic diplomacy in the post-COVID-19 era.

To conclude, in this troubled world where narrowly defined interest defines the foreign policy actions of states, arms races, and competition for influence, power and position becomes rampant, the foreign policy of Sheikh Hasina based on peace, friendship, and cooperation becomes important for the welfare and benefits of the people in the world. The foreign policy of Bangladesh under the Sheikh Hasina regime is improving Bangladesh’s relations with the major development partners of the country including with both India and China especially in the areas of economic and development partnership which has resulted in economic growth and socio-economic development in the country. And this has impacted the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of people in the country. Thus, the continuation of Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy becomes important for Bangladesh and the beyond. This article concludes that there is no alternative to Sheikh Hasina and her peace-centric foreign policy for the 170 million people in Bangladesh and beyond.

In this great day, I wish, Happy Birthday to our Honourable Prime Minister. Long live Bangladesh, long live the Honourable Prime Minister.

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