Geo-politics, democratization and external influence: the Bangladesh case
AuthorChowdhury, Faiz Ahmed
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Bangladesh’s strategic importance is enormous as it is located at the heart of two very important regions of the globe and might turn out to be a hub in South and Southeast Asia. Recognizing the country’s strategic significance, a number of influential nations are now vying for influence over the country for strategic access and economic resources. This paper focuses on some key interests of the external actors especially important regional and global powers as they try to reap the benefits of Bangladesh’s strategic location in their favour. In fact, Bangladesh has attracted keen interest from the United States, China and India in recent times. These powers compete with each other for a variety of reasons to influence Bangladeshi politics with convergent as well as contradictory interests. The paper examines how geography shapes the nature of external actors’ influence in this part of the world. The strategically important Chittagong port offers both economic and potential military opportunities for the aforementioned powers. Apart from that, the rise of Islamist militancy in Bangladesh, trade and connectivity has made it an area of immense interest among big powers to exert their influence. The paper would explore how lack of democratic consolidation in a country creates the room for external forces to intervene in the internal affairs. The paper develops a conceptual framework to analyze drivers of external influence in Bangladesh. It builds on Lee’s (1966) ‘Push-pull theory’ of migration studies. Since the restoration of democracy in the 1990s, Bangladesh has conducted four free and fair national elections. Bangladesh’s democratic transition has not been smooth and still the country is in the process of consolidating its fragile democracy. The future of Bangladesh’s democratic consolidation is far from predictable considering its weak democratic institutions and repugnant political culture enabling the external actors to play an important role in its politics and policy making.