Monday, April 1, 2024

Pakistani Student Enrollment in US Universities Hits All Time High

Pakistani student enrollment in America's institutions of higher learning rose 16% last year, outpacing the record 12% growth in the number of international students hosted by the country. This puts Pakistan among eight sources in the top 20 countries with the largest increases in US enrollment. India saw the biggest increase at 35%, followed by Ghana 32%, Bangladesh and Nepal at 28% each, Pakistan 16%, Colombia 13%, Italy 10% and Spain 5%. 

Top 8 Source Countries of Foreign Students in US. Source: IIE OpenDoors

"During 2022-2023, there were 10,164 Pakistani students, compared to 8,772 in the previous year, indicating an impressive 16% increase," according to IIE Open Doors Report for 2022-23. There has been an overall 33% increase in enrollment of Pakistani students in US colleges and universities. 

Major Destinations of Pakistanis Studying Abroad. Source: UNESCO

The most recent UNESCO data (2021) counts 71,865 Pakistani students abroad in higher education. More recent statistics published by government sources in various receiving countries show that the outbound student mobility from Pakistan was over 103,190 in 2022. There have been large increases in Pakistani students recorded recently in the UK, Australia, US, Canada, and Germany. The UK is now the top destination with over 23,000 Pakistani students, followed by Australia with nearly 16,000 students from Pakistan  in 2021/22, according to the ICEF Monitor

The most recent UNESCO data (2021) puts the total number of Indians studying abroad at 508,174. 

Pakistani Students in America. Source: IIE OpenDoors

Pakistan is ranked as the 16th biggest source of foreign students in America. China remains the top-sending country in 2022/23, with 289,526 students studying in the U.S. (-0.2% year-over-year). India, the second largest sending country, reached an all-time high of 268,923 international students in 2022/23, an increase of 35% year-over-year, according to the report.

Top 20 Sending Countries of International Students in America. Source: Statista

The United States is hosting over one million (1,057,188) international students in the 2022/2023 academic year, a 12% increase compared to the previous academic year. It is the fastest growth rate in more than 40 years. It is partly attributable to the end of the COVID19 pandemic which dramatically diminished international student mobility. 

Related Links:

Friday, March 29, 2024

Agriculture, Caste, Religion and Happiness in South Asia

Pakistan's agriculture sector GDP grew at a rate of 5.2% in the October-December 2023 quarter, according to the government figures. This is a rare bright spot in the overall national economy that showed just 1% growth during the quarter. Strong performance of the farm sector gives the much needed boost for about 37% of Pakistan's workforce engaged in agriculture. It helps the country's rural economy improve their living standards. In the same period, India's agriculture sector that employs 43% of the workforce slowed to 1.2% growth. This could be one possible contributing factor for Pakistan (rank108) significantly outperforming India (rank 126) on the World Happiness Index once again. 

World Happiness Map 2023. Source: Gallup

Pakistan has seen bumper crops of rice, corn, wheat, sugar and cotton this fiscal year after the devastation caused by massive floods in the prior year. During the first six months of the current fiscal year 2023-24, exports of agro and food products from Pakistan have soared by 64% as compared to the same period during 2022-2023. In the month of December alone, there was a growth of 118%, as $882 million of food was exported as compared  to $404 million in the same month in 2022-23. Pakistan's gains in the food export market have come at a time when India has had to limit or ban exports of rice, corn, sugar and other commodities due to crop failures.  

The World Happiness Report attributes India's poor ranking in the Index to widespread caste discrimination in the country. Older Indians belonging to upper castes, and “never experience[d] discrimination or ill-treatment” were “more satisfied with their lives”, according to the report.

Caste discrimination contributed “significantly to the caste-based discrepancies in life satisfaction”, the research showed. Caste backgrounds determined access to education, social services, health care or financial security in India.  Individuals with secondary or higher education, and those of higher social castes reported higher life satisfaction than those without access to formal education and those from Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST).

Another factor contributing to India's unhappiness is the ruling party's targeting of its minorities, including Christians, Muslims and Sikhs. Here's an excerpts from Rohit Khanna's piece in The Quint describing this issue:

"In recent years, 20 percent of India, our minorities, have been targeted – economically, socially, and physically. We have all seen multiple viral videos calling for the economic boycott of Muslims, of them being mob-lynched on the roads, of their homes being bulldozed, of inter-faith marriages being targeted as ‘love-jihad’ and more. We have seen videos of Christian pastors and congregations being roughed up, and of church buildings being vandalised. We have seen protesting Sikh farmers being vilified on communal lines as ‘Khalistanis’". 

Average MPCE (Monthly Per Capita Consumption Expenditure) for Indian Muslims is only Rs. 2,170.  Average MPCE for upper caste Hindus is Rs. 3,321, the highest of all groups. Lower caste Hindus fare much worse than upper caste Hindus, according to Indian government data

Average Monthly Per Capita Consumption Expenditure by Caste in India. Source: Hindustan Times

India is almost totally dominated by the upper caste Hindus. It is not just the 220 million Dalits (untouchables), or the 190 million Muslims, or the 110 million from “scheduled tribes” (Adivasis)  who are under-represented in positions of power and privilege, but also the 40-50% of Hindus who come from the widest tier of the pyramid, the shudras or laboring castes, known as Other Backwards Classes (OBCs), according to a report in The Economist Magazine.

Some Indians claim without evidence that the Indian Muslims are richer than Pakistani Muslims. The fact is that the average monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) in Pakistan was PKR 5,959 in 2019-20, the year closest to the 2021-22 for which the Indian MPCE data is available. Using the 2019 average exchange rate of 2.136 PKR to INR, this works out to MPCE of INR 2,789 in Pakistan, higher than for Indian Hindus (INR 2,470) and Muslims (INR 2,170).  As to the cost of living in the two countries, Pakistan is 15.8% cheaper than India without rent and 20.1% cheaper with rent, according to Numbeo

While it is true the Pakistani currency has suffered significant devaluation in the last couple of years, there have been large increases in wages. Pakistan's minimum wage has increased 14 times since 2001, from 14% to 67%. The minimum wage for unskilled workers in 2023 is 32,000 Pakistani rupees per month, up from 25,000 rupees in 2022. The cost of living has been a key factor in determining the new rate. 

Income Poverty in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Source: Our World in Data

Over 75% of the world's poor deprived of basic living standards (nutrition, cooking fuel, sanitation and housing) live in India compared to 4.6% in Bangladesh and 4.1% in Pakistan, according to a recently released OPHI/UNDP report on multidimensional poverty.  Here's what the report says: "More than 45.5 million poor people are deprived in only these four indicators (nutrition, cooking fuel, sanitation and housing). Of those people, 34.4 million live in India, 2.1 million in Bangladesh and 1.9 million in Pakistan—making this a predominantly South Asian profile". 

Related Links:

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Biden's Gaza Ceasefire Veto Defies American Public Opinion

Aaron Bushnell, an active serviceman in the United States Air Force, burned himself to death in front of the Israeli Embassy in protest against the US policy in Gaza. Before setting himself on fire in what he called an "extreme act of protest", he said he would "no longer be complicit in genocide". Polls show that the vast majority (63%) of Americans want an immediate end to the carnage being perpetrated by Israel in Gaza.  

USAF Engineer Aaron Bushnell

Although Bushnell resorted to this extreme form of protest against the Biden Administration's policy of unqualified support for Israel, he was not alone in opposing it. American public opinion polls confirm that the vast majority of Americans, including Jewish Americans, want an immediate end to the Gaza carnage. 

Gaza Ceasefire Poll. Source: ISPU

Overall, 63% of Americans support a ceasefire in Gaza, according to a recent poll conducted by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU). In terms of religions, 71% of Catholics, 61% of Non-Affiliated,  60% of Protestants, 58% of White Evangelicals, 50% of Jews and 75% of Muslims support an immediate ceasefire, according to the poll. 

Jewish and Muslim Democrats, like Democrats in the general public, favor an end to the violence in Gaza. The majority of Republicans in the general public also favor a ceasefire. 

So why is President Biden defying the will of the American people on Gaza?  The simple answer is AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most powerful lobby in Washington D.C. This Israel lobby has showered its friendly politicians with money from wealthy Jewish donors. It has also ensured the defeat of those politicians who dared to speak out against Israeli policies in the Middle East. As one former Democratic senator, Ernest Hollings, put it on leaving office, ‘you can’t have an Israeli policy other than what AIPAC gives you around here.’ Or as Ariel Sharon once told an American audience, ‘when people ask me how they can help Israel, I tell them: “Help AIPAC.”’

President Jimmy Carter who helped broker peace between Israel and Egypt knows the Israel lobby well. He told Amy Goodman of "Democracy Now" many years ago: "I think it’s accurate to say that not a single member of Congress with whom I’m familiar would possibly speak out and call for Israel to withdraw to their legal boundaries or to publicize the plight of the Palestinians or even to call publicly and repeatedly for good faith peace talks.....  And I would say that if any member of Congress did speak out, as I’ve just described, they would probably not be back in the Congress the next term ". 

Friday, February 16, 2024

Pakistan Elections: Imran Khan's Supporters Skillfully Used Tech to Defy Powerful Military

Independent candidates backed by the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) party emerged as the largest single block with 93 seats in the nation's parliament in the general elections held on February 8, 2024.  This feat was accomplished in spite of huge obstacles thrown in front of the PTI's top leader Imran Khan and his party leaders and supporters by Pakistan's powerful military to prevent their victory. 

Pakistan's Official Election Results 2024. Source: Aljazeera 

Imran Khan and his top party leaders were thrown in jail on trumped up charges, his party was denied a unified electoral symbol of cricket bat, his supporters' rallies were banned, the mainstream media were prevented from carrying PTI leaders' speeches and the Internet was repeatedly blocked when the party held online events. So how did they succeed in spite of it? The answer lies in how skillfully the PTI activists used technology to get the party's messages out to the country's young electorate. 

Well over 90% of Pakistan's adults have access to the Internet. This allows them to use a variety of  apps ranging from TikTok and YouTube to Facebook, Instagram and X. The PTI supporters used AI (Artificial Intelligence) to produce Imran Khan's speeches using his own voice and words and made them go viral. They used X Spaces to engage with the public. Here's how Uzair Younus, a Pakistani-American analyst at The Atlantic Council, a Washington-based Think Tank, describes what occurred:

"The result of PTI’s technological campaign strategy was a more engaged and informed electorate, which translated into significant electoral gains. Khan’s PTI managed to galvanize a significant part of the electorate, and the party’s success demonstrates the potential of digital tools to democratize political participation and challenge entrenched power structures". 

When it became clear that the PTI was headed for a massive victory with more than half of the 264 National Assembly seats as live results from the polling started to pour in on the evening of February 8, there was a sudden mysterious delay in real time reporting. Most political analysts in Pakistan believe that this delay was ordered by the Pakistani military to rig the results.  This belief is confirmed by the reports that the total votes reported cast for PTI  by the polling stations on "Form 45" add up to a lot more votes than those reported cast on "Form 47" for over 55 constituencies of the National Assembly. These 55 seats plus the officially reported 93 seats add up to 148 seats giving PTI more than half of the total 264 directly elected members in the National Assembly. 

Any coalition government formed by the PTI opponents is unlikely to be stable or long lasting. This unstable situation will likely prolong the deep economic crisis the country now faces. The best course of action for the Pakistani military is to release Imran Khan from jail and allow his party to form the next government. 

Related Links:

Friday, February 2, 2024

Soaring Illegal Immigration of Indians into the United States

Illegal immigration from India to the United States is soaring. A record 96,917 Indians were detained while attempting to enter the US illegally from October 2022 to September 2023, representing a 50% jump from the corresponding period in the prior year. Vast majority of the arrested Indians came from Prime Minister Modi's state of Gujarat while others came from the state of Punjab. There are about 725,000 undocumented Indian immigrants in the US – the third-largest population of illegal immigrants after Mexicans and El Salvadorans – according to a Pew Research Centre report. 

Illegal Immigration to the US From India. Source: Strait Times

The number of Indians attempting to cross into the United States illegally has accelerated in recent years on Prime Minister Modi's watch. These immigrants take the Latin American route to reach the US-Mexico border before making a run for the US. They cross the Darien Gap, a dangerous thick forest region between Colombia and Panama, taking three days to a week while taking huge risks ranging from lack of food and drinking water, wild animals and violent gangs. 

There are multiple drivers of mass illegal migration of Indians to other countries. These include increasing violence under Mr. Modi's Hindutva rule and lack of jobs for thee growing working-age population. Human traffickers are exploiting these conditions to profit from vulnerable groups most impacted by political and economic problems in the country. 

Christians, low caste Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs are among the main targets of the far-right Hindu mob attacks across India. In 2023, the Modi government’s discriminatory and divisive policies led to  growing violence against minorities, creating a pervasive environment of fear and a chilling effect on government critics, Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2024

India's labor force participation rate (LPR) has been declining for several years. Centre For Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) data shows that the labor participation rate fell to 39.5% in 2022-23, from an already low 40.1% in 2021-22. This indicates that more than half of India’s working age population is not employed. This is especially the case for women 90% of whom are out of the labor force. India’s LPR is among the lowest in the world. The global average LPR is 60%.

Labor Participation Rate in India. Source: CMIE Via Reuters

The rapid GDP growth claimed by India is not creating enough jobs for its massive young population. The much-hyped "Make in India" initiative of the Modi government is just not working well enough to keep pace with the demand for jobs. Manufacturing’s contribution to India’s GDP has declined from 17% two decades ago to just 13% in 2022, according to the World Bank. India has added only 5 million factory jobs since Mr. Modi was first elected, for a total of 65 million such jobs now, according to the Wall Street Journal. Unable to find jobs in cities, a very large number of Indians are going back to subsistence farming to eke out a meager living.  

Indian economist Ritesh Kumar recently wrote a piece for Nikkei Asia titled "Few are benefiting from India's rapid GDP growth".  His conclusion: What India really needs is a growth trajectory that is inclusive, sustainable and can foster shared prosperity across all segments of the economy rather than benefiting only a privileged few.

Related Links:

Friday, January 26, 2024

Indian Muslims: The Poorest Group in Modi's Hindu Rashtra

Muslims are the poorest group in India. They will most likely face further marginalization after the recent inauguration of the Ram Temple built on the ruins of the historic Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. The medieval mosque was demolished by right-wing Hindu groups in 1992. While consolidating the power of the upper caste Hindus in India, the newly built Ram Temple, inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will also not benefit the vast majority of Hindus either. It will, however, help Mr. Modi's BJP party win the upcoming election by a wide margin. 

Average Monthly Per Capita Consumption Expenditure in India. Source: Hindustan Times

Analysis of 2021-22 data from AIDIS (All India Debt and Investment Survey) and PLFS (Periodic Labor Force Survey) shows that Indian Muslims have the lowest asset and consumption levels among major religious groups in the country. Even upper caste Muslims (Ashrafs) are poorer than Hindu OBCs (Other Backward Castes). 

Average MPCE (Monthly Per Capita Consumption Expenditure) for Muslims is only Rs. 2,170, lower than Rs. 2,470 for Hindus, Rs. 3,194 for Christians and Rs. 3,620 for Sikhs.  Average MPCE for upper caste Hindus is Rs. 3,321, the highest of all groups. 

Average Monthly Per Capita Consumption Expenditure by Caste in India. Source: Hindustan Times

The economic inequality is the lowest among Muslims, far lower than among various Hindu castes. Average MPCE for lower caste Muslims is Rs. 2,164 while it is Rs. 2,180 for upper caste Muslims (Ashrafs). Inequality among Hindu castes is the highest. Lower caste Hindus average MPCE is only Rs. 2,095, far lower than Rs. 3,321 for upper caste Hindus. 

India is almost totally dominated by the upper caste Hindus. It is not just the 220 million Dalits (untouchables), or the 190 million Muslims, or the 110 million from “scheduled tribes” (Adivasis)  who are under-represented in positions of power and privilege, but also the 40-50% of Hindus who come from the widest tier of the pyramid, the shudras or laboring castes, known as Other Backwards Classes (OBCs), according to a report in The Economist Magazine. Here's an excerpt from The Economist:

"Out of the 89 highest-ranked civil servants in the central government, according to a recent survey, just four are not upper-caste Hindus, and not one is an obc. Two-thirds of the Supreme Court’s 31 judges and more than half of all state governors are high-caste Hindus. When the home ministry recently formed a panel to revise the criminal code, its five experts were all men, all from north India and all from upper castes. The trend is just as stark outside of government. A study published last year of the mainstream Hindi and English press revealed that out of 121 people in senior jobs, such as editors, all but 15 were upper caste. Not a single one was a Dalit."


PS: Since I published this post in January this year, there has been a barrage of comments (all rejected) claiming without evidence that the Indian Muslims are richer than Pakistani Muslims. The fact is that the average monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) in Pakistan was PKR 5,959 in 2019-20, the year closest to the 2021-22 for which the Indian MPCE data is available. Using the 2019 average exchange rate of 2.136 PKR to INR, this works out to MPCE of INR 2,789 in Pakistan, higher than for Indian Hindus (INR 2,470) and Muslims (INR 2,170).  As to the cost of living in the two countries, Pakistan is 15.8% cheaper than India without rent and 20.1% cheaper with rent, according to Numbeo

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

South Asian Contrasts: Ayodhya and Kartarpur

India Ranked as Most Racist in the World

Indians Admire Israel and Hitler

Caste Apartheid in India

Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India

Who Killed Karkare?

Procrastinating on Hindutva Terror

India's Guantanamos and Abu Ghraibs

Hindutva Government in Israeli Exile?

Growing US-India Military Ties Worry Pakistan

The 21st Century Challenges For Resurgent India

Riaz Haq's YouTube Channel

PakAlumni Social Network

Friday, January 19, 2024

Iran Chooses to Quickly De-escalate After Pakistan Hits Back Hard

Pakistan swiftly retaliated with "killer drones, rockets, loitering munitions and stand-off weapons" to an Iranian military provocation in Balochistan province this week, according to multiple media reports. Pakistanis felt it was necessary to hit back hard to send a loud and clear message to the Iranians to respect Pakistan's national sovereignty. Within hours of the strong Pakistani military response, the foreign ministers of the two neighbors agreed to de-escalate tensions in a phone call. The Pakistani foreign ministry sent out the following tweet after this phone conversation: "Foreign Minister @JalilJilani spoke with the Foreign Minister of Iran, @Amirabdolahian today. Foreign Minister Jilani expressed Pakistan’s readiness to work with Iran on all issues based on the spirit of mutual trust and cooperation. He underscored the need for closer cooperation on security issues". 

Pakistan Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani (L), Iranian Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian

In the early hours of Tuesday, Iran fired missiles and drones at an armed group Jaish al-Adl in Pakistan’s southwestern border province of Balochistan. Pakistan in turn struck anti-Pakistan Baloch militant targets inside Iran on Thursday. Pakistan also recalled its ambassador from Tehran and blocked the return of Iran’s envoy to Islamabad. 

The Iranian attack on Pakistan came without warnings at multiple forums where the two sides were engaging each other. Just prior to the Iranian provocation, the Iranian Foreign Minister met Pakistani Prime Minister Anwarul Haq Kakar at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. There were also joint navy drills taking place which were quickly abandoned after the surprise attack. 

The only way to explain it is that the IRGC, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, initiated the attack on Pakistan without consulting with the Iranian government of President Ebrahim Raisi. The IRG also targeted locations in Iraq and Syria. The IRGC works independently of the Government in Tehran. Its commander reports directly to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

Late IRGC Commander General Qassem Soleimani 

IRGC appears have been personified by its former leader General Qassem Soleimani who was assassinated by the US military on former President Donald Trump's orders. He was known for his independence from the Tehran government. There were reports in 2018 of then President Hassan Rouhani lashing out at Soleimani during a meeting with several senior IRGC officers in attendance,  accusing him of hiding the truth from the president and even from the supreme leader. Soleimani left the room in anger. Earlier, when the two met during Friday prayers, Soleimani warned the president about the “folly of not increasing the budget allotted to Quds.

Soleimani sat by Imam Khamenei’s side at key meetings, conveying his importance in the eyes of the spiritual leader. He met Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad in February 2019 together with the supreme leader — but without Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, triggering resignation threats by Iran's top diplomat at the time. 

In February, 2019, Soleimani threatened Pakistan. He boasted of Iran's "independent power and honor". He said: "I warn you not to test Iran and anyone who has tested Iran has received a firm response. We are speaking to Pakistan with a friendly tone and we are telling that country not to allow their borders to become a source of insecurity for the neighboring countries..... Iran enjoys independent power and honor. Some countries have wealth, but no prowess. Trump tells the Al-Saud that if it hadn't been for the US support, Saudi Arabia would not have survived and Saudi Arabia's coalitions in the region have all ended in failure." Soleimani's tone in this message to Pakistan is anything but "friendly".

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

General Soleimani's Hardline Against Pakistan

Iran-Pakistan Ties

Iran's Chabahar and Pakistan's Gwadar Ports

Indian RAW Agent Kulbhushan Jhadav Used Chabahar

Iran-Saudi Conflict

Pakistan's Nuclear Program

Iran Nuclear Deal

1971 India-Pakistan War

Chabahar vs Gwadar Ports

Did America Contribute to the Rise of ISIS?

Riaz Haq's YouTube Channel

PakAlumni Social Network

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Pakistan to Set New Record For Rice Exports in 2023-24

The United States Department of Agriculture is forecasting that Pakistan's rice exports will set a new record of 5 million metric tons in 2023-24.  This is nearly 30% more than the 3.9 million tons Pakistan exported last year. It is being attributed to a bumper rice crop in the country and strong global demand after India imposed restrictions on its exports. A large exportable surplus has helped Pakistani exporters to offer competitive prices in the international market, but prices are likely to remain high due to an increase in demand, according to S&P Global Commodity Insights. European Union and Middle East are the main export markets for Pakistani Basmati rice while Africa and the Far East have emerged as the key export destinations for non-Basmati rice from Pakistan. 

Top Rice Exporting Countries. Source: Aljazeera

Pakistan is the world's fourth largest exporter of rice after India, Thailand and Vietnam. Last year (2022-23), India exported an estimated 20.5 million tons of rice, almost 2.5 times that of the second largest exporter, Thailand with 8.5 million tons. Thailand was followed by Vietnam (7.9 million tons), Pakistan (3.6 million tons) and the United States (2.1 million tons).

Pakistan Rice Exports. Source: S&P Global

Pakistan is among the world's largest food producing countries. It produces large and growing quantities of cereals, meat, milk, fruits and vegetables. Currently, Pakistan produces about 38 million tons of cereals (mainly wheat, rice and corn), 17 million tons of fruits and vegetables, 70 million tons of sugarcane, 60 million tons of milk and 4.5 million tons of meat.  Total value of the nation's agricultural output exceeds $50 billion.  Improving agriculture inputs and modernizing value chains can help the farm sector become much more productive to serve both domestic and export markets.  

One of the objectives of Pakistan government's Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) is to bring in new investments to modernize farming.  Already, Pakistan has signed a memorandum of understanding with Kuwait for $10 billion worth of projects, including some focused on food security. The government is also collaborating with China Machinery Engineering Corp., an engineering and construction heavyweight, and China’s Famsun, an agriculture equipment company, according to a presentation about the initiative in November seen by Bloomberg

The initial focus of the Green Pakistan program is on transforming parts of the Cholistan desert to farms and fruit orchards As much as 4.8 million acres of the desert may be allocated fir this purpose.  Many parcels of land available for lease are in arid and underdeveloped regions, supporting irrigation initiatives. Some farmers are already working on their own to implement drip irrigation in Cholistan. Back in 2019, Zofeen Ibrahim of The Third Pole publication met one such farmer named Hasan Abdullah. He uses a measured amount of water mixed with fertilizer via drip irrigation to precisely irrigate his 50 acre citrus farm located on the sand dunes. As much as 60% of the cost of installing drip irrigation system has come from the provincial government. 

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Chicken Cheaper Than Daal

Meat Industry in Pakistan

Bumper Crops and Soaring Tractor Sales in Pakistan

Meat and Dairy Revolution in Pakistan

Pakistanis Consuming More Calories, Fruits and Vegetables

Eid ul Azha: Multi-Billion Dollar Urban-to-Rural Transfer

Pakistan's Rural Economy

Pakistan Among World's Largest Food Producing Countries

Median Incomes in India and Pakistan

Monday, January 8, 2024

India's Malign Influence in Bangladesh

Shaikh Hasina has won a 5th term in yet another sham election which saw a mere 40% voter turnout. Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the main opposition party, boycotted the election. Months leading up to the elections saw protests in the country suffering from economic slowdown, human rights violations and a crackdown on the opposition parties. Her longevity in office is believed to be largely orchestrated by India. Her own Foreign Minister Abdul Momen acknowledged this fact when he made a trip to New Delhi in 2022 and said,  "I've requested Modi government to do whatever is necessary to sustain Sheikh Hasina's government". 

Bangladesh PM Shaikh Hasina (L) with Indian PM Narendra Modi

Upon her return from India in 2022, Sheikh Hasina told the news media in Dhaka, "They (India) have shown much sincerity and I have not returned empty handed". It has long been an open secret that Indian intelligence agency RAW helped install Shaikh Hasina as Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and her Awami League party relies on New Delhi's support to stay in power. Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abdul Momen has described India-Bangladesh as one between husband and wife. In an interview with Indian newspaper 'Ajkal,' he said, "Relation between the both countries is very cordial. It's much like the relationship between husband and wife. Though some differences often arise, these are resolved quickly."  Both Bangladeshi and Indian officials have reportedly said that Sheikh Hasina "has built a house of cards". 

British Indian analyst Dr. Avinash Paliwal explains Shaikh Hasina's current dilemma as follows: "Politically reliant on New Delhi, she (Hasina) is finding it increasingly difficult to manage the ramifications of India's turn towards Hindu nationalism that misuses migration from Bangladesh and the Rohingya crisis for domestic electoral gain". Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, Bangladesh's former Chief Justice,  has said India is backing Sheikh Hasina's autocratic government for its own interest. Here's how prominent Indian journalist SNM Abdi explains Indian intelligence agency RAW's influence in Bangladesh: "India wields more influence in Bangladesh than the Security Council’s five permanent members put together. The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) is the most dreaded outfit in the neighboring country surpassing even the brutally unforgiving RAB (Rapid Action Battalion). Hasina lives in mortal fear of RAW. She knows that she will be toppled if she displeases India. So she has adopted the policy of pleasing India to retain power at any cost".

Bangladesh has received wide acclaim for its remarkable economic success under the authoritarian leadership of Shaikh Hasina over the last decade. She has jailed many of her political opponents and hanged others. She has tamed the country's judiciary and gagged Bangladeshi mainstream media. What has helped her retain power is the fact she has New Delhi's support and she has succeeded in delivering rapid economic growth that has helped improve the lives of ordinary Bangladeshis. However,  a combination of current global inflation and the resulting economic crisis is unravelling this formula. Ordinary Bangladeshis are being hit by high food and fuel prices. There is widespread discontent and anger among the people of Bangladesh against the Hasina government and its chief supporter India. 

Bangladesh's currency taka has depreciated by over 40% against the US dollar in the last two years, import bill has soared by nearly 44%, forex reserves have declined to $20 billion and the revenue from ready made garments export and remittances is not keeping pace with the fast rising imports. Bangladesh is receiving a $4.7 billion IMF bailout to cope with the situation. In addition, India has agreed to trade with Bangladesh in local currencies to reduce pressure on forex reserves. 

Falling Foreign Direct Investment in India. Source: NY Times

Bangladesh is not the only economy in trouble. The European Union, United Kingdom, Japan, Sri Lanka and Pakistan are also experiencing severe economic pain. India's forex reserves are falling and its current account deficit is rising as foreign direct investment declines. High energy prices and the strong US dollar are hurting most of the world economies. Food and energy prices have shot up due to the Russia-Ukraine war. The US currency driven by aggressive US Federal Reserve policy of rate hikes has reached new highs. A stronger dollar for the US means cheaper imports, a tailwind for efforts to contain inflation, and record relative purchasing power for Americans. But the rest of the world is straining under the dollar’s rise, according to the Wall Street Journal