The significance of Bangladesh’s Rise
Sheikh Hasina won the recent general election in Bangladesh, starting her third continuous term as the Prime Minister. With this recent development, it is essential to note the structural change unfolding in Bangladesh and its long-term implications.
How has Hasina’s Bangladesh been?
- Over the last decade, there has been a dramatic improvement in the country’s economic prospects.
- The stability and continuity provided by Hasina have been critical for this transformation.
- Under her leadership, Bangladesh has emerged as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
- Its per capita income has doubled over the last decade.
- It is all set to leave the category of “least developed countries”.
- Hasina aims to accelerate the annual economic growth rate from the current 7% to nearly 10% by 2021 when Bangladesh celebrates its 50th birthday.
What does the transformation mean for the Subcontinent?
- Economy – The growth has begun to change the economic hierarchy in the region, by displacing Pakistan in the second spot.
- The per capita income of Bangladesh, $1800, is now larger than that of Pakistan’s at about $1600.
- The aggregate GDP ($275 bn) is geared to overtake Pakistan’s at $310 bn in the coming years.
- In contrast to international scepticism about Pakistan’s economic future, there is optimism about Dhaka’s economic prospects.
- Pakistan – The traditional Pakistani condescension towards Bangladesh is yielding to a measure of admiration for Bangladesh.
- There are demands to adopt the “Bangladesh model”, focussing on economic development rather than political adventurism.
- There are also calls for promoting religious moderation instead of extremism.
- China – Bangladesh is also critical for the success of China’s plans to integrate its Yunnan province with Myanmar, Bangladesh and eastern India.
- Unlike the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, India has only fewer problems with the BCIM (Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar) corridor.
- Myanmar – The maritime territorial issues with India and Myanmar have been peacefully resolved through arbitration.
- This facilitates maritime economic and security cooperation within the Bay of Bengal.
- This, in turn, would deepen the integration between eastern Subcontinent and Southeast Asia.
- South Asia – Bangladesh’s rise alters the balance within South Asia by tilting the economic centre of gravity towards the east.
- The economic advancement of Bangladesh helps lift up the whole of the eastern Subcontinent.
- It includes India’s Northeast as well as Bhutan and Nepal.
- Geography has positioned both Pakistan and Bangladesh as natural “bridge states”.
- Pakistan (Rawalpindi) has chosen destabilisation of its neighbours through cross-border terrorism and insurgencies.
- On the other hand, Dhaka has chosen the path of regional cooperation, utilising the geographic potential.
- It was Dhaka’s initiative that helped found the SAARC in the mid-1980s.
- But the SAARC remains dysfunctional due to Pakistan’s reluctance to engage in economic cooperation with India.
- Nevertheless, the consequence has been the fillip to sub-regional cooperation in the eastern Subcontinent involving Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal.
- Equally important has been the re-vitalisation of the BIMSTEC forum.
- It is pursuing trans-regional cooperation between five South Asian countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka) and two Southeast Asian countries (Myanmar and Thailand).
- In all, with the rise of Bangladesh and the expanding regional cooperation centred around it, there is a positive future for the whole of the subcontinent.
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