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Foreign interference in internal affairs

Published : Saturday, 31 December, 2022 at 12:00 AM  Count : 366

The diplomatic spat between the US and Russia over Bangladesh's political developments and human rights situation, which seems to have gained attention in recent days, raises certain doubts and worries. The US and Russian embassies have engaged in a Twitter spat, commenting on and counter-commenting each other's viewpoints towards Bangladesh, particularly with regard to the topic of non-interference in domestic matters.

The most recent diplomatic spat between the two rivals appears to have started after the US ambassador's visit to the home of a victim of enforced disappearances on December 14. Such diplomatic wars between the two rivals on various issues, including politics, human rights, trade, and others, have lasted for decades.

The intended meeting had to be suddenly ended by the US ambassador due to "security concerns." In statements and tweets that appeared to support the Bangladeshi government, the Russian embassy in Dhaka and the spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry said that such actions 'violated' the fundamental rules of not meddling in the internal affairs of sovereign states and were therefore 'unacceptable.'

On December 21, the US embassy in Dhaka replied via its official Twitter account, enquiring as to whether Ukraine was covered by Russia's non-interference policy. All of this appears to be an ongoing proxy conflict between the two world leaders, with Ukraine serving as the prominent example.

Utilizing the circumstances in Bangladesh, the United States and Russia were each playing their own games. Bangladesh as a state must guarantee the rule of law, support human rights, and rely less on them for its prosperity, no country would be able to speak out about its internal affairs. A state had a duty to defend its citizens' human rights, and a sovereign nation may pursue its policy if its inhabitants' rights were violated.

US remarks on the state of international human rights were selective. We hear nothing from the US about Israel, Afghanistan and Russia about Ukraine issue, Syrian issue. The US's stance on the rights problem contained discrepancies. The US has been silent over Israel's human rights abuses in Palestine, they have lost credibility and Russia is now using Bangladesh as a strategic weapon in their diplomatic standoff.

The foreign minister of Bangladesh, AK Abdul Momen, stated to reporters in his Segunbagicha office that the government did not want any nation to interfere in Bangladesh's domestic issues. "No nation should interfere with our internal affairs. We are a developed nation. When asked about recent comments made by both the US and Russian sides on Bangladesh, he responded, "Our country is autonomous and independent. Momen asserted that Bangladesh does not require advice from other nations regarding democracy, human rights, justice, or human dignity. Momen uttered the real position of Bangladesh. Bangladesh must not like the meddling of any country in its domestic affairs. As a sovereign state, Bangladesh can exercise its sovereignty. 'Friendships to all, malice to none' is the fundamental foreign policy of Bangladesh.

Independent Bangladesh has crossed 50 years of diplomacy. Bangladesh's achievements in these 50 years are not less. Bangladesh continues to follow Bangabandhu's motto of 'friendship with all, enmity with none' and has proved to be timely in the diplomacy of this country for the last 50 years.

Following an incident on December 14 in which the US ambassador to Dhaka, Peter Haas, had to abruptly end a meeting with Mayer Dak, a platform of families of the enforced disappearance victims, at Shahinbagh in the capital city due to security concerns, the Russian embassy in Dhaka issued a statement last week stating that the country was 'invariably committed' to its principled stance on non-interference in the domestic affairs of third countries.

On its official Twitter account, the US embassy in Dhaka questioned if the non-interference principle applied to Ukraine."Does Ukraine fall under it?" The US embassy defaced its building with the words "Stand with Ukraine."

On December 22, the Russian embassy in Dhaka published a cartoon on its official Twitter account criticizing Western sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine. At the time, Russia and the United States looked to be engaged in a discussion regarding political developments in Bangladesh.

Later, Russia said that the events of December 14 were an "anticipated result" of the American ambassador's efforts, who - under the guise of protecting Bangladeshi people' rights - had been "persistently seeking to influence" the country's internal affairs.

According to Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, "his colleagues from the British and German diplomatic missions have recently been engaged in the same cause and have allowed themselves to openly give recommendations to the local authorities regarding transparency and inclusivity in the parliamentary elections scheduled for next year."

According to Russia, such acts that "break" the fundamental rules of not meddling in the internal affairs of sovereign states are "unacceptable."

We have observed that the US, particularly the Biden administration, has made democracy and human rights the cornerstone of its domestic and international policy. Positive influences from powerful states can in this era of globalization, help stop the repressive behaviour of the powers against their political opponents when we are absolutely aware that democracy is primarily an internal issue for any country and requires the political will, mobilization of the people, and strengthening of the public agencies. No interference by foreign forces and states in the internal affairs of a country could be welcomed. However, foreign envoys in host country must maintain diplomatic protocol in the light of 'Vienna convention 1961'.

It is not the job of diplomats to pry into the internal affairs of any country. Even foreign diplomats in a country have to be told where to go, who to talk to or whom to invite, to the foreign office of that country. Recently, ambassadors of various countries visited the Election Commission and spoke to the Chief Election Commissioner. He held a meeting with political party leaders. Maybe the government does not want this in view of the national elections.

When some countries try to put pressure on a government, they start ferrying human rights in the country concerned. But it can be seen that human rights are severely violated in all those countries that talk about human rights. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of all local people, groups in the states, not friendly ones, to express their outrage at human rights abuses occurring in the country. Speaking out against human rights abuses into others states by powerful states politically is seen as, of course, meddling in a nation's internal affairs and violating its national sovereignty.

The war of words has started between two powerful countries, the United States and Russia, over Bangladesh, which is embarrassing for Bangladesh.

Bangladesh takes positions and decisions in favour of its own interests. All states do that. Needless to say, Bangladesh has more relations and communication with the United States and Western countries in all fields of trade, education, travel, investment, etc. Countries like USA, UK, and European Union, Japan etc. are its important development partners, investors and commercial partners.
Ishtiak Fardin is a freelance journalist, columnist

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