Pranab Kumar Panday
Bangladesh’s astonishing growth over the past decade has been hailed as a political miracle across the globe. At international meetings, world leaders often meet with Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, to learn more about her country’s remarkable rise to prosperity. Likewise, Bangladesh’s position in the geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific region has grown in significance. Recent remarks made by foreign diplomats stationed in Bangladesh (notably those from the United States) on the twelfth national parliamentary elections scheduled for January 2024 have made the government apprehensive. In a joint statement, diplomats from several nations, including the United States, voiced their expectations that the upcoming elections in Bangladesh will be free, fair, and participatory.
Diplomats’ statements are often misinterpreted by both the opposition and the ruling party. While the opposition may welcome such a statement, the government may view it as an unwelcome intrusion into domestic politics. Amid similar counterstatements, on December 20, the Russian Embassy in Bangladesh released a statement on their Facebook page on the politics of Bangladesh. The basic idea of such a remark is that Bangladesh is sovereign and that other countries have no business meddling in its internal affairs. The statement also noted that those who consider themselves world rulers interfere in the internal affairs of other countries under the pretext of protecting democratic values. Russia is not going to meddle in Bangladesh’s internal issues under the guise of protecting democracies or anything else, according to a statement released yesterday (Prothom Alo, 20/12/2022).
Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine at the beginning of this year sparked a new cold war between Moscow and Washington, and it has now spread to Bangladesh. And in this light, the Russian Embassy’s statement on the political situation in Bangladesh has taken on greater significance. The United States Embassy tweeted a rebuttal to the Russian Embassy’s statement the next day, on Wednesday, December 21 2022. One tweet asked, “Has Russia applied this policy to Ukraine?” (Prothom Alo, 21/12/2022). That is to say, Bangladesh’s domestic politics already feel the chill of the icy ties between the two superpowers.
There are several possible interpretations of the competing narratives by two major powers about Bangladesh. Bangladesh remained neutral throughout the war between Ukraine and Russia but leaned toward Russia. Russia feels some obligation to Bangladesh because of its past assistance. That’s why many people see a statement from the Russian Embassy in Bangladesh as evidence that Russia backs Bangladesh. Many speculate that the Russian Embassy made these remarks as a way to put pressure on the United States, given American concerns about the political situation in Bangladesh. Because of its longstanding ties to India and New Delhi’s friendly relationship with Dhaka, Russia may also make such a declaration. Whatever the case, comments made by diplomats from the United States and Russia concerning a country like Bangladesh show that Bangladesh has become a significant player in world affairs.
However, when the world’s superpowers take opposing stances on a country’s internal politics, it cannot be positive for that country’s politics. Bangladesh has made great strides in the recent decade, and we should never forget the importance of maintaining good ties with other nations and the outstanding leadership of the honorable Prime Minister. Everyone knows that the cornerstone of Bangladesh’s foreign policy is upholding amicable ties with other nations. This notion has been central to the government’s approach to state regulation.
However, there is no room to consider it a positive thing when the ambassadors of different countries present conflicting statements about Bangladesh’s democratic or electoral system. Through such statements, relations between various superpowers and Bangladesh may deteriorate because those who speak for the government will be considered friends of the government. Again, those who speak against the government will be considered to have deteriorated relations with the government, which is not desirable for any independent democratic state. People are the source of all power in the country’s democratic system. The constitution of a country is the fundamental law. In light of the constitution, the people of that country will determine how the state will be run and by whom it will be run. It will be a rational decision for the government to run the country in the light of the constitution without any bias and with the citizens’ trust.
Bangladesh’s government, like governments worldwide, should prioritise maintaining good relations with all countries during the global economic recession triggered by the war between Russia and Ukraine. Since Russia and the United States are our friends, this should include keeping up good relations with both of them. At the same time, both nations should support the government of Bangladesh and aid its efforts to end the current economic crisis.
The election is a natural process in a democracy. In the current political reality, opposition and government parties are in opposite positions about elections. Just as the government is determined to hold elections in light of the constitution, the opposition is determined to hold elections under a caretaker government following the government’s resignation. Apparently, most people in the country do not believe the opposition can meet their demands. However, they continue to try to put pressure on the government through various countries internationally. But there is considerable doubt as to how successful their strategy will be. Thus, the government and the opposition parties should compromise their positions and make all efforts to organise a participatory election. An electoral stalemate every five years is not only a threat to the country’s democratic system and development but also to the lives and livelihoods of the citizens.
In light of the current state of affairs, the government’s top priority should be to focus on lowering the escalating prices of essential commodities in the domestic market rather than paying attention to the statements of the diplomats of various superpowers due to the icy relations between them. If this government wants to be reelected, it must gain the confidence of its people. By presenting the developments of the past 14 years to the public and making people’s lives and livelihoods easier, it is possible to gain public trust. The government’s primary responsibility will be to manage the state properly in the coming days without getting involved in the cold relations of the international superpowers. But in light of recent remarks made by diplomats from other nations, it is evident that Bangladesh has emerged as a significant catalyst in international politics.
Writer: Professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi
Courtesy: Daily Sun