• Wednesday, Sep 23, 2020
  • Last Update : 01:06 am

OP-ED: The new belligerence

  • Published at 07:57 pm September 16th, 2020
global
Photo: BIGSTOCK

The pandemic hasn’t dampened the expansionist ambitions of certain nations

Whatever it might have done to economies the world over, the corona pandemic hasn’t dampened the desire of countries to pursue their expansion theories or protectionism. Even as they scramble to find some $4.2 trillion to fund recoveries (a figure likely to expand if a new US package is approved) as estimated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), money is readily available for the dubious designs that politics often throws up.

The US has introduced a region-specific sanction on grounds of human rights abuses on China that Xi Jinping says will throw the global supply chain into chaos. That, after parallel discussions, has led to a semblance of order to balance of trade between the two countries, which has led China to place orders of American products in the billions. 

To be frank, the argument sounds hollow given the egregious impunity with which its main ally Israel has trampled on Palestinian rights. Donald Trump’s infamous plan to redraw the area map, actually allowing Israel to annex new territory, is an affront to Palestinian ambitions. The forced recognition by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain of Israel has delivered a sucker punch to the two-nation theory. 

It now seems only a matter of time before other Arab nations follow suit. These countries aren’t top of the roost when it comes to human rights. There are those that will argue that it’s all in line with the US elections in November. That these recognitions won’t stop Israel from its expansionist designs hasn’t been considered. The Palestinians have been left in the cold.

China has been accelerating its trading options by seeking closer ties with the European Union. Their leverage lies in the massive debt that they bought up in Europe following the 2007-2009 global meltdown. The country is also flexing its muscles in ensuring that the BRI policy isn’t hampered either by economic woes or politics. 

That is essentially why they have picked up the border dispute with India over Ladakh. The area under dispute figures in the BRI and is supportive of a strange new claim by Pakistan. And for all the meetings and discussions, even with Russia’s mediation, matters continue to exacerbate with India. 

Pakistan’s newly released map, that includes the whole of Kashmir, Ladakh, and Gujarat as its territory has enraged India. Nor are they pleased that China is, so far, the only country that has openly criticized the rescinding of Indian Kashmir’s status. That comes after a prolonged silence by the Chinese on the matter. 

How Pakistan intends to progress this agenda short of a war is beyond comprehension, but Indian intelligence has reportedly warned of exactly that, participated by China. Bangladesh has no such ambitions in terms of territory or incitement. That has included an inexplicable silence over the unabated border killings by India’s Border Security Force and an accommodating stance towards Rohingya refugees. 

Yet it is the Myanmar army that has begun to take up reinforced positions along its border with Bangladesh. 

The openness with which once secrecy-shrouded diplomacy is being conducted creates concern and apprehension among citizens. That sovereignty is no longer a nation’s domain has become clear. Sinister and usually unavoidable machinations are influencing national decisions, and trade and business interests are favoured over human rights and people’s welfare. Freer media have little hesitation in saying so. Such discourse informs that China has posted its most seasoned diplomats to Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan. The UAE and Bahrain's decision to recognize Israel goes beyond mutuality. 

Saudi Arabia hasn’t joined the bandwagon yet, but was forced into allowing El Al’s inaugural flight to the UAE to use its airspace. Advanced weaponry will be made available to the UAE to confront the new enemy -- Iran. A joint security set-up has been added already to mutual and bilateral ties.

Last year, Bangladesh was caught unawares when India banned exports of onions. This time around, our savvy prime minister had prepared for alternative sourcing. 

This is supportive of one view of the Indian foreign secretary’s Dhaka visit. Bangladesh didn’t treat anything officially, listened to what was said, and sent a cool message. The friendship will continue but on different terms.

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.

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