Bangladesh: Top Diplomat’s Undiplomatic Faux Pas?

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by R Chowdhury    23 August 2022

Momen addressing the Hindu community in Chittagong on August 17, 2022

I am somewhat confused! Why is there such a hullabaloo over what foreign minister A K Momen said recently in Chattagram to his targeted Hindu audience? Has he said anything wrong or different from what goes between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Bangladesh and India? Ask a tokai (street archin) in Dhaka and it will confirm the Hasina-India Entente and that Hasina and her Awmai government cannot survive without their master’s blessings.

Some media houses guardedly castigated Momen’s “leak” of truth, more as an exercise in damage control, or protecting their bread provider. The Daily Star’s Mahfuz Anam, Syed Badrul Ahsan and a few others quickly jumped in to shield “our prime minister,” who, they tried to assert, was as clean as a Persian carpet.  “She is Prime Minister on her own,” they seemed to insist. “No India, no Moeenuddin-Fakhruddin, no Sujatha Singh, no brick-n-sand trucks, no Midnight Elections.” Sweeping the dust under the carpet! One can only feel pity for them.

Yes, Mr. Momen violated the not so “Privacy Agreement” within the Hasina administration. The crime he committed was to take sole credit for checking that Hasina’s life-bird was safe in the New Delhi’s cage. That I think was the heartburn for Obaidul Kader and other Awami brats. “Do you think we have been going to New Delhi to measure the height of the Qutub Minar?” their retort seems to convey.

The disoriented, undiplomatic top diplomat and yet a gleeful Momen is not sure if to blow hot or cold in his post “privacy breach.” Strangely, we hear nothing from the Prime Minister, nor her office. She is perhaps in a dilemma: doomed if she owns the facts, doomed if she doesn’t. So is the situation in New Delhi.

Professor Taj Hashmi, a Research Scholar, writes in an article published in the South Asia Journal on August 22, 2022 that India will not help Hasina this time. I find it difficult to digest. He brings the China issue to prove his point. We know Hasina seeks hard cash and large investments from Beijing that her sponsors cannot provide. I believe the arrangement has their tacit approval, because it serves the purpose of all three parties. Professor Ali Riaz of the Illinois State University believes so. Of course, when the protege oversteps the boundary with such projects as Teesta and port developments, it needs to make plenty of explanations, pleasant or unpleasant. To me, the China card is a hoax, a political stunt to the Chanakyas, as well as to the Americans. I think both know it well. China, which includes Hong Kong, is India’s second largest trading partner and their mutual trade amounts to more than $100 billion, 65% of which is in Beijing’s favor. The US-China racks half a $ trillion in business, despite all the rhetoric.

I also believe, India-Hasina relationship is stronger than the Momen’s Husband-Wife’s. We have seen that over the past one and a half decades, if not more. Sheikh Hasina was intensely tutored by the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s external intelligence agency, during her six years of self-exile in 1975-81 in the country on how to run the show when she would be placed in power. The syllabi included the elimination of President Ziaur Rahman, judicial murders of August 15 leaders and Islamist leaders, destruction of Opposition, silencing the people with bullets, batons, goom-khoon and such thing as DSA but throw a few bones in the name of “development”, free use of Bangladesh territory for India’s geo-political and economic benefits, the corridor, augmenting the minority (8%) Hindu community, Indianizing the Muslim Bangladesh by implementing Hindu ideology and culture in the name of secularism et al. All are one-sided deals; only return for Hasina is the throne. She surrendered South Talpatti, allowed Indian surveillance on its coast, cannot protest Fellani’s murder, Teesta and all other shared rivers dry up in winter, not allowed to open mouth whatever the master does to its Muslims even though the whole world condemns them or when Bangladeshis were termed termites. There is no end to the list as one can find out on ground.

Hashmi argues that helping Hasina at this juncture will be “extremely embarrassing for India as that would make India a hegemonic state.” Has India not been so thus far? At least from January 1, 2007 when General Moeen Uddin was baited to betray? Has it not been known to all and sundry? True, of late, geopolitical dynamics have changed considerably but I doubt that has made much difference in the Indo-Bangla matrimony.

Without going much into details, my hunch is:

Hasina will not quit easily. She has a definite “fear of fall.” Till now, she has little challenge to her authority.  Please read http://southasiajournal.net/bangladesh-sheikh-hasinas-fear-of-fall-is-the-issue/

  1. India will not abandon Hasina. New Delhi has no alternative to Hasina to serve its interests so obligingly.

It is only the People’s Power that can bring the desired change for the better. And, to unite the people for such a common cause, inspiring leadership is needed. The party that can make a difference–BNP–is lost and disoriented because of misleading and misdirection from the top.  The problem is not with Mirzas and Fakhruls. The rumored 200–100 compromise for the next election will be a national betrayal. Patriotic and nationalist elements of the party and followers of the ideology of Ziaur Rahman should resist any such anti-people conspiracy with the illegal fascists.

“The people have the power. All we need to do is awaken the power of the people,”—John Lennon

 

Writer is a freedom fighter and an activist of democracy, human rights and freedom. He has published a few books and jointly published about half a dozen.

1 COMMENT

  1. Taj Hashmi responded

    R. Chowdhury appears to have issues with my SAJ piece, “Why Would India Salvage the Hasina Regime?” (22/8/22), as reflected in his article, “Bangladesh: Top Diplomat’s Undiplomatic Faux Pas?” (23/8/22) so I do with his piece, which I believe he wrote in absolute haste. For Hasina’s political survival, I have no problem with his belief that India is crucial. As well as her physical survival, one may add. In spite of this, Bangladesh has not only been flirting with China (now with the knowledge of the “husband” India) but has also had an “illicit relationship” with the Beijing-based entity for quite some time. Despite India’s complete dissatisfaction, China has been financing and directly supervising several mega projects in Bangladesh, including the Teesta Barrage, two deep-sea ports, and the second terminal at Sylhet Airport. My astonishment is at Mr. Chowdhury’s disregard for the growing economic influence of China in Bangladesh, both short- and long-term. Almost every aspect of our private and public lives revolves around money.

    I don’t understand why Mr. Chowdhury considers the controversial statement by BD Foreign Minister Momin seeking India’s direct intervention in Bangladesh to salvage the Hasina Regime by “any means” a “diplomatic faux pas”? Clearly, Momin delivered the message Hasina wanted him to convey to her political opponents, including the politically ambitious armed forces members, that she wanted her political opponents to understand. It is unbelievably immature and unprofessional for Mr. Chowdhury to write the following paragraph in his article: “The disoriented, undiplomatic top diplomat and yet a gleeful Momen is not sure if to blow hot or cold in his post “privacy breach.” Strangely, we hear nothing from the Prime Minister, nor her office. She is perhaps in a dilemma: doomed if she owns the facts, doomed if she doesn’t. So is the situation in New Delhi.”

    It is even more grotesque than the previous assertion by Mr. Chowdhury: “To me, the China card is a hoax, a political stunt to the Chanakyas, as well as to the Americans. I think both know it well. China, which includes Hong Kong, is India’s second largest trading partner and their mutual trade amounts to more than $100 billion, 65% of which is in Beijing’s favor. The US-China racks half a $ trillion in business, despite all the rhetoric.”

    Trade between the US and China comprises trillions of dollars, as trade between the US and Russia comprises billions of dollars. So what? Partners in trade aren’t in love and can even go to war with one another. It seems that Mr. Chowdhury does not have any clue about international relations, trade, and politics. Furthermore, he is clueless about the apparent and hidden aspects of diplomacy, international relations, and national/local politics.

    It is evident from Mr. Chowdhury’s following statement that he is innocent of global and national politics, as I have stated above: “Hashmi argues that helping Hasina at this juncture will be ‘extremely embarrassing for India as that would make India a hegemonic state.’ Has India not been so thus far?”

    Mr. Chowdhury fails to comprehend that even when Country X exerts its hegemonic influence on Country Y, no hegemonic nation since World War II (which claims to be a democracy) has ever publicly admitted to engaging in arm-twisting or gunboat diplomacy with its smaller neighbours.

    The fact that Mr. Chowdhury read and commented on my article is a source of great gratitude to me.

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