Friday, 2 June, 2023


US hegemony in Bangladeshi politics

Dr. Rashid Askari

US hegemony in Bangladeshi politics

Popular News

Bangladesh was not born with a silver spoon in its mouth. A 23-year long struggle — first for autonomy and then for independence — and a 9-month long sanguinary battle with the Pakistani occupation army gave birth to this nation state in the year 1971. Our long-awaited liberty was achieved through fierce fighting, not through compromise solutions. And in the tumultuous years of the independence struggle and the liberation war, our dearly beloved motherland was helped and supported by many countries while opposed by many including super power(s).

The most challenging situation Bangladesh got into was that the travails of the birth of the country took place against a backdrop of the Cold War that marked a period of geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies which impeded the process of our winning a victory and international recognition. But finally we achieved both.

However, it is a matter of public knowledge that the Pakistani military junta was the real perpetrator of the 1971 massacre. But many of us do not know that the marauding occupation army that unleashed the heinous genocide as part of infamous ‘Operation Searchlight’, was aided and abetted by then US President Richard Nixon, Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and US Ambassador to Islamabad Joseph S Farland.

They stepped into a web of intrigue against the civilian population of Bangladesh. Though India diplomatically tried to pressurize Nixon to compel Yahya Khan to stop genocide, and hand over power to people's representatives, the US President took no heed of it. On July 7, 1971 over a breakfast table, the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi repeatedly requested Kissinger, who was then visiting India before going to Pakistan, to persuade President Nixon to prevail upon Yahya to abandon the programme of   genocide and torture against the people of Bangladesh, and hand over power to Sheikh Muijb without delay. But Kissinger was being evasive in the extreme. On July 8, 1971, as he was having dinner with Yahya, Kissinger rebuked him (Yahya) for having run what Kissinger called “a lousy election” (1970), which he considered unbecoming to a dictator. Kissinger also flew to Beijing, and held extensive discussions with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai on July 9 and 11, 1971.  Both leaders expressed unwavering support for Yahya's stance on the Bangladesh issue. Eventually, Kissinger flew back via Paris and reached Washington on July 13, 1971.

America’s role against Bangladesh Liberation War culminated in giving Pakistan overt military support and diplomatic assurances. At the fag-end of the war in December 1971, when the occupation forces were kept at bay by the joint attack of the freedom fighters and allied troops, America, shot their bolt, and sent a task force led by the nuclear-armed aircraft carrier of the Seventh Fleet called “USS Enterprise” to the Bay of Bengal to have a crackdown on the allied forces. However, their plans backfired after Russia, as a counter to the Seventh Fleet, had sent their Eighth Fleet to the Andaman Sea in aid of Bangladesh. The rest is history.

Plots are still being hatched up by US political hegemony to discredit Bangladesh and Sheikh Hasina’s government. Hasina herself claims that the Biden administration is looking to knock her government off their perch. The circumstantial evidences also testify to it. The US Treasury Department’s sanctions on Bangladesh’s elite paramilitary force called Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), and its seven officers on alleged grounds of human rights violations are absolutely preposterous. Living in glass houses the US is throwing stones at others. According to the reports of the Western media like The Guardian and BBC, there are cases of gross human rights violations in the US itself.

According to the official statistics of the United Nations Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation, we get a gloomy picture of US human rights scenario which includes gun violence, mass shooting and police brutality. There is a shocking amount of racism in American society. Owing to systemic racism and white supremacy, police brutality has emerged as an alarming human rights issue in the USA. How does the US define all these incidents? Doesn’t it treat them as acts of human rights violation? If they do, what punitive action they have taken against the perpetrators? It is a wonder that holding the world record for human rights violations, they are pointing an accusing finger at Bangladesh. How far is this justifiable?

The old resentment that the US harbours against Bangladesh is more for geopolitical reasons. As a matter of fact, after Bangladesh has asserted its authority in the new global order, and started perusing a neutral foreign policy by striking a balance between the key players of geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific region, US-Bangladesh relations have been under strain. The United States under Joe Biden’s leadership perhaps does not want Bangladesh to enjoy wide latitude to make its own geopolitical decisions. So, Bangladesh’s refraining from joining the US-led alliance--the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue known as QUAD seems to have upset the US apple cart. The growing strategic partnership between USA and India in pursuance of America’s Indo-Pacific policy aimed at thwarting China’s indomitable economic growth wants Bangladesh to side with them in their battle for supremacy in the region while China, the largest development partner of Bangladesh, may be, quite deservedly, looking forward to Bangladesh’s support. So, Bangladesh is having to watch its steps with all countries vying for primacy in the region, and tilt the balance only in favour of its own geopolitical interest. Where’s the harm in that? But USA sure does not like it, and therefore might have made the blatant attempt to buy Bangladesh’s loyalty. Besides, the publication of US State Department’s report on alleged human rights violations in Bangladesh without any prior discussion with Bangladesh  Government smacks of aggressive hegemonic control.

Some power-hungry political parties of Bangladesh, who took over the helm after the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975 and subsequently were abandoned by people, are also trying to grab the slightest chance of coming to power once again. Joe Biden government, skeptical of the chance of retaining Bangladesh’s allegiance in this cut-throat world of geopolitics through negotiations, is trying to use these disgruntled power-starved Bangladeshi parties as its political pawns to comply with the US scheme of things and put pressure on the Sheikh Hasina government in unconstitutional ways. 

The ulterior motive of the hegemonic power is to prove Bangladesh as a failed state under Sheikh Hasina’s premiership. If their plots are successful, and we are alarmed over the potential loss of national sovereignty, there will be a mad scramble for hegemonic control over the country. The power-hungry countries will look forward to establishing political and military dominance over us in the name of curbing militancy, and consequently, Bangladesh may have to suffer the same fate like Pakistan or Afghanistan. Uncle Sam’s continuing desire for political and military hegemony over Bangladesh in particular and Indo-Pacific region in general has always been a vexing problem for Bangladesh, the region and the world as well.


The writer is an academic, translator and a political commentator