Consulting Editor, New Delhi with Special Correspondent, Dhaka
The United States, which has shown absolute dominance even a few years ago, is facing a complicated situation at a critical time in world politics. After Afghanistan, now from Ukraine to Gaza issue – the country is facing a lot of challenges everywhere. The country is not fully supported by the old allies in the recent enthusiastic action of the United States in the internal affairs of Bangladesh around the control of the Indian Ocean region.
They could not bring India, known as a strategic ally of the United States in the region, to a consensus regarding Bangladesh. Rather, India and China are in the same position on this issue.
A former diplomat of India told Bangla Herald, “We are the most affected by the sudden decision of the United States to withdraw from Afghanistan.”
The former diplomat, who did not wish to be named, claimed that Afghanistan is a very important country to maintain the strategic security balance of the region. The United States has moved forward with its singular plan for one such area, where it has a strategic relationship with India. He said, “Our (India’s) investment in Afghanistan is at risk because of this one decision of the US.” As a result, India now has to think whether it is right for us to move forward depending only on the US formula for regional stability.”
Not only the regional allies but also the western allies are not blindly following the US on the Bangladesh issue. Recent events have produced many examples of this.
After the incident of clashes around BNP’s rally on October 28, a joint statement was taken by the Western countries. But they disagreed over the language of the statement. It takes two days to agree. In the statement that followed, seven countries, including the United States, called for creating an electoral environment in Bangladesh.
However, on the day of the clash, the US Embassy in Dhaka condemned the incident in a statement. It also states that the facts will be reviewed in case of visa ban. The European Union (EU), an alliance of 27 Western nations, expressed grief in a separate statement on October 29. The statement also called for finding a way for participatory and peaceful elections in Bangladesh.
Diplomatic analysts say that the positions of the United States and the EU on the October 28 incident and the Bangladesh issue are clearly different.
Earlier, the ambassadors of Western countries in Dhaka tried to make a joint statement regarding the attack on Dhaka-17 by-election candidate Ashraful Hossain Alam alias Hero Alam. It still took two days to reach consensus on the language of the statement. In the end, 13 countries only issued a statement condemning the incident.
Diplomatic sources say that the United States has to gain momentum to agree with the Western allies on several such incidents regarding Bangladesh. Especially in the language that the United States wants to make a statement, others disagree. Conditions are coming to change the language of the statement, it is taking time to reach a consensus. Finally the statement is made in flexible language.
Western diplomats were recently contacted in Dhaka regarding upcoming parliamentary elections and labor rights in Bangladesh. They were asked to know their position on election and labor rights. However, no one agreed to give an official statement in this regard. However, they expressed their position in an informal statement.
The US has already said it expects a free and fair election in Bangladesh. They called for dialogue for this. Washington has also said that visas will not be issued if the democratic process is obstructed in Bangladesh. Meanwhile, Russia and China have clarified their position that the election is an internal matter of Bangladesh, which will be according to the constitution.
Russia and China also believe that the United States is interfering in the internal affairs of Bangladesh. India, known as one of the US allies in the region, has clarified its position on Bangladesh. However, going against the opinion of the United States on the election issue, India said that the election is an internal matter of Bangladesh.
France, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, Norway, Netherlands, Switzerland and Japan have their own vision, strategic goals and priorities regarding Bangladesh. Therefore, the United States is not supporting them on the issue of election and labor rights in Bangladesh. Although they are with the United States on various global issues.
A Western diplomat in Dhaka said on condition of anonymity that his country wants to see free, fair and acceptable elections in Bangladesh. However, if the election is not like that, they will also follow the path of the United States, he said, “The United States decides on its own political reality.” And we make decisions based on our priorities. Only if the priorities match can the decision be the same.” He further said, “There is a need to match expectations with reality. We can only invoke, nothing more.’
When the United States imposed sanctions on the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and its officers in 2021 over allegations of human rights abuses, many believed that similar sanctions could come against the RAB from several Western countries, including the United Kingdom. But in reality it was not seen.
Diplomatic sources say that the United States will be tough on labor rights in Bangladesh, it was already visible. Because, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) tries to play a strong role with labor rights in all countries of the world. Moreover, the United States has linked the issue of labor rights to its national security. The US Secretary of State has also threatened to impose visa and trade sanctions if labor rights are violated.
And since there is a lack of labor rights in Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Embassy in Washington sent a letter to Dhaka to warn about the US announcement.
The EU is looking at labor rights in Bangladesh differently. Regarding the recent visit of the GSP review team of the EU, Charles Whiteley, the ambassador of the organization in Dhaka told, “Progress in the implementation of labor rights in Bangladesh is ongoing.” The EU GSP review team’s visit has been fruitful. Meetings have been held with all whom the Bangladesh government wanted to meet. Meetings with trade unions and other stakeholders have also been held. Charles Whiteley said that the delegation has understood where cooperation is needed in the future in relation to GSP.
He also said that the EU’s relationship with Bangladesh on labor rights is very old. The EU has many similarities with the US. But the EU works with Bangladesh in its own way. Pointing out that the way the EU is working with Bangladesh is getting good results, Whiteley said, “Bangladesh has time until 2032 to resolve the issues of labor rights in the EU market.”
The EU ambassador said, “The EU has its own point of view on other issues like GSP.” We negotiate and take care of things like the EU. And there is an independent EU expert team in Bangladesh to look at the electoral issues.
Diplomatic analysts say Western allies have divergent priorities. The main strategic goal of the United States in the region is to prevent China’s hegemony. But in this case, although the United States could not benefit much, China has increased its relations and dominance with various countries.