Uncle Sam in war of Begums!

   By Vijay Darda | 4-12-2023

Why is America interfering in Bangladesh elections and what has Russia objecting?

Vijay Darda

Elections are an internal matter of any country. The world keeps an eye on what the results of the elections will be because they affect foreign policy. However, if a country’s election becomes a source of contention among the world’s superpowers, the situation appears unusual. The issue is that elections in Bangladesh are scheduled for January 7. Bangladesh’s two Begums, incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), are at odds. Meanwhile, America has spoken out against Sheikh Hasina, and Russia, as usual, has raised the flag of hostility. The question is why?

Sheikh Hasina has been in power continuously in Bangladesh politics since 2009. She won the two subsequent elections, although the Bangladesh Nationalist Party claimed Sheikh Hasina rigged them. This time too, if elections are held while she is in power, she will ensure her victory. Sheikh Hasina is known for her strict administration. She has cracked down on radicals and almost crushed terrorism. She has not shied away from executing terrorist leaders. Despite this, America does not like her. America says that elections in any country should be held in a democratic and transparent manner. Sheikh Hasina’s record is dubious. American opposition to Hasina came to the fore when US Ambassador Peter Haas met BNP leaders and asked them to end differences with Jamaat-e-Islami. Since Khaleda is under house arrest, it was not possible to meet her. Khaleda’s son Tariq is in London because he has been sentenced in Bangladesh in the case of an attack on Sheikh Hasina.

The natural question is why America sympathises with Jamaat-e-Islami which has been facing serious allegations of terrorism. America is also being criticised for this but it is following its own course. To sway the voters of Bangladesh, it announced in May this year that those who create obstacles in the way of fair elections in Bangladesh and their families will not be granted US visas. Actually, I believe America’s posture is motivated by two factors. One reason is that China enjoys excellent relations with Bangladesh. China is its biggest trading partner and the second is that Sheikh Hasina is not listening to America. Whenever India informed Bangladesh about any wanted terrorist there, Sheikh Hasina immediately handed him over to India. Sheikh Hasina believes that America wants her to be its puppet.

Understandably, the United States opposes Sheikh Hasina while Russia supports her. Although Russia did not mention America by name in its statement, it plainly stated that the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of any country is being breached. Countries claiming to be developed democracies not only interfere in the internal affairs of other independent countries but also impose illegal sanctions in an attempt to blackmail them. As soon as Russia issued this statement, America got upset. The US Embassy in Dhaka promptly responded by tweeting, “Does the principle of non-interference in third countries apply to Ukraine?” The Russian Embassy responded by tweeting a cartoon ridiculing America and its allies. It’s worth recalling that, even during the 2014 elections, America was harsh on Sheikh Hasina, while India, Russia, and China backed her.

Sheikh Hasina, on the other hand, worked hard to enhance her relations with the United States. There was some improvement in the situation, but the next year, Bangladesh did not vote at the United Nations on the Ukraine issue, which enraged America. Even though Bangladesh voted against Russia in the United Nations General Assembly, America wants Bangladesh to act as per America’s wishes rather than its own.

In a way, it has resorted to threats. In June of this year, the US Ambassador visited the Bangladesh Election Commission and urged Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal that elections in Bangladesh should be transparent. The European Union and Japan have also made such statements many times. I feel that neither America should become the overlord of the world nor Russia should sharpen the sword. The whole world is watching what the cronies of America and Russia have done to Afghanistan. Will they lead Bangladesh down the same path of misery? China is also trying but India with its skill has prevented it from interfering in Bangladesh. Everyone should understand that the elections to be held in January are an internal matter of Bangladesh and should trust the voters there. Those who criticize Sheikh Hasina should remember that she has crushed terrorism and brought Bangladesh to a new level of economic prosperity.

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