April 15, 2021


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‘Two strange diplomatic incidents in Bangladesh’

Former Foreign Secretary. On March 31, Touhid Hossain wrote an article in the opinion page of Prothom Alo under the headline ‘Two strange diplomatic incidents in Bangladesh’. Before going into the main discussion of the article, let us briefly know the explanations of the Foreign Minister about the events. Regarding the vote against the resolution against Sri Lanka in the Human Rights Council, the Minister said that Sri Lanka would investigate the anti-Tamil campaign. If a specific resolution is brought against a country in the UN, Bangladesh does not vote in support of it. He also questioned whether the proposal had a “special purpose”, although he did not elaborate. 


Participating in a military junta ceremony on Myanmar’s Armed Forces Day, Mr. Momen explained that Bangladesh did not go there alone, it went to eight other countries. And even if they don’t go to Europe-America, they are still doing business with the Myanmar army. I don’t think these explanations seem logical at all to a conscious reader.


Now let’s come to Mr. Hossain’s column. I saw that if the behavior of Bangladesh in those two incidents is ‘well thought out’, then he is talking about it keeping in mind only the issue of bilateral gain. The question is, in these two cases, why do we think that Bangladesh is only considering bilateral issues with those two countries? Do all the international events in the world happen only on the basis of bilateral relations? Is the geopolitics of the world, especially the most volatile Asia-Pacific region of the moment, so simple now?

We can recall that at the end of the Trump administration last year, US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen E. Beagan came to Dhaka and called on Bangladesh to join the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) directly. Earlier this year, during the foreign minister’s visit to the United States, he unofficially said that he had been asked to join the IPS. Bangladesh has always said that it is not interested in joining such an alliance. He also said that under this, Bangladesh can seek partnership in economic matters, but not in military matters.

Although the official strategy of the IPS speaks volumes, in some cases it is straightforward and in many cases ‘Reading Between the Lines’ tells us that it is designed to counter the rise of China. – Now no one is covering it anymore. Instead, one stick has grown and some have started calling it ‘Asian NATO’. The Biden administration has recently demonstrated that it will focus on the region, the first time since its inception that the top leaders of the quadripartite anti-China Quartet (US, Japan, Australia, India) have met.

There is a context in which the current established powers are concerned about China. Let’s say that in a few words. China has been embroiled in maritime border disputes with several countries, claiming 90 percent of the South China Sea as its own, with many old Nine Dash lines in front of it. At least 15 countries have border disputes with China, taking into account the problems with those countries and land borders.

With the Belt Road Initiative (BRI), a Chinese project to connect many countries by road, and the idea of ​​the established powers of the present world making their own influence in many seaports through investment, China is becoming increasingly hegemonic. China is bringing the governments of many countries under its control by providing loans in the name of building infrastructure. This is now known as ‘checkbook diplomacy’. Following this, the recently signed সম্প্রতি 400 billion (which is said to increase) 25-year strategic agreement with Iran is seen as an indication of a major shift in the balance of power in the Middle East. In some countries, the debt risks creating another kind of debt trap, which could lead to countries falling completely under Chinese control.


Graham Ellison’s Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’ Trap in Sino-US Relationship Interaction Discussion? The book has been very popular lately. In this book, Ellison brings up an ancient event in the statement of the Greek historian Thucydides. Tensions between the two arose when Athens was raising its head in front of Sparta, more powerful in wealth and political power, until the end it led to war. The history of this conflict between established power and emerging power is very ancient. The author illustrates that since ancient times at least 16 situations have been created, of which 12 have been war. He has logically seen a ‘Thucydides trap’ between America and China. Needless to say, the effects of this Sino-US trap are spreading in many ways, which will only increase in the future.

The brothers in Sri Lanka’s ruling monarchy are forced to take full responsibility for the campaign against the Tamil rebels because Mahindra was then president and Gotabhaya was defense minister. The two brothers have no qualms about being on China’s side in state policy. That is why the 10 countries that voted for Sri Lanka except Bangladesh, if you look at their names, one will understand that they are all very strong allies of China.

Among the countries attending the Myanmar military ceremony are countries that have conflicts with China. However, in order to understand why Bangladesh was present there, one has to look at the context of the so-called agreement with Myanmar at the beginning of the Rohingya issue (then it was called an arrangement).