Changing Foreign Policy of Bangladesh Evaluation from the Different Political Regime By -Md. Nazmul Islam
The image of an independent and sovereign state depends on its foreign relations or foreign policy. However, these relations are considered important to a country, are subject to change for the sake of the country’s interests. Bangladesh has pursued its foreign relations or foreign policy since its emergence as an independent state in 1971, although the policy underwent remarkable changes during the last 39 years. The provisional government formed during the Liberation War drew up an outline of the foreign relations of Bangladesh before the country came into being as an independent state. According to this outline Bangladesh declared the principles of non-alignment, peaceful coexistence, and opposition to colonialism, racialism and imperialism as the main aspects of its foreign policy. Bangladesh emerging quite late in the International scene, has remained busy defining its role and determining its objective from different perspectives. But different regime its foreign policy has changed by the different formula and ideology. Because from the birth of BD has dependent on different people roles, which are changing the motto of BD foreign policy in different time of their own wish. Such as, Sheikh Mujib government foreign policy and Ziaur Rahman government foreign policy were not because of their ideology or person interest.
The foreign policy population has been clearly articulated in Bangladesh by now and everyone knows where we stand (Ahmed, 2004). The foreign policy of Bangladesh is tied closely to the realities of its economic condition. Since independence the country has required a great deal of foreign assistance in the effort to keep its people fed and to build, for the first time, a modern society. Under these circumstances, it has been important for successive regimes to seek good relations with all nations and to attract economic aid from every possible source. Bangladesh has therefore cultivated good relations with both the United States and the Soviet Union, and their respective allies, but it has remained unaligned with either superpower. In an attempt to stimulate regional development plans, Bangladesh has been instrumental in organizing regional economic cooperation in South Asia. It has also been active in international organizations, especially in those dedicated to solving the economic problems of the poorer countries of the world. Foreign policy of Bangladesh is desires peace not only for the sake of peace but also for the strategic consideration of national development and security. But sometimes it’s wrong on implementation, because in BD different political regime has implied different role. So Bangladesh foreign policy is changing foreign policy, in given below I will extent about Bangladesh foreign policy in different political regime.
Evolution of Foreign Policy of Bangladesh
The foreign policy of Bangladesh is based on the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM). From early of independent Bangladesh followed a principle in her foreign policy that, “Friendship to all, malice to none”. Bangladesh has consistently pursued an independent non- aligned foreign policy promoting friendship with all countries of the world on the basis of mutual respect for sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity and non interference in the international affairs of others states (Ministry of foreign affairs,1979). Bangladesh desires peace not only for the sake of peace but also for the strategic consideration of national development and security.
The government has provided a mission statement reflecting this, and is a guide on which its foreign policy is conducted. It is:
n The State shall base its international relations on the principles of respect for national sovereignty and equality, non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, peaceful settlements of international disputes, and respect for international law and the principles enunciated in the United Nations Charter, and on the basis of those principles shall-
a) Strive for the renunciation of the use of force in international relations and for general and complete disarmament;
b) Uphold the right of every people freely to determine and build up its own social, economic and political system by ways and means of its own free choice; and
c) Support oppressed peoples throughout the world waging a just struggle against imperialism colonialism or racialism.
n The State shall endeavor to consolidate, preserve and strengthen fraternal relations among Muslim countries based on Islamic solidarity.
The Constitution embodies the basic principles of foreign Policy; that says, the state shall base its international relations on the principles of respect for national sovereignty and equality, non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, peaceful settlement of international disputes and respect for international laws and principles as enunciated in the United Nations Charter.
Constitutional Provisions and Declaration on Foreign Policy in Bangladesh
The Constitution provides that the foreign policy of Bangladesh would be guided by a number of fundamental principles. These principles were stated in the Articles 25(a), (b) and (c) of the Constitution. These are as follows: The State shall base its international relations on the principles of respect for national sovereignty and equality, non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, peaceful settlement of international disputes, and respect for international law and the principles enunciated in the United Nations Charter, and on the basis of those principles shall (a) strive for the renunciation of the use of force in international relations and for general and complete disarmament; (b) uphold the right of every people freely to determine and build up its own social, economic and political system by ways and means of its own free choice; and (c) support oppressed peoples throughout the world waging a just struggle against imperialism, colonialism or racialism.
Dimensions of Relations of Foreign Policy of Bangladesh
When Bangladesh was freedom from Pakistan at that time was polarization which time in the world are divided into two centric, one side was USA and another was USSR. After Second World War one country depend on other country, its greatly growth. In BD after independence have recognized from various country such as, USA, UK, India, USSR. But one time relation with other state was good but now its not good as like Russia and Bangladesh relations. It’s like a broken and making policy relation in different time or regime.
Evaluation of Foreign Policy in Different Regimes
As Bangladesh is dependable to international aid; so, she always tries to promote her foreign relation. Although foreign policy of Bangladesh is based on friendship, but strategies were changed in various regimes. These are as follows-
Sheikh Mujib’s Regime
After independent Sheikh Mujib (the Father of the Bangladeshi Nation) returned from Pakistan jail. First of all he emphasized on the reconstruction of the country as well as achieving international recognition as an independent state.In dealing with external actors, Sheikh Mujib had to follow a similar policy of balancing the various groups. During the Liberation War, India and Eastern blocks countries supported Bangladesh. In the months immediately following independence, they remained the staunchest allies. A twenty five year Peace and Friendship treaty was signed with India in March 1972. But Bangladesh also pursued friendly relations with the Western block countries who quickly became the major source of humanitarian and economic assistance (Jahan, 2000). He also took some initiatives. Such as-
n Returning of refugees and ensuring shelter for them.
n Reconstruction devastated economy.
n Collecting weapons from freedom fighters which are used in war.
n Send back Indian soldiers to their own country.
n Sheikh Mujib tried to maintain close relation with those countries who helped Bangladesh in the time of war. He made a good relation with USSR. He was very grateful to India.
Successes of Mujib’s regime: Sheikh Mujib was able to achieving concern of international community about Bangladesh. India recognized Bangladesh on 6th December and Bhutan recognized on 7th December in 1971. In the mujib’s period East European socialist countries recognized Bangladesh. For his adroitness India take back their soldiers by 16 March in 1972. He played a vital rule to making a close relation with UN.
Sheikh Mujib is the Pioneer of foreign policy of Bangladesh. He also tried to expand foreign relation to world community, but some deviated generals of army killed him with his family in 15 August 1975.
The Zia Regime
After the assassination of Sheikh Mujib, Khondoker Mustaq Ahmed, a Cabinet Minister of sheikh mujib government took power but it did not last long. There was a counter-coup on 3rd November, 1975 in which Khondoker Mustaq was removed from power. On the 7th November 1975, after many ups and downs General Zia took the throne. First of all he brought back discipline among the soldiers. Then he looked forward. In the opinion of many observers, Zia, although ruthless with his opponents, was the nation’s best leader since independence. A dapper military officer, he transformed himself into a charismatic and popular political figure. Once described as having an air of “serene hesitancy and assured authority,” Zia had boundless energy and spent much of his time traveling throughout the country. Zia preached the “politics of hope,” continually urging all Bangladeshis to work harder and to produce more. Unlike Mujib, Zia utilized whatever talent he could muster to spur on the economy, and he did not discriminate, as Mujib had, against civil servants who had not fully participated in the freedom struggle. Zia was a well-known figure who first emerged nationally during the independence struggle. Zia also tried to integrate the armed forces, giving repatriates a status appropriate to their qualifications and seniority. This angered some of the freedom fighters, who had rapidly reached high positions. Zia deftly dealt with the problem officers by sending them on diplomatic missions abroad. Zia made repatriate Major General Hussain Muhammad Ershad the deputy army chief of staff. Having consolidated his position in the army, Zia became president on April 21, 1977, when Sayem resigned on the grounds of “ill health.” Zia now held the dominant positions in the country and seemed to be supported by a majority of Bangladeshis.
One of the most important tasks Zia faced was to change the direction of the country. Zia altered the Constitution’s ideological statement on the fundamental principles, in particular changing the Shiekh Mujib emphasis on secularism to “complete trust and faith in almighty Allah.” While distancing Bangladesh from India, Zia sought to improve ties with other Islamic nations, particularly Saudi Arabia. The work opportunities for migrant labor in Muslim countries were an incentive for developing such friendly relations. Similarly friendly relationship with the west. A major source of foreign aid, was emphasized and indeed the volume of foreign aid increased significantly.(Rounaq,2000) Throughout his regime, Zia pursued an active foreign policy, and the legacy of his efforts continued to bear fruit in the late 1980s. In 1980 Zia proposed a conference for the seven nations of the subcontinent (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) to discuss the prospects for regional cooperation in a number of fields. This initiative was successful in August 1983 when the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation was established.
In the regime of the most development of foreign policy were:
n Relations with the Islamic or Muslim World.
n Relations with the Chaina.
n Relations with the India in different bilateral issues.As- Gangass issue, South Talporti Island issue, Problem of Tin Biga Coridor, Sea boundary problem in the Bay of Bengal.
After August 1975, there was a seismic shift in bilateral relations with India. Meanwhile China and Saudi Arabia recognized Bangladesh after the assassination of Sheikh Mujib and were prepared role to play in Bangladesh and President Zia put more emphasizes on its relation with China, Islamic and Western Countries and moved away from Indo-Soviet axis (Rashid, 2004). Zia was assassinated in Chittagong on May 30, 1981, in a plot allegedly masterminded by Major General Manzur, the army commander in Chittagong.
After Zia regime General Ershad took the throne in 24th March 1982. In the foreign policy he followed the methods of his previous President Zia. General Ershad tried to make very close relation to Muslim Community especially with Middle East countries. This is the fact for degradation of the relation with USSR. In 1983, fourteen diplomats of USSR expelled in Bangladesh.
President Ershad emphasized on the political and military relation with China. He nourished obstinate relation with India. For his diplomatic weakness some issues were unresolved. Such as- South Talpotty, Returning of Indigenous People, Farakka project etc. Ershad was able to making a good relation with occidental. For a rapport America helped Bangladesh in 1987and 1988 in natural calamity.
Khaleda Zia Regime
After the falling of General Ershad, Begum Khaleda Zia took the throne by election. She followed her husband in foreign relation. The characteristics of her foreign policy was –
n Promoting relation with United States.
n Making rapport with China.
n Making close relation with Muslim World.
n To make SAARC as an effective organization.
n Maintaining good relation with India.
n To increase investment.
n Emphasize on economic diplomacy.
n Begum Zia visited China, India for promoting economic and commercial relation. She talked over unresolved issues with India. She also visited Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Italy, South Korea etc. for foreign investment in Bangladesh.
Successes of Khaleda Zia Regime:
n Sending Peace Keeping Force in UN from Bangladesh.
n Playing a vital role in SAPTA Treaty.
n Playing an effective role on exporting human resources.
n To accelerate CHT accord. (although CHT accord was signed at Hasina’s regime)
n To get lease Tin Bigha Corridor by contacting with India.
n To sign MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Myanmar on Rohingiyas issue.
Sheikh Hasina Regime
Sheikh Hasina elected Prime Minister in 1996. She followed some method in foreign policy. Such as-
n Resolving bilateral problem with neighboring countries.
n Economic diplomacy.
n Commercial investment.
n Upholding national ideologies.
n Promoting friendship.
n Implementing CHT accord in june02,1997.etc.
n In 2000 Bangladesh achieved ICC test status. In Hasina’s regime Prime Minister of India H. D. Debgoura, Pelestine’s President Iasir Arafat, Nelson Mendela, Bil Clinton visited Bangladesh to promoting foreign relation.
Khaleda Zia Regime
Khaleda Zia elected as Prime Minister again in 2001. She followed her previous foreign policy and tried to promoting these. She tried to lessen border collision between BDR and BSF. Pakistan President Parvez Mosharraf visited Bangladesh to promoting commercial relation. Begum Zia visited China, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Singapore, Malaysia and United States to promoting bilateral relations.
Caretaker Government and Military Intervention
That’s time in Bangladesh has faced vulnerable situation. In that time, Bangladesh has no relation with another country. No treaty or bilateral relations has organized in that two years.
Sheikh Hasina Regime
Hasina government has mobilized of his prior foreign policy, specially relationship with India has develop increasingly, such as-
n Transit treaty with India and Bangladesh.
n Border security with India
n Tista river conflict with India.
n Trade Agreement between India and Bangladesh
n Defense Agreement in 2017 etc.
Ideology Influence on Foreign Policy in Bangladesh:
In Bangladesh there have different criteria which have influence on foreign policy, such as-
n Awami League government main policy is secularism, so its time India and Secularist countries relations are good then the Muslim Countries.
n On the other hand, BNP is rightist and nationalist, so that’s time we see the relationship are good with Muslim Countries then the India or other secularist countries.
n When AL get power in BD, that time India relationship with BD is so much good of another regime in BD, which we are following at present government, but migrant of labor to middle-east has less, lack of foreign policy assumption.
With the changing of time, the nature of foreign policy of Bangladesh has changed. The foreign policy of Bangladesh is connected to its dire domestic and economic position. The extreme poverty that engulfs many Bangladeshis limits the capability of the government to act on the global stage, as priority is that people need to be fed. However, these conditions also make it important for successive political regimes to maintain good relations with all nations and to attract economic aid from every possible source. Bangladesh has therefore very friendly relations with global superpowers such as the U.S.A. and Japan, but it does not take sides as to not make enemies. Bangladesh has been key to arranging regional economic cooperation in South Asia, which has stimulated domestic economic growth. It has also been active in international organizations, especially in those designed to solve the problems of the poorest people of the world. Despite its vast poverty and relatively small military capability, Bangladesh has not hesitated to defend its sovereignty and to take strong stands on many international issues. Any hint that India might try to intimidate Bangladesh has provoked a fierce response. Furthermore, Bangladesh has irritated.
Powerful nations by standing against them on various major issues, and relations with both the United States and the former Soviet Union have gone through difficult periods. Bangladesh has also looked to maintain its Islamic identity, has encouraged very friendly relations, and has attempted to build a worldwide Muslim community with other Islamic nations. These friendly relations it has enjoyed with Islamic nations have led to the receipt of economic aid from wealthy Arab countries.
As an active participant of the UN, the Non-Aligned Movement, the OIC, the Commonwealth and various international organizations, Bangladesh has been a part of global politics. Bangladesh led the formation of SAARC-a regional co-operation forum comprising seven South Asian countries-Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Bangladesh has also tried to enhance economic co-operation in the region, which led to the formation and implementation of SAPTA or South Asian Preferential Trading Arrangement.
Bangladesh has a very pro-active foreign policy, despite its domestic problems and extreme poverty. Regionally it has been instrumental in securing economic growth and in arranging trade agreements. Globally Bangladesh has been active in its support for certain agendas, especially those that help the world’s poorest people. The phenomenon of Global warming and Globalization are also set to have a colossal effect on Bangladesh so the nation has been adjusting its foreign policy to solve these problems.
The Islamic identity of Bangladesh means that it has close relations with other Islamic nations, and its past as a colony of the British Empire has resulted in very close relations with Britain as well as membership of the commonwealth. Bangladesh does not accept dominance by other nations, but will aim to maintain friendly relations with the world’s most powerful nations to stimulate domestic economic growth and improve the poverty stricken situation of its people. If necessary, Bangladesh will not hesitate to defend its rights, and has fiercely responded to aggression by India in the past. The genocide committed by the Pakistan army during 1971 has not been largely forgotten but mostly forgiven, and relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh are strong. Bangladesh also has good relations with China. The main issues facing Bangladesh currently are Global warming, and the security situation in the region with tensions between China, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. The War on Terror has not bypassed Bangladesh either; the U.S. has monitored the complaints from India that there are terrorism camps in Bangladesh.
The writer is PhD Researcher, Political Science and Public Administration (English), Ankara Yildirim Beyazit University, Ankara, Turkey.