Bilateral Diplomacy of Bangladesh in the Post-Election Era

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Bilateral diplomatic engagements on January 9, 2024, marked a pivotal juncture in global affairs as Ambassadors from an array of nations, spanning Thailand, Vietnam, Argentina, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Egypt, Algeria, Kuwait, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Palestine, convened for formal meetings with Sheikh Hasina at Ganobhaban, her official residence. Their primary objective was to convey warm felicitations to Awami League President and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, recognizing the emphatic success of her party in the 12th parliamentary elections. This demonstration of solidarity and goodwill from a diverse spectrum of countries underscores the global resonance of Bangladesh’s political landscape and asserts a shared optimism for the nation’s future trajectory under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s governance. The dialogues explored bilateral partnerships, accentuating common interests and aligned developmental aspirations, signifying a dedication to fortifying collaborative bonds and fostering enhanced cooperation between Bangladesh and the participating nations. The interchanges reflected a diplomatic fellowship united by a common vision for Bangladesh’s advancement.

On January 8, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed his congratulations to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during a phone conversation, acknowledging her triumph in the polls. In a post on X, PM Modi extended his congratulations to the people of Bangladesh for the successful completion of the elections. Modi also conveyed his optimism about deepening the enduring and people-focused partnership between the two countries.

On January 11, President Xi Jinping of China praised the “traditional friendship” with Bangladesh, emphasizing the longstanding diplomatic relationship of 49 years. In an official statement, President Xi highlighted the mutual respect, equality, and shared benefits that have characterized the bond between the two nations. Previously, Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh, Yao Wen, became part of the global chorus offering on 9 January 2024 felicitations, extending congratulations to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for overseeing the 12th general election’s successful conduct and the Awami League’s resounding triumph. In his role as an emissary of Chinese leaders, Ambassador Yao conveyed warm regards and best wishes, accentuating the importance of this achievement.

Through a statement from Embassy of Japan in Bangladesh on 10 January, Japan expresses its commitment to sustaining its support for Bangladesh’s development and prosperity, with a keen interest in strengthening bilateral ties for mutual growth.

The subsequent day unfolded with a series of diplomatic rendezvous, as envoys from Bhutan, Philippines, Singapore, and Sri Lanka paid courtesy visits to Awami League President and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at Ganabhaban. This convergence of diplomatic engagements served as a testament to the worldwide acknowledgment of Bangladesh’s political landscape. Furthermore, the presence of the Aga Khan Diplomatic Representatives’ delegation heightened these diplomatic exchanges, collectively extending congratulations to PM Sheikh Hasina for her party’s unequivocal victory in the 12th National Parliamentary Election. This global recognition underscores the profound impact of Bangladesh’s democratic processes on the international stage.

On January 12, 2024 Russia acknowledged the leadership of Bangladesh for establishing favorable conditions that allowed voters to freely express their will, even in the face of external attempts to influence the election outcome. President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin extended their congratulations to the newly elected leader. Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated, “We want to seize this moment to congratulate the citizens of Bangladesh on the positive result of the election.”

The US State Department’s official Press Statement on Bangladesh’s 12th Parliamentary Elections, released on January 8, 2024, conveys steadfast support for the Bangladeshi people’s pursuit of democracy, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of expression. The statement underscores the United States’ commitment to these shared ideals, acknowledging the Awami League’s triumph in the January 7, 2024 elections. Emphasizing a dedicated partnership with Bangladesh, the statement envisions joint efforts for a free and open Indo-Pacific. However, a critical lens raises questions about the practical implications of such commitments, urging scrutiny of the tangible impact on advancing human rights and civil society in Bangladesh. As the statement looks ahead, the commitment to fortify people-to-people connections and deepen economic ties prompts critical examination of the potential implications on geopolitical dynamics and the socio-economic landscape of both nations.

Myanmar has extended congratulations to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, expressing that the resounding support for the Awami League in the 12th general election is a clear manifestation of the trust placed by the people of Bangladesh in her leadership over the past decade. The Chairman of the State Administration Council and Prime Minister of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, anticipates continued close collaboration with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the government of Bangladesh. He looks forward to strengthening the existing friendly ties and deepening bilateral cooperation for the mutual interests and progress of both nations in the years ahead. Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, on behalf of the people and government of Myanmar, warmly congratulates Sheikh Hasina on the Awami League’s comprehensive victory in the election. In his message to Sheikh Hasina, he also conveys sincere wishes for her well-being, happiness, and success in all her future endeavors.

Bangladesh’s Bilateral Diplomacy Remains Robust Throughout the Post-Election Phase

India, standing as a steadfast friend, firmly establishes its position alongside Bangladesh in the face of global upheavals. Initiatives such as the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline, the enhancement of Cross-Border Rail Connectivity, and the collaborative efforts on transit and various connectivity issues vividly portray the discourse of the Bangladesh-India relationship evolving into a more robust and fortified understanding in the foreseeable future. These joint endeavors not only symbolize shared goals and mutual cooperation but also signify a deepening of ties that will likely contribute to the sustained growth and prosperity of both nations.

China, having played a crucial role as a friend in both the development sector and arms import for Bangladesh, is poised to continue occupying a prominent place among the nation’s friends in the near future. The profound congratulations extended by China to the new government further solidified its status as a friend. The monumental mega-projects facilitated by China underscore the importance and depth of the Bangladesh-China relationship. China’s positive reaction to the election not only reaffirms its current standing as a trusted friend but also suggests a sustained and enduring friendship between the two nations in the times ahead.

Japan affirms its commitment to supporting Bangladesh’s development and prosperity, emphasizing the continuation of ongoing projects such as the Matarbari 1,200 MW Ultra-Supercritical Coal-Based Power Plant and MRT Line 6. The collaboration extends to strategic initiatives like the Big-B project, where Bangladesh plays a pivotal role in connecting the Northeast of India through its territory to the Indian mainland. Additionally, Bangladesh emerges as a favorable option for fostering connectivity with the East, leveraging projects like the Matarbari Deep Sea Port. As a result, the bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Japan are poised to reach new heights, driven by these significant joint endeavors.

Russia conveyed its commitment to maintaining a friendly relationship in the years ahead. This friendship has manifested across various domains, with a notable emphasis on energy. Additionally, the two countries consistently support each other on diverse platforms and occasions, illustrating a deep mutual understanding. The recent pronouncement from Russia is expected to further strengthen the bilateral friendship.

The statement from nations such as the USA serves as an indication that Bangladesh holds a significant position amid global tensions. The key significance revolves around Bangladesh’s strategic geopolitical location in the heart of the Indo-Pacific region. Aligning with Bangladesh in friendly terms allows a country to effectively implement its Indo-Pacific Strategy. Consequently, the security and strategic ties with the USA are expected to witness a positive enhancement, as evident from the recent visits by high-profile US officials.

Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Brunei Darussalam, and Malaysia have extended their congratulations to Bangladesh, commending the country for its positive relations with East Asian nations. Bangladesh has already established strong ties, paving the way for potential economic opportunities in new markets. The support from these nations is seen as advantageous for addressing the Rohingya crisis, given ASEAN’s optimistic stance on resolving the issue. Bangladesh’s role as a hub connecting West Asian countries with East Asian states could be pivotal for regional connectivity. Notably, Myanmar has also congratulated Bangladesh, marking a significant achievement that could contribute to resolving the Rohingya repatriation. In terms of stability in the region, fostering a good relationship between Bangladesh and Myanmar becomes a crucial factor, especially for major powers seeking connectivity with East and Southeast Asian regions. The congratulatory messages signal a positive step towards achieving such stability.

The present government has a profound historical relationship with the Middle East, particularly rooted in shared religious affinities. Beyond the religious common ground, Bangladesh has established a longstanding connection for importing energy resources from Middle Eastern countries. Additionally, a substantial number of both unskilled and skilled laborers from Bangladesh contribute significantly to the workforce in the Middle East. Consequently, the ties between Bangladesh and the Middle East are expected to strengthen, driven by the interwoven aspects of energy trade, labor contributions, and enduring historical and religious bonds.

The 12th Parliamentary Election in Bangladesh has garnered unprecedented global attention, showcasing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s effective leadership. Statements and reactions from diverse countries, including India, China, Japan, and the USA, underscore the strategic significance of Bangladesh. These diplomatic engagements highlight the nation’s growing influence and potential for strengthened international ties, economic collaborations, and regional stability. Bangladesh’s positive relationships with East Asian and Middle Eastern nations position it for sustained growth and enhanced diplomatic influence in the future. And among all these, bilateral relations will be at the heart of the discussion.

– Syed Raiyan Amir is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

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