Dhaka: The Ukraine war has complicated things for Bangladesh with the Moscow-Washington rivalry presenting a test for Dhaka’s non-aligned foreign policy. A report by the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) pointed out that the country needs to maintain its relations with both the US and Russia which would be difficult in the form of war.

The testing moment comes as the country prepares for two major elections. The Bangladesh Election Commission announced last week that the election for the next President of Bangladesh will be held on February 19 and another important event in the form of general elections is due early next year.

In the midst of all this, the political opposition in Bangladesh, mainly the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the banned Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh (JEI), organized large protest rallies in an attempt to gain relevance and counter the positivity. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been credited with political stability, much improved socio-economic indices, and a change in the law-and-order situation in the country since she returned to power in January 2009.

According to EFSAS, the external pressures that Bangladesh has come under since Russia invaded Ukraine last year reached such proportions that an enraged Foreign Minister Abul Kalam Abdul Momen felt it necessary to caution that his country did not want any foreign interference in Dhaka’s internal affairs.

Bangladesh has in the last few years, also had to carefully balance its relationship with US and China as there has been escalating competition between the two. Dhaka views both as important for Bangladesh’s long-term interests and would like cordiality and cooperation with each. Bangladesh Live News recently reported that Bangladesh is caught between China and the United States as both want a strategic alliance with the country as they wrangle over superpower status in the region.

The US is worried that its recent tensions with Bangladesh could turn into an opportunity for China to come closer to it. Recently, Bangladesh foreign minister A K Abdul Momen, said that: “Bangladesh wants to maintain good relations with both US and China. That is a challenging thing.”

Bangladesh’s relationship with Washington has been troubled since December 2021, after the US declared sanctions on Bangladesh’s elite security force, the Rapid Action Battalion, over alleged human rights violations such as enforced disappearances. Relations further soured in 2022 after the US asked Bangladesh to ensure that the upcoming elections were free and fair. Momen said that his country does not need to take lessons on democracy from other countries.

Dhaka, however, also has tensions with Beijing.

According to Bangladesh Live News, in May 2021, China’s then-ambassador to Bangladesh said that if the South Asian country joins any initiative launched by the Washington-led Quad alliance, the relationship between the two countries will substantially get bad.

In response, Bangladesh said that it is a sovereign state and will make its own decisions regarding the country’s foreign policy.

By Archana

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