Bangladesh votes today, India decides to back Sheikh Hasina
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India is bracing for a major diplomatic challenge over Bangladeshin the days ahead with New Delhi deciding to take the lead in securing as much support for the Sheikh Hasina government after the elections on Sunday.
India, it is learnt, plans to step up diplomatic efforts with all major powers and within relevant multilateral forums to prevent any significant international backlash or censure after the elections.
With the main opposition, Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh National Party
, staying away from the polls, elections are being held in only 146 of the 300 constituencies where others like the Jatiya Party have candidates.
While Hasina has promised dialogue with other parties after she returns to power, the problem is that many Western countries, particularly the US, have voiced concerns over such elections lacking legitimacy.
In fact, sources said, some US interlocutors have even indicated to Indian officials that Hasina could have accepted opposition demands and resigned for the sake of upholding democracy.
The Bangladeshi prime minister, however, did not want to leave a vacuum that may allow a third force to seize power and wanted to fulfill this constitutional requirement. She has indicated that her party is agreeable to holding elections again if that is the outcome of the dialogue with other parties after the polls.
The fear in New Delhi is that many countries like the US may go to the extent of not recognising the Hasina government, leading to a host of negative repercussions. In 1996, Khaleda Zia was in the same situation as Hasina and at that point, no major power had raised serious concerns. However, the Zia government fell because of a massive popular unrest.
It is learnt that in several meetings between South Block and US interlocutors — at one stage the US ambassador to Bangladesh came here for talks — the main point of difference has been over the right wing Jamaat-e-Islami, a BNP ally.