Is Bangladesh heading towards anti-US block?
Foreign Ministry in Bangladesh, especially the Foreign Advisor expressed angry reaction at the recent remarks of the newly appointed US ambassador to Bangladesh James F Moriarty. Mr. Moriarty, while talking to press said the state of emergency should be lifted as it will be 'extremely difficult' to hold an election under emergency rules.
At a news conference in the American Club just hours after presenting his credentials to President Iajuddin Ahmed, the US ambassador said the emergency does not allow political parties to campaign for elections and hinders other electoral preparations.
"I will tell the government…that the United States believes credible elections would be extremely difficult under a state of emergency and it should be lifted," said Moriarty in his first news conference since arriving on April 10.
He said it will be 'impossible' for political parties to campaign under the state of emergency.
At the news briefing, Moriarty said his objective 'is to see elections occur at the end of this year', adding, "My hope is that those elections will result in a more stable and deeply rooted democracy."
"This is a critical time for Bangladesh a country in transition in a region of the world vital to US interests," he said.
He quoted US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as saying, "We look to increased partnership as Bangladesh takes its rightful place as a country that can help to bring stability and strength to South Asia."
The new envoy said, "Promoting democracy, ensuring development, and denying space to terrorism are the key challenges Bangladesh faces, and are vital to the future of the relationship between our countries."
He said the US is encouraged by the commitment of Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed to holding elections and by the assurance from Army Chief Gen Moeen U Ahmed that the army has no intention of usurping power.
The US envoy also said 'further role of the army will isolate Bangladesh from the region and from others around the world'.
"Much has been accomplished in a short period of time, but with less than eight months remaining of this government's tenure, there is much work that remains to be done," he said.
He said corruption in Bangladesh needs to be addressed and the winner-take-all approach needs to be discarded by political parties.
Asked about his observations on trials of the two detained former prime ministers BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina Moriarty said 'they should be released if the allegations against them are insubstantial'.
He however hoped that due process will be followed and fair, free and transparent trials will be held as soon as possible if there are substantial allegations.
He also said if there are signs that the trials are not transparent, free or fair, that will undermine efforts to re-establish democracy.
On terrorism, Moriarty said, "The biggest problems here in regard to terrorism are lack of good governance and lack of prosperity."
Moriarty said human rights will be 'one of the major issues' in his discussions with government officials, adding, "The human rights report from last year was not a good one."
He also said there are 'obvious concerns' with the anti-corruption trials, which he hoped will follow due process.
The new envoy said rising food prices and food shortages will be his other main concerns here as the US is looking to release further stocks of wheat. The US has provided around $5 billion in aid to Bangladesh since independence, with an annual average of $100 million.
Why the present government in Bangladesh was angry on Mr. Moriarty´s comments? Because he emphasized on lifting state of emergency? Because he spoke in favor of reinstating democracy? Because he spoke in favor of human rights?
Eminent journalist in Bangladesh and editor of country´s prestigious vernacular daily Manabzamin, Matiur Rahman Chowdhury wrote a powerful thus meaningful commentary in his newspaper titled ´What excesses did the ambassador say´.
In this commentary, Mr. Chowdhury wrote, "Bangladesh shows over reaction on minor causes. Turns sensitive! Whereas it does not show reaction where required. When American newspaper Wall Street Journal write Bangladesh Broken, then it [government] remains silent. Did not even send a protest note! But always jumps when diplomats say anything. This is nothing new that diplomat said this afresh. Diplomats expressed their thoughts on democratic government, military regime or even emergency government. Sometime, it went in favor of Bangladesh – sometime against. Let us take the case of one eleven. Diplomats were vocal in pre 1/11 time. Their initiatives were open. They spoke at home and abroad. We all too appreciate in unison. Could a single individual be located who did not support 1/11? Politicians who are in jail on various allegations even went to Bangabhaban [Presidential Palace] to express their support."
"People are saying that the present rulers are angry on some of the comments of the newly appointed US ambassador James Moriarty. Such rumors are floating right at the corridors of foreign ministry. This has even been reported in a newspaper. What did Moriarty say? Did he add anything new that has never been told before?"
It is learnt that present rulers in Dhaka are increasingly taking anti-American stand. It was made clear when the foreign office issued a statements following a comment by Geeta Pasi [who was then charge d affairs]. Military backed interim government is looking for new allies. That is why, during the current tour of Chinese foreign minister in Bangladesh, the issue of enhancing defense cooperation between Dhaka and Beijing came very prominently. There are also indications of Dhaka´s refreshed initiatives in boosting relations with Tehran, while everyone in the world are absolutely aware of the fact that Iran is the country, which patronizes global terror. Anti American forces such as leftists, communists and notorious Islamists like Hizb Ut Tahrir, Khelafat Majlish etc., are becomingly increasingly active in their notoriety against United States and the West. Government is even planning to hold a planted election to house some minor political parties including leftists, communists and Islamists in the parliament. Authorities in Bangladesh are reportedly delighted to see the victory of Maoists in Nepal. Dhaka is even looking for closer ties with military juntas in Myanmar.
All such actions evidently prove that, Bangladesh is gradually slipping towards anti American block. Possibly they are continuing to forget that, United States and the European countries are major buyers of Bangladeshi readymade garments. The government in Dhaka are also possibly forgetting the fact that major segment of development works are undertaken by anti Communist, anti-socialist and anti-Islamist nations. New behavior of Dhaka shall definitely hamper country´s export trade in the coming days. Do Bangladeshi rulers and their advisors realize these facts? Or, they wish to become ultra Nationalists and anti Americans to show red eyes to Washington? Yes, Bangladesh is a sovereign nation and every sovereign nation has the right to determine its foreign policy. But, can Dhaka afford to bear the burden of such ´over revolutionist´ tendency?