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26 June, 2020 10:21:57 PM / LAST MODIFIED: 27 June, 2020 08:27:43 PM

Of friends and foes in politics

Coming to Bangladesh’s stance on the Indo-China conflict, experts suggest that as Dhaka has interests both with Beijing and New Delhi, it should not involve itself in particular interest
Shamim A. Zahedy
Of friends and foes in politics

Who are the friends and foes in politics and to be specific in international relations? It is said that it is not the actor that does matter, rather the factor that does matter when friendship is judged in politics and international affairs.
Who are Bangladesh’s friends, allies and buddies in regional and global politics? The friendship in the organisation-level or the state-level is not in the vein of what the wise man Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) says the companionship cures the heart disease of a patient and that a soothing exchange of words with a friend brings back vitality to the ailing heart.
The arguments over Bangladesh’s ‘correct’ stance on the back of the latest violent border skirmishes on 15 June 2020 between Chinese and Indian troops in disputed Ladakh bring the friendship concern to the fore.
In the aftermath of skirmishes that killed at least 20 Indian soldiers, with tensions brewing across the entire region, the pundits have views to explain, opinions to convey and judgments to deliver like any other contentious subject matter of geopolitics.
The border conflicts and international disputes have always provided the governments with an escape at times of domestic turmoil especially during national election period in democracies.

Former diplomats and political analysts say the latest conflicts have helped Narendra Modi government in India to shift attention from domestic issues such as revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, one of the major reasons of the latest Galwan valley conflict, National Register of Citizens (NRC) issue in the state of Assam, and the Citizenship Amendment Act (Bill), of late.

On the other hand, China, in spite of everything being enthusiastic about its Belt and Road Initiative connecting infrastructure development in some 70 countries, ostensibly uses its opportunity to ‘flex its muscles’ as an emerging global superpower.
Coming to Bangladesh’s stance on the Indo-China conflict, experts citing the age old strategy of “friendship to all and malice to none” call for peace through dialogue and negotiation. As Dhaka has interests both with Beijing and New Delhi, ‘it should not involve itself in particular interest’.

It is a cliché yet effective adage that there is no permanent friend or enemy in politics but permanent interest. BBC Bangla’s Editor Sabir Mustafa on 19 June 2020 obliquely mentioned the commonplace phrase in response to a listener’s accusation that China is responsible for all the fuss.

“China has been doing excess since the beginning [of all troubles]. In 1971 great war of liberation, China directly sided with barbaric Pakistan, opposing the independence of Bangladesh. In the recent Rohingya issue, China has provided Myanmar, the questionable state, with assistance and aid, helping ethnic cleansing and genocide. And now China has announced a war against neighbouring India. I believe, on the part of China, it should behave itself towards neighbourly relations. Otherwise, a dark cloud will be looming large on the geopolitics.”

In regards to the listener’s allegation BBC writes, “True, dark cloud will loom, but the responsibility to maintain peace lies on both the nations. While China has not announced any war against India, there is a slim chance to declare on the part of China. As far as Chinese role is concerned regarding 1971 [Bangladesh liberation war] and its support for Myanmar on Rohingya issue, China sided with its national interests. India too has lent its support towards Myanmar to keep its interest.”

So, behind every support and every opposition there is a national interest depending on a particular time. When a country spearheads the cause of another nation, the former finds its interest to champion that, while the latter makes the best use of the help or vice versa.

Friends today may turn foes tomorrow. Cemented through the 1950 treaty of peace and friendship, Delhi’s once all-weather ally Kathmandu is now having good times with Beijing. Nepal has of late redrawn its new national territorial map that includes disputed land despite disagreement from next door India.

Although Washington and Beijing opposed Bangladesh’s independence siding with Islamabad in 1971, they are good allies of Dhaka, now. Again, the same US and Pakistan, against whom Bangladesh waged a bloody war of independence, are supporting Dhaka’s cause for Rohingya issue while China and India, now both close partners of Bangladesh, are backing Myanmar at the United Nations.

An all-weather ally, Pakistan lodges complaint with China on persecution of Kashmiri Muslims, although it falls short of making enquiry about the internment camps where Uyghur Muslims are kept for ‘education purposes’ in China’s northwest Xinjiang region.

It is all ‘give and take’ affairs: everything comes with a price. ‘Namaste Trump’ event was held in an over 100,000-capacity cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, Gujarat in an apparent exchange for ‘Howdy, Modi’ in Houston, Texas where some 50,000 US citizens of Indian origin from across the US had participated. In the process, Donald Trump clinched military sales worth three billion US dollars.

People of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan all were together ruled and persecuted by the colonial British for close to 200 years. But now the former colonies seemingly show no malice of the past in the present day handling of relations.
News media ‘have always a role to play’ as business as usual in the international conflicts. Western media stood accused of pro-war bias while covering 2003 invasion of Iraq through embedded journalism. Western media purposefully danced to the tune of weapons of mass destruction myths in Iraq propagated by the US and allies, who then claimed themselves to be the ‘saviours’ of democracy, transparency and good governance.

India’s Kolkata-based Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika very recently ran a news item headlined ‘Beijing pulling Dhaka to its side after Ladakh’ as China granted 5,161 Bangladeshi products duty-free access to its market in what the paper says against the backdrop of the Indo-China border row.

So much so that the almost 100 years old Anandabazar Patrika termed China’s free market access offer as ‘alms’ to Bangladesh, which the paper later retracted along with offering an apology for the choice of this particular word in the face of severe criticism in social media. This is all for geopolitics.

On the domestic front, it is too true that nothing is unfair in politics. HM Ershad, the general-turned politician, until his death in July 2019 frequently and repeatedly shifted his support from BNP to Awami League and vice versa following the fall of his rule in 1990 through street agitation waged by Awami League and BNP.

HM Ershad plainly changed hands without inhibition from any side of the political divide like a chameleon changing its colour in times of need.
Friendship in politics is short-lived, fragile; it collapses like a house of cards in the blink of an eye.

The writer is the executive editor of The Independent. He can be reached at [email protected]


More Articles by Shamim A. Zahedy:

The unfolding suspense around Masud Rana (18-06-2020)

Moment of truth for AHM Mustafa Kamal (13-06-2020)

Musings on the pandemic: Lessons learnt from Covid-19 (07-06-2020)

George Floyd and beyond (03-06-2020)

Protect purity of every type of media (30-05-2020)

Disturbing disregard for social distancing (24-05-2020)

Interoperability is missing in business (23-05-2020)

“Education divide” in Bangladesh (21-05-2020)

Time to seek alternative financing for news media? (15-05-2020)

Govt needs to be techie to reach out to people in need of aid (09-05-2020)

Handcuffs for journalists (06-05-2020)

New business model required for news media in the post-virus era (03-05-2020)

An apology for print newspapers (03-04-2020)

Thank you, readers (26-03-2020)

A tribute: O Captain! My Captain! (06-03-2020)




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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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