Foreign Policy of Bangladesh: A comparison among the Regimes

foreign policy of Bangladesh

Since the independence as a nation, Bangladesh has an identity of her own. Similarly, our government has a unique foreign policy as like as other countries. But it depends on the philosophy of the particular political identity of a party that forms the government. It is not surprising at all. Each and every government after the independence followed its own philosophy while practicing foreign policy. It would be very interesting to know the foreign policy practices and their characteristics of their foreign policy priorities. In this context, we can discuss the foreign policy of Bangladesh in accordance with the banner of particular regimes.

The father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman formed the government soon after the independence. Under his guidance, the nation fought for the liberation war. This emotional attachment with Sheikh Mujib helped him to restore governance in the country. Mujib government prepared the constitution within one year. It was clearly mentioned that the foreign policy principle of Bangladesh would be “friendship to all, malice to none”. This principle guided the cooperation of the Mujib government in the South Asia region. Cooperation with the neighboring states, the European countries, the Middle East countries, and the regional and global organizations such as, the Commonwealth, the OIC, the United Nations, were possible due to the friendly approach from the government.

But the Mujib government had a special attraction for India. Probably it would be for the assistance provided by the Indian government during the liberation war. Again, the foreign policy of the government was influenced by the then political agenda of the international politics. But it is interesting to know that though the Mujib government followed India oriented foreign policy, the diplomatic relation of Bangladesh with the then Soviet Union was not bad either. In spite of being one of the oppositions of the independence of Bangladesh, the relation with the United States was also in a good terms. I think that the post liberation war period was handled intelligently by the Mujib Government because of the wise foreign policy philosophy with all.

The foreign policy of Zia government was influenced by the Islamic philosophy and regional cooperation. The relation with the Islamic countries was in a very good term. President Zia was the initiator of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Moreover, the Zia government had established a better relation with the neighbouring countries. As he restored the democratic election system, the support from the United States was upper-hand. The cooperation with Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries were becoming stronger because the foreign policy philosophy of the Zia government was based on the Islamic solidarity and brotherhood. But the negative side is that the relation with India was deteriorating. In other words, the foreign policy of the Zia government was anti-India. The issue of the South Talpatti island, the Farakka barrage and the Ganges river basin remained unresolved.

The Hussain Mohammad Ershad government almost followed the footsteps od Zia. He mentioned his philosophy by declaring the Islam as the state religion of Bangladesh. The Ershad government also put emphasize on the regional cooperation. He fulfilled the incomplete work of Zia and materialize the dream of establishing SAARC. As Ershad was a military dictator, he was not successful in pursuing the state foreign policy at all. Though the relation with the Islamic countries were good, the unresolved issues with India were deteriorating further.

The Khaleda Zia government followed the almost similar foreign policy as like as Zia towards other countries. But this government had established a better relation with Pakistan. Even, Pakistan expressed its national apology to Bangladesh for the barbarous crime in Bangladesh in 1971. The Khaleda Zia government also ignored the importance of maintaining a good relation with the neighbouring country, India.

The Sheikh Hasina government came into power in 1996. This government’s foreign policy was based on the philosophy of secularism. The regional cooperation with the Commonwealth, the OIC and the United Nations was maintained successfully. Furthermore, the Sheikh Hasina government emphasized on the relation with the neighbouring countries especially with India. But the secularist philosophy had weakened the relation with the Islamic countries.

The second Khaleda Zia government, the second Sheikh Hasina government similarly pursued their foreign policy. But the regime of the present government of Sheikh Hasina has been following a vast arrangement of foreign policy. Due to the war crime trial of the liberation war of 1971, the relation of the present government with the Islamic countries especially with Saudi Arabia because most of the Islamic countries do not want this trial. Moreover, the Dr. Eunus issue has made the relation with the United States a critical one. The foreign policy of the present government has achieved a success in resolving the issue of enclaves and the Bay of Bengal’s boundary case.

Foreign policy reflects the goal and interest of a nation. So, it is very significant to identify the national interest at first. Otherwise, the approach will be weakened and the stronger states will have the most part of it. The representatives of the people only think about the making a good relation with the country which is very useful for particular party interest. As a result, most of our foreign policy initiatives go in vain. In fine, we can say that though different regimes of Bangladesh have different philosophy towards the countries, the approach is always peaceful. The core principle of our foreign policy is “friendship to all, malice to none.” Whoever is the government, peaceful approach of our diplomacy has proved our peaceful nature as a nation. But in this way, sometimes we are deprived while claiming our rights. The powerful and economically rich states often dominate the negotiations. So, it is very necessary to follow a win win game policy when we demand something from the partner and claim for rights. Unless and until we realize our potentials and capitalize our strengths properly and act according to our limitations, we will not be capable of gaining most from our foreign policy, rather we will lose the most.

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