Boycott India Campaign in Bangladesh

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Image Credits: Facebook/INDIA OUT Campaign In Bangladesh

India’s strategic interests in the region are ever-expanding. In order to maintain its sphere of influence, India often resorts to coercive and aggressive policies. Expansionism has been a key pillar when it comes to India’s historical and contemporary endeavors. Through its expansionist policies, India tries to exert and expand its influence within and beyond the South Asian region.

To achieve regional hegemony, India is seen trying to increase its economic and military strength, to subsequently reinforce its expansionist designs in the South Asian region. This growing influence often comes at the cost of weaker states in the region. Due to the unequal power dynamics between India and other smaller states in the region, it becomes easier for the former to exert undue influence over states which do not possess a similar level of authority. Indian assertiveness is often manifested in its bilateral relations with relatively weak neighbors, impacting the internal affairs of these states. Smaller states such as Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka have been the most recent victims of Indian bullying in the South Asian region.  

The ‘Boycott India Campaign’ or the ‘India Out Campaign’ is an anti-India sentiment brewing in the region. The movement calls for the boycott of India and its products. The campaign is led by a Bangladeshi Hindu known as Pinaki Bhattachariya. Bhattachariya remains highly critical of the current Bangladeshi Prime Minister Hasina Wajid. He alleges that Sheikh Hasina, the current Bangladeshi Premier has come into power through support of India. Bhattachariya claims that Hasina serves Indian interests in the region. Although the movement took off from social media platforms, it has not remained solely limited to social media alone. Protestors in Bangladesh are now marching on the streets, raiding shops and warning shopkeepers not to sell Indian products. 

India has also been able to influence states in Southeast Asia through its ‘Act East Policy.’

India has also been able to influence states in Southeast Asia through its ‘Act East Policy’. The policy was introduced in 2014 with the aim of increasing economic and diplomatic engagement with countries in the Southeast region. However, India has used its military, economic and diplomatic might to coerce and influence the weaker states. In a press conference that took place last month, Indian Minister of External Affairs Jaishankar was asked if India was playing the role of a bully in the region. His response to the question was that bullies do not provide aid and that India had recently provided an aid of around US $4.5 billion. However, this sort of an answer can be termed as evasive as it fails to address the question which was asked from the Minister. While it is true that India remains a provider of aid to other nations due to its economic heft, but provision of aid does not entitle India to coerce internal policies of weaker states in the South Asian region.

The current Indian Government goes to greater lengths to justify its expansionist ideals. India continues to build on the RSS ideology of ‘Akhand Bharat’ or ‘Greater India’ that refers to India encompassing almost the entire South Asian region. However, such ambitions can prove to be detrimental for the region. It is likely that expansionist policies of India will breed instability in the region. Pakistan and China are nuclear-armed states and direct rivals of India in the region. If India attempts a misadventure it could lead to a wider conflict in the South Asian region. India’s increasing border disputes with states such as China, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan herald bleak prospects for political and economic stability in the region.

Also Read: G20 Summit: India’s Arrogance and International Response

While India sees itself as a regional power with growing strategic interests. It must also acknowledge the role and influence of other key players such as China and Pakistan. China and Pakistan remain key allies and act as a counterweight to Indian influence in the region. Expansionist and coercive policies will ultimately force to a deterioration of relations between India and other states in the region. Concerns are already being raised in countries such as Nepal and Bhutan. Due to the significant influence that India enjoys in such states, allegations of interference in constitutional matters and undue pressure are also being levied against India. China is likely to be the beneficiary of India’s waning influence in the region. Such a milieu will drive weaker states towards seeking increased cooperation with other key players of the region like China and Pakistan.

The ‘Boycott India Campaign’ in Bangladesh remains just one example of the growing resentment for India in the region. Another key example is the squabble that took place between Maldives and India at the outset of 2024. As a result of the row, Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu demanded that the Indian troops deployed in the country be withdrawn. This led to the withdrawal of Indian troops from the island country. Such events, while seemingly trivial, will have a substantial impact on Indian influence, and subsequently the whole region. It is high time that India curbs its expansionist ambitions and respects the sovereignty of other states in the region. Intimidation and coercive policies cannot help India towards the establishment of regional hegemony. India must reassess its policies and show consideration for the sovereignty of all states in the region.

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