The upcoming national election in Bangladesh poses a challenge to regional stability, according to a distinguished fellow at Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in New Delhi.
Manoj Joshi, in his recent article on the ORF website said that the prospect of any government other than one run by the Awami League and current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is viewed with some dismay by India.
For the record, though, he said India insists it is neutral with regard to the two parties, and during her visit to the country last October, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also met with BNP chief Begun Khaleda Zia and held talks with party officials.
Some Indian officials say that their experience of working with the Awami League government on issues relating to terrorism, radicalization and curbing the activities of third-country intelligence services has been positive.
They say that Sheikh Hasina has been proactive in curbing Islamist extremism in her country, while claiming that the BNP has tolerated, if not encouraged, some Islamist elements.
Clearly, Joshi said, any fresh elections will have to meet the challenge of credibility, according to the article shared by the Observer Research Foundation.
As of now the BNP has said it is willing to contest the next election, but preferably with a non-partisan election commission that would take charge of the government during the elections period.
In fact, in recent months it has stepped up its campaign demanding that a caretaker government conduct the polls.
The expert said BNP is banking on the anti-incumbency factor. "By itself, it is not in particularly good shape to fight elections. Begum Khaleda Zia is embroiled in some 37 different cases relating to corruption and abuse of power relating to her two terms as prime minister, and the party is being led indirectly from London by her son Tarique Rahman."
In February, Begum Khaleda and her son were convicted in a corruption case involving embezzlement from a trust. Khaleda was sentenced to five years in jail.
Though her party claims that the charges were a political vendetta, endemic corruption has been a factor in the poor performance of Bangladesh’s governments.
The Rohingya issue has the potential to poison both Indian and Chinese relations with Bangladesh, said the expert.
On one hand, China has not permitted any condemnation for the Myanmar government’s role in triggering the exodus of Rohingya Muslims, and on the other, some in India remain concerned that the Rohingya will infiltrate into India in larger numbers and pose a threat, he said.
He said Bangladesh has had an old history of Islamist radicalism, but the newer and more virulent forms of Islamism could tear the country apart.
Joshi said elections are expected in Bangladesh soon, as by law they must take place between October 31 and December 31 this year.
"This is not an easy prospect either for Bangladesh or for its principal neighbor, India," he wrote.