Thursday, 9 February, 2023

Foreign Diplomats Must Not Cross the Line

A.K.M. Atiqur Rahman

Foreign Diplomats Must Not Cross the Line
A.K.M. Atiqur Rahman

On 20 December, the Russian Embassy in Dhaka said in a statement that Russia is determined not to interfere in the internal affairs of any country, including Bangladesh, on the grounds of protecting democracy or any other pretext. According to the statement, some countries that consider themselves world rulers interfere in the internal affairs of other countries in the name of safeguarding 'democratic values'. It has also added that their hegemonic ambitions not only destroy the peace of other countries and cause disaster and chaos, but also pose threats to those countries’ sovereignty.

The statement referred to the 1965 United Nations Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of Their Independence and Sovereignty, which states that no state has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other state. It also pointed out the violation of the United Nations policy in recent years. However, in support of Bangladesh's position, it has been said that many countries like Bangladesh, rather than following the instructions of the powerful nations, shape their foreign and domestic policies according to their own national interests. Russia fully supports the desire of these countries to independently determine their ways of further development and to form such a system that is not under neo-colonialism.

Following the statement of the Russian Embassy, the next day, the US Embassy in Dhaka questioned in a tweet message whether Russia has applied this policy in the case of Ukraine. Not only the US Embassy, any person or country can raise such a question. It has become a normal tendency that a strong country will try to control a weak country. It is not internationally acceptable for a country to intervene in the internal or external affairs of a sovereign country, be it small or large. Constitutionally Bangladesh also does not support such activities. Of course, the United States does not support either. No self-respecting democratic country accepts this kind of interference. But by asking that question in the tweet, does the US Embassy admit that the way Russia is dealing with Ukraine, it also wants to repeat the same with Bangladesh? Unfortunately, if that is the case, it would be a grave mistake.

Last week, Russian Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, at a briefing, has said that the 14 December incident is an ‘expected result’ of the activity of the American Ambassador, who - under the pretext of caring about the rights of the citizens of Bangladesh - was ‘persistently trying to influence’ the domestic processes in the country. She also said that they believe that such actions that ‘violate’ the basic principles of non-interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign states are ‘unacceptable’. The Spokesperson has further added that the British and German diplomatic missions in Dhaka have been engaged in the same cause and have allowed themselves to openly give recommendations to the local authorities regarding transparency and inclusiveness in the parliamentary elections in Bangladesh scheduled for next year.

In this context, it must be clearly said that comparing Bangladesh’s state of affairs with Ukraine-Russia situation cannot be justified. As a peace-loving country, Bangladesh never wants war. Bangladesh attaches importance to reaching an acceptable and peaceful solution to any problem arising between two countries through dialogue. Bangladesh wishes for a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Therefore, it would be better if the western countries do not think of similar treatment with Bangladesh what Russia is doing in Ukraine.

Recently, the State Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh has asked the foreign diplomats to know the history of Bangladesh. He has rightly said. The history of Bangladesh was written on the bloods of the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the independence of Bangladesh. The history of the struggle to establish the right to self-determination, freedom from exploitation, abolition of injustice and ensuring the flow of peace will remind the foreign diplomats of the tenacity and nature of the people of Bangladesh. The relationship between the United States and Russia will be determined by the people of those two countries. Bangladesh's bilateral relations with the United States are very friendly and are gradually expanding and deepening. Besides, Bangladesh has very friendly relations with all western countries, though their diplomats were parties to that statement. We believe that Bangladesh will never let that relationship to be damaged.

It is true that the Russian embassy has come forward to talk about this issue at a time when the embassies of some western countries in Dhaka were making various statements about the internal affairs of Bangladesh, especially the upcoming elections. Though the role of some political parties and leaders in Bangladesh in encouraging foreign embassies to make such statements or activities cannot be denied, but the diplomats working in Bangladesh should be fully aware of the diplomatic etiquette, practices and customs. We, the common people of Bangladesh never expect such statements and counter statements about their affairs. They will do their best to strengthen and expand their country's relationship with Bangladesh and all their activities would be in the light of diplomatic norms and friendship. Bangladesh will assure them full support and security. Bangladesh is not a country for anyone’s fun. One of the fundamental pillars of Bangladesh's foreign policy is to maintain relations with all countries, big or small, on the basis of mutual respect and equality.

Last Monday, the Bangladesh Foreign Minister told the reporters that the government does not want any country get involved in Bangladesh’s internal affairs. He said that Bangladesh is the only country where 30 lakh people sacrificed their lives to uphold ‘democracy, human rights, justice and dignity of human beings in 1971’. After 51 years, we do not wish to recall the role of US Government during our war of liberation, when the Pakistani army used the arms and ammunition supplied by the USA to kill millions of Bangalees. Even we do not like to ask the USA - where was their ‘humanity’ sentiment when Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and members of his family were brutally killed on 15 August 1975. Keeping aside all those events, Bangladesh and the USA have been working together for their benefits on the basis of mutual respect and equality.

Be it democracy or economic development of the country and people, these are all ongoing processes. The present government is committed to establishing democracy in Bangladesh and has been putting its endless efforts for that. It is creating a feeling among the people that no undemocratic government can rise up in this country any more. Bangladesh's development-partner states can extend cooperation and suggestions in various ways for the development of country’s various sectors including strengthening democracy. Bangladesh believes in peace and with that aspiration we like to advance together as our Foreign Minister has said “We consider proposals from our friendly countries with due importance.” But it does not mean that they will engage in the work of intervention in the domestic or external affairs of Bangladesh. Do the diplomats of Bangladesh ever go to work in their country like this? Can the foreign diplomats here find a single example of that kind? Then, what is the purpose behind doing so?

While concluding, I, once again, would like to refer for our foreign diplomat friends the UN Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of Their Independence and Sovereignty that says “No State has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. Consequently, armed intervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against the personality of the State or against its political, economic and cultural elements, are condemned.” We believe that the diplomats working in this country will be sincere to understand the realities of Bangladesh’s relations with their countries and the sentiments of the people of Bangladesh. We always wish their successful posting in this country.  


The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary