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The significance of Sheikh Hasina's present foreign tour

Bangladesh is a small and developing country but it cannot escape the effect of globalisation
Abdul Gaffar choudhury
The significance of Sheikh Hasina's present foreign tour

Sheikh Hasina is on a foreign tour now. This time she will observe Eid-ul Fitr outside her own country.

Recently she visited England for her eye and ear treatment. After a long, stormy campaign for the general election she did not take any rest but remains involved in the service of her nation. She is now 71 and she needs a proper break transferring the day to day responsibility to her associates. But she did not remain absent from her state duties even for a single day. I thought that after her recent London visit she will take rest for some days. So I was surprised when I read the news that she is going for a long foreign tour including Japan and Saudi Arab. Of course, this is not a pleasure trip. In the present difficult situation of the world her travel is significant. The power-drunk American president Donald Trump's war mongering nature and his war cry against Iran have created a dangerous situation in the Middle East. The ongoing trade war initiated by Trump with China has further added to the fearful situation worldwide.
Bangladesh is a small and developing country but it cannot escape the effect of globalization. Once globalization was hailed as a liberator of economy against the command economy of communism. But now globalization has restored an economy of equality and brought more chaos in the capitalist system. The world is now going through more confusion and confrontation. The 'most favoured trade partner of America' is now engaged in trade war with them. Now China is an economic super power and can fight with America worldwide as an economic giant. China and India both are now rising powers in Asia and Africa and both have had economic and armed rivalry and a competition to become super power in Asia. In the Middle East Russia of Putin is gaining ground rapidly and American influence both military and economic is waning.

In this complex situation of the world it is difficult for a small and developing country like Bangladesh to choose her real friend. In this case Sheikh Hasina's pragmatic foreign policy is praise worthy. She has established friendship and ensured economic cooperation with many countries who are not friendly with each other. In Asia Sheikh Hasina has pursued a balanced policy in maintaining a good relationship with China and India both. It was a Herculean task but she succeeded in her endeavour. India and Japan do not have a very good relationship with China. Sheikh Hasina has achieved good relation with Japan, maintaining a good relationship with China and India both.

Like the Far East, in the Middle East also Sheikh Hasina's pursuing of the middle path has succeeded. There are two power blocks in that region now. One is Saudi Arab and Israel alliance patronized by America, another is Iran, Qatar and Turkey alliance favoured by Russia. Bangladesh has made strong friendship with Saudi Arab which has become a strong partner in Bangladesh development. But Dhaka very tactfully avoided the relation with Israel. That did not annoy Iran and Bangladesh did not involve itself directly in the Middle Eastern conflict. This proves the success of Sheikh Hasina's foreign diplomacy. It is notable that the Prime Minister's present tour includes Saudi Arab and Japan which means she wants to maximize Bangladesh's good relationship with both the Far East and the Middle East. In the Middle East  America and Russia are now at loggerheads but without involving Bangladesh in this conflict, Sheikh Hasina is very skilfully  maintaining good relation and cooperation with both Moscow and Washington. She met Putin several times very cordially but without any cause that would annoy Donald Trump.  

In the Indian subcontinent, Hasina had to face more complex and difficult situation. The hostility between India and China presented a difficult choice to Hasina as to who she will choose as her ally. By continually opposing India and siding with Pakistan and China, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) headed by Khaleda Zia not only endangered the interest and sovereignty of Bangladesh, but also brought disaster on their existence. Awami League was known as a great friend of India and Indian congress. BNP propagated that Awami League was India’s stooge who pursued a pro-Indian policy which had been threatening the sovereignty of Bangladesh. When BJP first came to power in Delhi, BNP was joyous and hopeful that Modi government would not favour Sheikh Hasina and her fall was imminent. But Hasina's far-sightedness and experience in politics worked wonderfully and the Modi government in India also realised that their friendship with Hasina government will be more helpful to them than BNP.

Hasina also restored good friendship and cooperation with China without hampering India's various interests in Bangladesh. This balancing act in foreign policy of Hasina government has saved Bangladesh and kept the country far away from any international crisis. Her success in fighting with terrorism and her dealing with the Rohingya problem earned praise worldwide. Her master stroke is keeping India as a friend and establishing economic cooperation with China. China now is a great partner of the development of Bangladesh. But at the time of its independence it was against that war and an ally of Pakistan. Even after its independence, China's role was not favourable to Dhaka but Hasina's foreign policy has dramatically changed the situation. China now is a great friend of Bangladesh.  

In Bangladesh the so-called civil society and BNP-Jamaat alliance hoped that due to Bangladesh's friendship with India, China will not play a favourable role for Awami League in the recent election. But that expectation was not correct. China remained firmly committed to the economic cooperation with Hasina government. After becoming an economic giant by pursuing the capitalist path China is now facing the crisis of capitalism also. China's great hope to materialize 'one belt one road project' which would help her to become the greatest economic power is now in jeopardy. Most of the Asian and European countries are not willing to cooperate with this project. Even, China's great friend Pakistan has cancelled a treaty worth of 14 million US dollars. In Sri Lanka there is discontent that the interest rate of Chinese loan is excessive and detrimental to their economy. Nepal and Myanmar also cancelled a treaty with China related to the 'one belt one road project'.

China is also aware of the situation. When they are facing trade war with America they would not want to lose their Asian and African markets which they have occupied after a hard competition. There is no reason that China will wilfully pursue a policy which will deteriorate Dhaka-Beijing relation and cooperation. With the China-America trade war, another crisis is looming over the world which is Trump's war threat to Iran.

If Iran closes the Hurmoz straits and the oil supply is hugely disturbed then this crisis will surpass that of the Suez Canal. In this world situation Sheikh Hasina is visiting different countries which are playing a key role in Bangladesh's development. In the past Sheikh Hasina's successful fight against terrorism and her dealing with Rohingya issue have earned her worldwide praise. In the present world crisis it is hoped that her pragmatic diplomacy and her visit to different important countries will help Bangladesh to escape the present crises and help to stabilize peace and prosperity in the subcontinent.

London, Friday 31 May, 2019


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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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