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The Financial Express

Nuances of international relations


File photo used for representational image File photo used for representational image

Few can say for sure that the existing friendly ties between two nations will not deteriorate into prolonged hostilities. Ever since the creation of the modern states, completely different from feudal rules or absolute monarchies, the concept of international relations had also kept changing. In the 20th and the first quarter of the 21st centuries, the ties between the nations globally active in political and economic spheres, witnessed changes not experienced before. Especially in the post-World War-II phase, completely new equations in international ties began taking shape. Despite being allied for six years (1939-1945) against the 3-nation Axis powers led by Germany, the US and the Soviet Union began distancing from one another in the 1950s. A number of politico-economic issues expedited this straining of ties between the two superpowers. It resulted in the world being divided into the Western and the Soviet camps. The other large and mid-level stakeholders like China, France, UK and many Asian, African and South American nations struggled hard to remain independent. Of them, France had already begun being counted as an industrial as well as nuclear-armed power. 

 China, the new communist country, also nuclear armed, began stepping into the international theatre as the latest entrant as an industrial giant. By that time, the 1947-1991 US-Soviet Cold War began emitting heat. By the 1960s, clouds were seen gather on Cuba, Vietnam and, also, the newly emerged South Asian states of India and Pakistan. By the time the Cold War ended in 1991, the world order had a changed look, witnessing the crumbling of the Soviet Union, and China's turning to its home-grown socialism, and welcoming market liberalisation. The US and its European allies, thus, began calling the shots in the global sphere. 

In 2022, with the Russia-Ukraine war raging with no signs for any let-up in the foreseeable future, the world diplomacy appears to be ripe enough for wearing a new look. As could be expected, it is now the US, the lone superpower with ambitions in many global sectors, which finds itself apparently duty-bound to straighten things up. Against this backdrop, the 8th US-Bangladesh Security Dialogue was held in Washington on April 6, with the two countries preparing to sign two defence deals. The term 'defence deal' may lead many to think the two countries are about to sign pacts aiming at reducing tension in a regional turmoil. In reality, these are routine talks reviewing the progress in security cooperation in the areas of maritime, peacekeeping, counterterrorism and transnational crimes. At the 8th US-Bangladesh Security Dialogue, discussions were held on two critical defence agreements. According news media, the Bangladesh participants stressed completion of formalities before the signing of the security dialogue next year. The 'pacts' of General Security of Military Information Agreement and the Acquisition Cross Servicing Agreement are believed to enhance opportunities for defence trade, information sharing and military-to-military cooperation between the two countries. 

Despite the amiable setting for the discussion on security issues, the issue of the sanctions on the Bangladesh strike force RAB and seven individuals created an uncomfortable atmosphere at the meet. 

The 8th Bangladesh-US Security Dialogue follows a process which started in 2019. In that year Washington sought to sign the deals, as Dhaka wanted to buy from the US sophisticated defence equipment to modernise its armed forces as part of Bangladesh Armed Forces Goal 2030. As a section of foreign relations experts view the developments, it is Dhaka's recent tilt towards China that may have prompted the US to have the agreements finalised and signed. In fact, the whole world is passing through a geostrategic shift, as China keeps widening its regional influence by going ahead with its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In spite of the US reservations, China remains Bangladesh's chief supplier of defence equipment. Moreover, Bangladesh has joined China's BRI. Another section of Bangladesh foreign policy experts believe Dhaka ought to rethink about its relations with the US. 

In the year of 2022, fifty-one years after the country's Liberation War, Bangladesh cannot erase from its memory the unexpected opposition of the USA to the emergence of Bangladesh; nor can it forget the American threat of sending its Seventh Fleet to the country at the end of the Liberation War. It was because the common Bengalees were accustomed to holding 'America' high in esteem for its strong democratic legacy and institutions. The country's founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was also optimistic about the formal US recognition to Bangladesh. It was because the otherwise great nation's people extended their full support to the 1971 Liberation War. Bangabandhu tried to strike a balance when it came to maintaining warm ties with both the mighty powers of the USA and the then Soviet Union. In 1975, when the leader introduced the one-party rule of BKSAL, he had, in fact, expressed his solidarity with the now-defunct Soviet Union. It was its historic veto against the proposal for a ceasefire in the 1971 War being fought by the joint forces of the Bengalee Freedom Fighters and Allied Forces of the Indian Army which sealed the fate of the forces working against the creation of Bangladesh.  

In fact, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib had fought throughout his political career for parliamentary democracy. A number of his close associates believe the formation of BKSAL was a temporary measure to stop the political and economic chaos which threatened to destabilise the newly independent country. That the USA didn't like the BKSAL experiment was implied. 

Five decades later, new political and security-related issues kept unfolding in the Asian region. At the same time, it was being sucked into the cauldron of big power rivalries, apart from undergoing the impacts of distant conflicts like that in Ukraine. 

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