Sunday, June 23, 2024

Section

বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

National Election 2024: Bangladesh’s position in the diplomatic arena

Analyzing Bangladesh's future in international relations through the responses of different countries

Update : 31 Jan 2024, 10:20 AM

Fifty-six thousand square miles -- a seemingly vast area, yet when compared on the global stage, Bangladesh's land area is quite modest. Despite its small size, this nation wields significant influence, boasting a sizable population that transforms it into a robust market for both labour and consumption.

Lying in the heart of South and South-East Asia, Bangladesh enjoys a strategic geographical position, facilitated by the Bay of Bengal and nearby sea trade routes. These factors make it a geopolitical focal point, attracting the attention of major powers keen on asserting their influence.

The recent general election demonstrated the high-level diplomacy involving Bangladesh. Threats of sanctions were leveraged by the US, while China and Russia denounced what they saw as repeated attempts by Western democracies to exercise “illegal influence.” A diplomatic royal rumble unfolded on the international scene during the subsequent "discussions" in New Delhi.

This article explores insights into the consequences for Bangladesh's future in the international arena through analyzing the responses of different countries prior to, during, and following the general election of 2024.

US

The United States acknowledged that the Awami League won the majority of seats in the January 7, 2024 parliamentary elections, but denounced the violence that occurred during the polls and in the months leading up to them. Although the United States stated in its official statement to Bangladesh that they support the people of Bangladesh and their democratic ambitions, they agreed that this election was neither free nor fair, and they regretted that not every political party participated.

Washington has expressed concerns about the imprisonment of opposition politicians in Bangladesh, highlighting irregularities. Since October of the previous year, the US government has been closely monitoring developments in preparation for the elections. Prior to the 2024 parliamentary elections, a State Department spokesperson clarified that the US did not send a monitoring team, and their remarks do not reflect the government's views.

Even before the national elections in Bangladesh were announced, the US hinted at visa restrictions for those suspected of meddling in Bangladesh's democracy. Secretary of State Antony Blinken officially declared this plan. Last June, six US congressmen urged the Biden administration to support fair elections in Bangladesh, citing concerns about human rights. The Presidential Memorandum outlined potential sanctions, trade penalties, and visa restrictions. The Bangladesh embassy in Washington warned about possible political decisions, indicating Bangladesh might face such measures.

Although Ambassador Peter Haas has advocated for peaceful demonstrations and free and fair elections,  the US consistently warns about imposing restrictions on Bangladesh's main political party, fearing an unbalanced ruling entity.The US is still committed to freedom and openness in the Indo-Pacific region, tackling problems like zero-sum politics, fiery rhetoric, violence, and trust issues. Simultaneously, they express readiness to promote civil society, human rights, and strengthen economic ties with Bangladesh.

UK and EU

Britain criticized intimidation and violence during Bangladesh's general election, highlighting the imprisonment of opposition party members. The UK Foreign Office acknowledged the election results, but emphasized that Bangladeshi voters did not have a comprehensive variety of voting options. A spokesperson for the UK High Commission in Dhaka said that, similar to the US, a number of private citizens flew to Bangladesh and that "no mission was dispatched" to monitor the election.

The European Union has also denounced the violence leading up to and during Bangladesh's 12th Jatiya Sangsad election, while the United Kingdom has voiced their displeasure of the election's fairness. The EU is nevertheless keen to carry on cooperating with Bangladesh. Respecting political plurality and democratic ideals among stakeholders, the EU is dedicated to upholding strong political, human rights, trade, and development connections, including possible future access to the GSP+ preferential trade program.

India

In the lead-up to Bangladesh's national election, India initially refrained from making any specific comments. However, on November 10, Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra expressed India's respect for the democratic process in Bangladesh. This statement, following Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to India in September, was welcomed by former Bangladesh Foreign Secretary, Md Touhid Hossain, anticipating relief for the ruling Awami League government.

Ahead of the vote, the Election Commission of India sent a three-member observer team to ensure the electoral process's integrity. The Indian observers reported peaceful citizen participation. India applauded the election results, with Prime Minister Modi congratulating Hasina on her fourth consecutive term. Modi pledged commitment to strengthen the enduring partnership with Bangladesh on social media. Sheikh Hasina, in response, referred to India as "a great friend" during a post-victory news conference. 

This exchange highlighted the positive bilateral relationship, underscoring the amicable ties between the two neighbouring nations, after the National Election of Bangladesh.

hasina-modi

China

In November, the Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh emphasized that elections are internal affairs of Bangladesh, reaffirming China's commitment to non-interference. He stated that China would continue its cooperation with Bangladesh, expressing a desire for elections to be held in accordance with the constitution. Wen highlighted the importance of resolving differences among relevant parties to maintain political and social stability. China sent election observers before the vote, emphasizing its dedication to monitoring the electoral proceedings. 

Following the announcement of the results, the Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh personally met with the prime minister to convey congratulations on her election victory. Also, Chinese president Xi Jinping conveyed his congratulations to Sheikh Hasina on her re-election, emphasizing the enduring friendship between China and Bangladesh. Xi Jinping's message highlights the close relationship between the two countries.

Russia

Russia is “invariably committed” to abstaining from meddling in other nations' internal affairs, including Bangladesh's. The spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry, Maria Zakharova, regularly criticizes the US for trying to meddle in Bangladesh's internal affairs. The Russian government accuses “developed democracies” of meddling in other countries' affairs under the guise of protecting democratic values.

Earlier this year, Russia sent a three-member delegation, led by Andrey Shutov, from the Central Election Commission, to observe Bangladesh's national election. Shutov claimed that Western countries, led by the United States, are trying to influence the election process through proxies and NGOs.

Maria Zakharova issued a statement in which she expressed it was “unfortunate” in regard to certain parties' decision to abstain from the election and noted that, as previously mentioned, she had seen outside attempts to influence the results. However, she affirmed that their delegation “has confirmed the legitimacy of the election and its adherence to generally accepted standards.” She further congratulated the people of Bangladesh on the successful outcome of the election. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and President Vladimir Putin also extended their congratulations to Sheikh Hasina on assuming office.

LF4_Alamy

Friendship to all, malice towards none

To put it concisely, maintaining strong ties with the mentioned countries is advantageous for Bangladesh. These nations share a common interest in seeing Bangladesh sustain its impressive growth. In terms of foreign policy, it's likely the new administration will uphold the principle of "friendship to all, malice towards none." Post-election, Bangladesh is anticipated to carefully balance relations, focusing on national interests, and aiming to enhance trade, people-to-people exchanges, and economic ties with neighbouring and nearby countries.

 

Rashidul Hasan, Nusanta Samayel Audri and Muhammad Mujtaba are from the Foreign Policy Team, Youth Policy Forum.

Top Brokers

About

Popular Links

x