US backs Islamists, just as it did in Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere


Washington’s alleged interference in Bangladesh’s upcoming election and its implicit backing of the Islamist opposition coalition led by the Pakistan-friendly Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is on India’s radar, especially since American pressure on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League-led government is in opposition to Indian interests.

In November, India’s Foreign Ministry said that as a “close friend and partner” of Bangladesh, Dhaka’s vision of a “stable, peaceful and progressive nation” would continue to be supported and respected. Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi stressed that the election in the neighboring country, scheduled for January 7, 2024, is a domestic matter.

For their part, the US charges Dhaka as not pushing for greater democratization. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced in May a new visa regime targeting Bangladeshi individuals suspected of “undermining the democratic election process” in the South Asian country. The opposition BNP unsurprisingly welcomed the US visa policy, but Hasina alludes that this is “interference” in the upcoming elections.

Muhammad Zamir, the chair of the International Affairs Sub-committee of the Awami League and a former foreign secretary, said that Moscow made a “very valid point” by warning that Washington could provoke an “Arab Spring”-like protests in Bangladesh following elections.

The Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov said that the US could try to trigger Arab Spring-like protests if it was not “satisfied” with the outcome of Bangladesh’s federal election and expressed concerns that there was a direct link between political provocations by Bangladeshi opposition and the instigating activities of American Ambassador to Dhaka Peter Haas.

Senior Awami League members have expressed fears that Peter Haass is secretly supporting the BNP, who have not only announced a boycott of the election but are also leading nationwide protests. The pro-Islamist party has demanded Hasina to abdicate her position before the elections and for the voting to be conducted under a caretaker arrangement. The Hasina government rejected these demands for being unconstitutional.

Washington finds the Awami League intolerable because of their balanced foreign policy approach. The Awami League does not reject close and cordial ties with Washington, but not at the expense of Moscow, a condition the Americans always impose. Dhaka has remained firm and advanced ties with Moscow.

Sanctions imposed on Russia harm third countries and demonstrate that restrictive measures are an ineffective foreign policy tool, Tarique Ahmed Siddique, the Defense and Security adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, said back in August.

“Economic sanctions imposed on Russia bring suffering to other regions of the world as well, which is, of course, is an undesirable situation”, he said, adding: “Our country also had to face major consequences in this context. It is clear to us at this point that sanctions will benefit no one, and we are experiencing this first-hand”.

In September, Sergey Lavrov became the first foreign minister to visit Dhaka from Moscow since the South Asian nation gained independence in 1971, demonstrating a new vigor in building ties, something Washington wants to prevent.

Moving toward strengthening ties, in October, Bangladesh received its first shipment of Russian fuel to power the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), the first civil nuclear plant in Bangladesh’s history, which Russia is also financing 90% of the $12.6 billion project.

In this way, Dhaka-Moscow ties are strengthening, and not in view of being hostile against the US. New Delhi maintains its role as Bangladesh’s closest political and developmental partner, in line with the deep-rooted historical and people-to-people ties shared between the two nations, especially in the context of India securing its neighbor’s independence from genocide perpetrating Pakistan in 1971. Even though the US attempted to prevent Bangladesh’s independence as Pakistan was a key ally and was one of the last nations to accord Bangladesh recognition, Washington is not taking any of India’s interests into consideration and is behaving neo-colonialist towards Dhaka.

Despite the pressure, Dhaka continues to pursue an independent foreign policy, as seen by their non-committal on joining the Quad grouping but also by not being deterred from having relations with Moscow or having sidelined India just because the US has only now started taking an interest in Bangladesh.

It is recalled that an India-US joint statement following a summit between US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House in June “welcomed the depth and pace of enhanced consultations between the two governments” on South Asia. However, it is demonstrably seen that the US does not consider India’s interests and priorities in Bangladesh as it once again backs Islamists, just as it did in Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere.


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