New Visa Policy of The USA to Restrict Bangladeshis and its Impact on India

Context: The U.S. announced a new visa policy to support Bangladesh’s goal of holding free, fair, and peaceful national elections.

About New Visa Policy

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  • The new visa policy threatens to restrict visas to Bangladeshis who undermine the democratic election process at home. 
  • The restriction would apply to current and former Bangladeshi officials, members of pro-government and opposition political parties, and members of law enforcement, the judiciary, and security services.

Reason for the formulation of the US’s new policy

Because of the authoritarian style of functioning of Bangladesh’s Prime Minister. For example: 

  • Digital Security Act 2018 as a threat to freedom of expression. The space for dissent and criticism has shrunk visibly in Bangladesh
  • Banned the Jamaat-e-Islami as a political party, and set up a court that convicted many of its members for collaborating with the Pakistan Army in 1971 and sentenced several to life terms in prison or death.

Reaction of Bangladesh 

  • Government: US was seeking regime change in Bangladesh and demands such visa policy should not be applied arbitrarily in a non-objective manner.
  • Opposition: They said the policy will play a supporting role in holding the next polls in a fair and credible manner.

Consequences of this policy

  • The U.S. is the largest foreign direct investor in Bangladesh followed by Japan and China.
  • The U.S. is the third largest trading partner of Bangladesh and is the largest recipient of the garments produced in Bangladesh. 
  • A Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) status with the US and Europe for its readymade garment exports is crucial when Bangladesh graduates out of the least developed country category in 2026. Dhaka is lobbying hard for this.
  • With China taking a keen interest in Bangladesh, the U.S. feels the need to look beyond trade ties. The importance of the Indo-Pacific strategy also makes Bangladesh politically indispensable for the U.S.

Impact on India

  • Over the last few years, the US and India were seen as acting in tandem in Bangladesh, especially as their security objectives converged. The visa policy is a sign that this may be changing. 
  • The post-Afghanistan US, with new priorities, seems more open than India to political change in Dhaka. 
  • The US position on the Bangladesh elections could complicate India’s diplomacy in Bangladesh as India prefers the present government as the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), links to Islamist parties and is born with anti-India sentiment.

India’s Stand

  • India has not responded to the visa restrictions despite the fact that Bangladesh is the largest trade and security partner of India in South Asia.

Importance of Bangladesh to India:

  • The Prime Minister of Bangladesh has uprooted insurgents of northeast India who had maintained a base in Bangladesh for decades.
  • Signed land transit rights to the North-eastern states,
  • Signed a favourable coal power deal with an Indian company.

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