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Why G20 fallout can help Sheikh Hasina to win upcoming general elections in Bangladesh

US President Joe Biden's selfie with Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina and her daughter Saima Wazed goes viral (Image courtesy: X)

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is currently basking in the glory of her successful trip to India where she not only participated at the G20 summit but also held several bilateral meetings with world leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The last one week has been action packed for Bangladesh. The South Asian nation also hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and French President Emmanuel Macron. 

While Lavrov landed in Dhaka for a day ahead of the summit and held talks with senior leaders including Hasina, Macron paid a two-day visit to the South Asian nation right after the summit.

Lavrov’s visit to Dhaka marks the first ever by Russia.

Macron in Dhaka said, “Bangladesh is progressively retrieving its place on the world stage.”

Last month Hasina also attended the BRICS summit in Johannesburg.

“The sentiments in Bangladesh are very positive after Prime Minister Hasina’s visit to New Delhi for the G20 summit. It has significantly boosted her image in Bangladesh,” senior journalist and political analyst Syed Badrul Ahsan told India Narrative. “The G20 summit and her engagements with other leaders at the summit have helped the (Bangladesh) Prime Minister garner a lot of goodwill,” Ahsan added.

One of the highlights for Bangladesh during the G20 summit has been the US President Joe Biden clicking a selfie with Hasina and her daughter Saima Wazed at a time when the US has been increasing its pressure on Dhaka with general elections approaching. In May, the US Department of State announced visa restrictions against Bangladeshis who undermined the democratic election process at home.

The Business Standard (Bangladesh) (TBS) noted that Biden’s “smiling selfie with the premier and her daughter shows that relations are no longer strained.”

“While Biden’s selfie game isn’t questioned, the one with PM Hasina had far-reaching ramifications, being seen as a signal of the thawing relations between the two countries after a somewhat rocky last few months,” the newspaper said, adding that it is being considered a morale booster for the ruling Awami League ahead of the national polls slated for January.

The selfie episode went viral on social media not just in Bangladesh but India too.

Ahsan however said that the selfie episode, though on the surface a positive gesture, should not be taken too seriously. “Though one should not read too much into the selfie episode and we do not know whether it marks a change in Bangladesh’s relations with the US, the incident has injected positivity,” he said.

Besides Biden’s selfie, images of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak kneeling down while talking to Hasina have also taken the Internet by storm.

Thousands of Bangladesh citizens have showered heaps of praise for Hasina. Social media handles were abuzz with such comments.

Analysts said that the world’s increased engagements with Bangladesh in the last few months will further boost Hasina’s image as an astute statesman and a forward-looking leader. Bangladesh, under Hasina, has managed to accelerate its growth rate. In 2022-23, it registered a growth rate of 6.03 per cent, as per provisional estimate. The country is now gearing to exit the list of least developed countries (LDC) in 2026.

Unsurprisingly, the selfie episode has not gone down well with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the primary opposition party in the country. “Hang the selfie around your neck. That will help you a lot. You are trying to tell the people that Biden is with you now,” TBS quoted BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir as saying.

New Delhi’s special invitation to Dhaka to be part of the G20 has also had far reaching implications on India Bangladesh relations. The G20 euphoria had gripped Bangladesh too. The country – the only one from South Asia to be invited—made its G20 debut this year.

“We believe that our honourable Prime Minister’s participation at the G20 Summit in New Delhi will add yet another feather to the ‘Sonali Adhyay’ or ‘Golden Chapter’ of our bilateral relations,” Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said before the summit.

Also read: Ahead of G20 summit, PM Modi holds bilateral talks with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina