Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen was on Tuesday critical of Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka Li Jiming for on Monday saying that bilateral ties between the two countries will be ‘substantially damaged’ if Bangladesh joins Quad alliance.
“We are an independent and sovereign country. We determine our foreign policy and we will decide what we should do. We will do what is good for our people,” the foreign minister said terming the Chinese envoy's remark 'unfortunate'.
“We do not expect such behaviour from a country like China. Generally China never interferes in others’ affairs,” he said adding that others should not dictate to Bangladesh what to do and what not to do.
Dr Momen also made it clear that none from the Quad had approached Bangladesh to join the four-nation grouping comprising USA, Japan, Australia and Canada and in that sense the Chinese ambassador’s was ‘an undue comment made in advance.’
“But we will decide what to do. For the sake of the interest of the people, you have seen that many times many people have said many things, but we always have done only what is right for our people and what safeguards the interest of our people,” he said.
“We maintain a non-aligned and balanced foreign policy and we will continue to do it,” Dr Momen added.
Citing that in the late 90s, the US government asked Bangladesh to export gas but the then prime minister sheikh Hasina told them clearly that Bangladesh could not do that without ensuring a reserve for its people for the next 50 years, he said, “She had the courage to say ‘no’ to a powerful country like the USA because, to her, the interest of her people is the top priority.”
“He [the Chinese ambassador] said something...that’s okay, but we do not have any comment on this” the foreign minister added, hinting that the government was not taking the comments made by the Chinese ambassador seriously.
“…any country can present their views, and we have respect for others’ views. But we will determine what to do and what not to do. We decide that on the basis of our basic principle and for the sake of the people’s interest. They can say whatever they want. He is representing a country, and he has expressed his country’s views,” he said.
The issue of joining Quad came up during the visit of Chinese defence minister to Bangladesh recently. According to the Chinese official news agency, he requested Bangladesh not to join Quad during his meeting with Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid.
Commenting on the issue, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said last week that Bangladesh has no intention to join any military alliance.
“We are against joining any military alliance but we are in favour of a free and open Indian Ocean” the made it clear when asked to comment on the Chinese defence minister’s request to Bangladesh for not joining Quad.
Bangladesh wants free trade through sea routes, he added.
Foreign Minister Dr Momen, however, said Bangladesh has already joined China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for economic development, and also agreed to take part in the economic cooperation under the Indo- Pacific Strategy, an initiative promoted by the USA.