Do we prefer diplomats to follow the Fleetwood Mac model of communication because we cannot bear honesty and truth?
The Indian ambassador was asked how Delhi would feel if Dhaka decided to join the QUAD. Not that QUAD. By stealth, Russia, China, Iran, and Pakistan had formed QUAD-2 to counter the original American-led group, which includes India, Japan, and Australia.
His excellency from Delhi replied: India has committed up to $30 billion in building vital infrastructure for Bangladesh. Relations could not remain cordial if Dhaka then decided to train its guns on Delhi, along with its new allies. That would be the height of ingratitude, and India could not ignore such a provocation.
I am sure you have guessed the above would fail fact-checking by Facebook.
The Chinese are not constructing a military alliance in South Asia. There is no QUAD-2 (though who knows if provocations continue). India is not building out Bangladesh’s infrastructure on any significant scale.
I am, of course, referring to that storm in a teacup three weeks ago. I am still failing to find what exactly was wrong with the response by the Chinese ambassador to a direct question. Apparently, being honest was uncalled for. The other part of that event was the evident exasperation about Dhaka’s tardiness in accepting vaccines. Offers of procurement had been rejected in the winter, because some believed the promises of delivery from Delhi. The very next day after “seeking clarification” on the QUAD remarks, the same officials in Dhaka then requested Beijing to kindly send millions of vaccines to save the country.
Like the rest, I also believe that the country should maintain its independent orientation, but am surprised by the necessity to prove it so publicly and then go cap in hand anyway.
The underlying accusation is supposed interference by China. This is rather “rich” considering what Dhaka has put up with for decades from some Western diplomats (investing little, preaching a lot?).
A couple of them even took cheap swipes at their Chinese counterpart. Their pledges of how the West are such “good partners” of Bangladesh had me recollecting the dark days of 2007. What were Western diplomats up to in the months leading to the coup and the initial few months of that regime? Didn’t one unmentionable ambassador look like a cheerleader for the new government?
For years they had been berating Bangalis about the lack of “good governance” and the need for democratic values to lift the country on the path of development. Then, they decided an unelected “technocratic team” was needed to run the country for a “transition period.” Were rumours not swirling around in 2014 that some diplomats wanted another go?
Let me lie to you
For Machiavelli, statecraft was also stagecraft. Diplomacy does sometimes require veiled communication and scheming. Strategies cannot be revealed in the complete open. Subtlety, surprises, and feints are all part of the tools of the trade. Lying is par for the course.
Mike Pompeo, America’s recent “foreign minister” revealed: “We lied, we cheated, we stole.” He was referring to a powerful agency, but we got the picture.
Which brings us to Libya. We were told that thousands in Benghazi were about to be slaughtered by Gaddafi. The West had a “responsibility to protect” them by bombing the entire oil-rich country.
After the sinister slaying of Muammar Gaddafi after the trumped-up invasion, another secretary of state (Hillary Clinton) chortled: We came, we saw, he died.
And then there was Colin Powell, yet another secretary of state, waving that test-tube at the United Nations in 2003, to convince us that Iraq had to be invaded to save us from weapons of mass destruction or, rather, deception?
Friends and truths
China is a few dozen kilometres north of Bangladesh, practically neighbours. Teknaf is deadly close to the vital gas pipeline running from Arakan to Yunnan. Beijing cannot just roll over if Dhaka decides to succumb to American pressure and align with the QUAD. They cannot continue to invest tens of billions in a potential member of the enemy camp to help grow economically, and thus enable to fund serious levels of air and naval forces against them.
If a Dhaka diplomat says China is merely an economic partner while India is part of our blood, is that the basis of an independent foreign policy?
British Foreign Minister Palmerston (the one who bombed Chinese ports to force Bangali drugs down the throat of the Qing Empire) remarked: Nations have no permanent friends, they only have permanent interests. Do we know what our national interests are? Do we know who our friends are (permanent or otherwise)? Do we want to hear the truth, or do we prefer sweet little lies?
Farid Erkizia Bakht is a political analyst. @liquid_borders.