Global Responses to The Newly Elected Government

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The 12th parliamentary elections in Bangladesh stands as a watershed in the nation’s political journey. The resonance of this election extends beyond national borders, capturing the attention and interests of the international community. The level of scrutiny and engagement, both domestically and globally, was unprecedented, sparking extensive discussions and debates. This heightened interest reflects the significance attributed to Bangladesh’s evolution on the global forum.

A new government under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina has already been formed. She has assumed premiership for the fourth consecutive term and fifth in her political career. Her Cabinet has been formed with a couple new faces in crucial ministries such as foreign affairs, finance and agriculture. The new foreign minister, Dr Hasan Mahmud, has already expressed his view for improving bilateral ties with all countries, whether from the East or the West.

Over the past 15 years, Bangladesh’s strides in economic and social development, coupled with its emergence as a pivotal regional power, have garnered widespread recognition.

The post-election scenario in Bangladesh is tied to international diplomacy, where the perspectives of friendly nations and development partners on the electoral process and the newly formed government play a crucial role. Notably, the ongoing global political landscape has witnessed a fresh polarization, reminiscent of a new Cold War, a phenomenon discernible for almost a decade. Despite the impact of this global reality on diplomatic dynamics, Bangladesh, guided by the bold and visionary leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has managed to foster robust relationships with all the stakeholders.

As a reflection of pre-election patterns of diplomacy and post-election cynicism, the international community has demonstrated overwhelming support for the government of Sheikh Hasina. In an extraordinary gesture, the US President Biden sent a letter to Sheikh Hasina. The letter states, “The United States is committed to supporting Bangladesh’s ambitious economic goals and partnering with Bangladesh on our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific … We have a long and successful history of working together to solve problems, and our strong people-to-people ties are the foundation of this relationship.” Similarly, the European Union has expressed keen interests to work with the new government in Bangladesh while European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic met with the Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud in Brussels.

A Range of Felicitations

Governments from different corners of the world have poured the prime minister with felicitations. Similarly, international and regional organizations have extended their warm greetings. There are multiple perspectives to consider, including a geographical perspective: The government has received widespread support from Asia and the Pacific region. South Asian countries, ASEAN and East Asian states have been upfront in expressing their utmost trust and willingness to work with the new government. India, China, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan have all extended their warm support. This gesture underscores the significance of regional cooperation and the growing connectivity and collaborative spirit.

One distinctive feature of this election is the positive response from newer regions, particularly Latin America and Africa. This signals a strategic diversification in Bangladesh’s international relations, expanding its footprint beyond traditional partners. The upbeat and warm responses from diverse regions emphasize Bangladesh’s emerging global importance and the success of its diplomatic efforts to broaden international engagement.

Once again, Middle Eastern countries reaffirmed their steadfast friendship and brotherhood with Bangladesh. Countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait extended felicitations, highlighting the time-tested nature of their diplomatic relations. The positive response underlines the resilience of these partnerships and the importance of shared values and cooperation.

Envoys from various countries and international organizations conveyed their felicitations directly to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Organizations such as the United Nations, Commonwealth, South Asian Democratic Forum, Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), and the European Investment Bank expressed optimism about Bangladesh’s future. This highlights the country’s potential and the positive direction envisioned under Prime Minister Hasina’s leadership.

Working Forward in Diplomatic Relations

Major powers have reaffirmed their diplomatic goodwill and commitments to work with the new government in Bangladesh. The names of Russia, China, India, Japan, Indonesia, Brazil, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa are noteworthy.

The United States, in its response, demonstrated a pragmatic approach driven by its national interest. While initially the US stance may not entirely mirror the same of other powers such as China, Russia, India and Japan, it quickly aligns with its national strategic interests. This emphasizes the complex dynamics of global geopolitics and the varying perspectives on democratic processes.

A noteworthy aspect of the international response lies in its unequivocal stance against political and election-related violence. The disturbing incidents of violence in the recent months have rightly garnered global condemnation. Particularly, the brutal acts such as arson attacks on buses and railway carriages, along with the targeted killing of ordinary citizens, including law enforcement personnel, have been widely criticized. Consequently, the international community has taken a resolute position against terrorism and violence, which is clearly reflected in their collective response. This global stance emphasizes the imperative of upholding peace and stability in the aftermath of the elections, underscoring the rejection of any form of violence for political gain.

The calculus of mutual interests in bilateral ties with Bangladesh remains a critical consideration for major global powers. Complex issues and diplomatic strategies diverge significantly among these major powers, each pursuing its own set of interests. Consequently, differences in the policies of the United States, India, or Russia, each centred on Bangladesh, are only natural.

The new government is poised to propel Bangladesh forward, adhering to the foreign policy principle of “friendship to all, malice towards none,” a doctrine consistently championed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The international response has underscored a universal desire for collaboration with Bangladesh, highlighting that all nations are inclined to engage with the country. The nation is poised to take significant strides towards the envisioned Smart Bangladesh by 2041, as it harnesses the momentum generated by external powers for mutual collaboration. This signals a pivotal phase in Bangladesh’s foreign relations, where strategic interests, diplomacy, and collaboration with diverse nations become instrumental in realizing the nation’s long-term development objectives.

– Delwar Hossain, PhD is Professor of International Relations, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Published in Dhaka Tribune [Link]