Hasina's daughter joins mother in G20 summit, speculation rife on possible political role

"Saima Wazed will be in Delhi during the G20 talks," a top official of the Bangladesh foreign ministry confirmed.
Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina (Photo | PTI)
Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina (Photo | PTI)

KOLKATA: Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's daughter Saima Wazed is accompanying her mother during her trip to India to attend the G20 summit, officials of the neighbouring country said.

The appearance of Wazed at a second high-profile international event after a trip with Bangladesh's President Mohammed Shahabuddin to Indonesia earlier this week to attend the Asean summit where her candidature for a WHO post was announced to a global audience, has also sparked speculation that she may in time be given a larger political role in the ruling Awami League.

Hasina will be inaugurating a rail link with Tripura and the second unit of the Rampal power plant along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, virtually from Delhi at functions on the sideline of the G20 meet.

She will also sign several agreements including a deal which will facilitate a Rupee-Taka card for citizens of both countries to pay in local currency instead of in dollars while travelling to the other.

"Saima Wazed will be in Delhi during the G20 talks," a top official of the Bangladesh foreign ministry confirmed.

"The question of a succession plan in Awami League has long been thought about. We believe that it will be done in a democratic manner, but democracy does not eliminate familial ties that a person may have with a political party," said Ambassador Sarvajit Chakravarti, who has served two stints in Dhaka and is currently associated with a think tank Ceners-K.

The G20 summit which will be held in New Delhi over the coming weekend will be attended by most of the top leaders of the world.

This is possibly the first time Hasina's daughter will be by her mother's side during an official visit to close neighbour and ally India, and analysts believe this to be significant in many ways.

Wazed, an autism expert who is standing for election as regional director for South-East Asia Region (SEARO) at World Health Organization (WHO), will be looking for India, one of 11 countries in the region, to endorse her.

Bangladesh's top diplomats are believed to have lobbied for her election among ASEAN countries.

India will have to choose between her and Nepal's Shambhu Prasad Acharya for the WHO job.

Given the importance that India attaches to its ties with both Bangladesh and Nepal, the choice is likely to be a tough one.

"A visit by Sheikh Hasina's daughter to India at a global meeting is an interesting development. Besides her nomination for an international organisation, it bears watching if she will opt for a larger role in Bangladesh," said Shantanu Mukherjee IPS (Retd), former National Security Advisor to Mauritius and a Bangladesh expert.

Added Prof Omprakash Mishra, an expert in international relations and former VC of North Bengal University, "India has always been supportive of our increasingly important neighbour (Bangladesh) in multinational forums."

Sheikh Hasina has yet to indicate any potential successor to the leadership of Awami League, though her son Sajeeb Ahmed Wazed, or Joy Wazed as he is popularly known, was at one time seen by many as a potential candidate.

Wazed, who has been an advisor to the WHO director-general on Mental Health and Autism as well as a member of WHO expert advisory panel on Mental Health, has till now shown no inclination to enter politics.

"We have not seen Sheikh Hasina suggest any succession plan as yet though over the years we have noted that her son Sajeev being given responsibilities on IT etc by the Awami League. Now, Saima Wazed has also come into the picture. One can only presume that both are being groomed for a political role in the future," said Dr Sreeradha Datta, former director Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies and currently fellow with the National University of Singapore.

Bangladesh is headed for a general election in the coming winter months where the ruling Awami League will be looking to win for an unprecedented fourth time.

However, the principal opposition party, BNP, led by former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia, which has earlier accused the Hasina government of vote rigging, has said it will boycott the elections unless Hasina steps down and allows a caretaker government to conduct the elections, a demand unlikely to be conceded by the Awami League-led government.

While the US some four months ago announced a policy which reserves the right to deny visas to individuals including officials and politicians involved in hindering free and fair elections in the country, many other countries seem to be endorsing Hasina's leadership of a buoyant Bangladesh which is now being seen as a rising economic star in Asia.

French President Emanuel Macron will be visiting Bangladesh right after the G20 summit in Delhi, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Dhaka ahead of the summit.

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