Bangladesh’s politicians should keep their hands off Grameen Bank

A 29-year-old Bangladeshi woman known as Tattahakallayani or Info Lady shows a 15-minute video played in a laptop at one of their usual weekly meetings at Saghata, a remote impoverished farming village in Gaibandha district, 120 miles (192 kilometers) north of capital Dhaka, Bangladesh. Dozens of “Info Ladies” bike into remote Bangladeshi villages with laptops and Internet connections, helping tens of thousands of people - especially women - get everything from government services to chats with distant loved ones. (Photo: AAP)

Authors: Niaz Asadullah, University of Malaya, and Zaki Wahhaj, University of Kent

Increasing state control over Grameen Bank will not serve Bangladesh’s best interests. And it will be detrimental to the nation’s progress on gender equality.

Bangladesh has improved its rank in this year’s Global Gender Gap report, moving from 75 in 2013 to 68 in 2014. Read more…

Political Islam in Bangladeshi democracy

Activists of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party, acknowledge their leader during a rally in Dhaka, 4 February 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Mubashar Hasan, Griffith University

Recently Bangladesh was side-tracked from an electoral democracy. Earlier this year, the ruling party Awami League formed government after a one-sided election. Bangladesh’s major opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), boycotted the election on the grounds Read more…

A view from the India-Bangladesh border

Members of the India-Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Committee rally behind the fence marking the border between India and Bangladesh. Both the border and the bilateral relationship are far from static. (Photo: Jason Cons)

Author: Jason Cons, Bucknell University

On 18 December 2013, the Indian National Congress party government introduced a bill in parliament to facilitate the realisation of the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh. This bill was the latest in a long series of attempts to enable the exchange of 161 enclaves Read more…

Time out for democracy in Bangladesh

Former Prime Minister of Bangladesh and leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Khaleda Zia, talks to BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir at a public meeting in Dhaka on 20 January, 2014. The BNP had boycotted the violence-marred 5 January election that was won by the Sheikh Hasina led Awami League party. Zia says the election was illegal and seeks reelection with in the shortest possible time. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

More often than not, the news out of Bangladesh is about natural disasters or the tragic costs of ill-disciplined early industrialisation. Now it’s the political system that’s collapsed. But in many ways, Bangladesh gets a worse press wrap than it deserves.

The Bangladesh economy has been a bright spot in South Asia, and among the best performers right across the Asian region. Read more…

Sham election sets dangerous standard for Bangladesh

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at a press conference after the national election in Dhaka on 6 January, 2014. Hasina insisted her walkover win in an election boycotted by the opposition was legitimate and blamed her rivals for the unprecedented bloodshed on polling day. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tom Felix Joehnk, Bangkok

For more than two decades Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League (AL) and Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have ruled Bangladesh. They hate each other viscerally and refuse to communicate, much less negotiate. Both women inherited their political followings from relatives who were assassinated. They have since turned the country’s two largest parties into patronage-based personality cults that specialise in looking backwards. Read more…

Democracy’s no-show at Bangladesh’s elections

A Bangladeshi woman working at a government community centre shouts out names of other women registered to work at polling stations as security personnel in Dhaka on 4 January, 2014. The opposition led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, boycott polls and called a 48 hour strike in a bid to torpedo the 5 January, general elections which were won by the Awami League. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Syeda Naushin Parnini, University of Malaya

Democracy in Bangladesh is paralysed. This was demonstrated at the so called 10th general election held on 5 January 2014, which failed to reflect the will of the Bangladeshi people. Instead, it was boycotted by the major opposition parties, the Bangladeshi Nationalist Party (BNP)-led coalition, and unilaterally ran by the incumbent Awami League (AL) in cooperation with the toothless Electoral Commission. Read more…

Will violence and strikes disrupt elections in Bangladesh?

Author: Iftekharul Bashar, RSIS

The number of incidences of political violence in Bangladesh surged in the first quarter of 2013.

Activists of the country’s largest Islamist political party, Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami (BJI), clashed with the police in several parts of the country, leaving at least 87 people dead and thousands injured.

Read more…

The social and economic costs of gender-based violence in Bangladesh

Hasina one of the survivors of an acid attack, reacts as she attends in a human chain to protest against acid violence during the International Womens Day celebration in Dhaka, Bangladesh 8 March 2012. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Andrew Rowell, CARE Australia

The UN Commission on the Status of Women met again in New York on 4–15 March 2013, with a particular focus this year on prevention of gender-based violence.

In this context, it is timely for policy-makers to contemplate the full social and economic costs of gender-based violence on women, families, communities and nations. Read more…

The changing climate of Bangladeshi migration to India

An art installation in Dhaka depicting the drowning hands of climate refugees 25 May 2011. (Photo: AAP)

Authors: Manish Vaid, ORF, and Tridivesh Singh Maini, New Delhi

Bangladesh’s vulnerability to climate change is the main reason behind its number six ranking on the 2011 UN World Risk Index — the highest within South Asia.

UN projections indicate that a sea level rise of 0.5 metres could see Bangladesh lose approximately 11 per cent of its land by 2050, which would affect around 15 million people.  Read more…

Pivots, progress and partners in South Asia

An Indian Border Security Force soldier keeps watch at an outpost along the India-Pakistan border in Abdulian 38 kms southwest of Jammu on 9 January 2013 (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sandy Gordon, ANU

The Indian economy continued to struggle through 2012. Growth remained sluggish at about 5.3 per cent of GDP for the September quarter (year on year).

Although starting to fall, inflation — always politically sensitive in India — remains high.

Read more…

Assam: India encounters friction in a crucial corridor

Indian army personnel unload from a truck at Ambadi village Kokrajhar district, Assam, on 28 July 2012, following deadly violence in the area. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Sandy Gordon, ANU

Some 48 people were killed in the Indian state of Assam in late July following clashes between the Bodo ethnic group (a Tibetan-Burmese people who are now predominantly Christian and Hindu) and Muslim Bengali immigrants, mainly from Bangladesh and its previous incarnations.

Approximately 400,000 people have also been displaced from their villages. These are by no means the first such ethnic clashes in Assam. Read more…

Bangladesh–Myanmar relations: smooth sailing

Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, who tried to cross the Naf river into Bangladesh to escape sectarian violence, wait in a line after disembarking from an intercepted boat in Teknaf in June 2012. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Pranab Kumar Panday, Cornell University and Rajshahi University

Though Myanmar is a close neighbour, the government of Bangladesh has refrained from establishing close bilateral relations due to the long-term military rule in Myanmar.

Of course, Bangladesh is not alone in shunning the junta. Most democratic countries around the world have tried to maintain their distance from the regime, particularly after Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was not allowed to form government after a landslide victory in the 1990 general elections. Read more…

G20: microfinance and poverty reduction

Mexican President Felipe Calderon delivers the closing speech at the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico on 19 June 2012. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Scott French, Macquarie University

The recent G20 summit held in Los Cabos, Mexico, focused on the plight of developing economies. The agenda included several items of interest for developing nations, including financial inclusion and microfinance.

Better microfinance mechanisms will contribute to the reduction of global poverty and assist developing nations in sustaining their economies without foreign aid. Read more…