THE visit of the US secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to Bangladesh was typical of any such visit anywhere in the world by any minister of any American government. During her stay in Dhaka, the former first lady also provided a classic introduction to hegemonic diplomacy — praise for the host government’s ‘commitment’ to democracy, human rights, rule of law, etc; acknowledgement of the opposition camp’s concerns; assurance of the US government’s continued support and cooperation; and, of course, a reasonably long list of what the US has done and plans to do for global peace and prosperity. In the end, however, there was hardly any tangible benefit for Bangladesh; there was no commitment whatsoever either to grant duty-free access of Bangladesh’s readymade garments to the US market or to resume diversity visa lottery for Bangladesh.
It had all been on the cards, though; yet, the ruling elite — the government and the opposition alike — virtually grovelled before Clinton, to curry favour with the supposedly most powerful state in the world. It is such perverse preoccupation with the West — especially the United States — that has prompted the ruling elite to increasingly align Bangladesh with the US-led so-called global war on terror. When Clinton praises Bangladesh’s role in the international fight against terrorism, it only suggests that such alignment may have been complete, which is worrying. The terrorism that the US-led Western countries are fighting is mainly a resistance against the state-sponsored terror that they have unleashed on many countries across the world, to further their imperialist agenda. Bangladesh, which is the offspring of decades of anti-colonial and anti-imperial political struggle, is expected to side with the resistance against the US-led imperialist hegemony. If it means that we would be on ‘the wrong side of history’ in the eyes of the US and its murderous allies, so be it.
Even before Clinton landed in Dhaka, it had been clear that her whirlwind tour of Asia was part of a revitalised US interest in the Asia-Pacific region. She has recently said that ‘One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region’ and that ‘a more broadly distributed military presence across the region will provide vital advantages’ — apparently as part of its China containment policy. On board the US plan is none other than India, which has consistently displayed a disdainful disregard for Bangladesh’s concerns and interests. Not surprisingly then, Clinton chose to praise the Bangladesh government’s ‘efforts’ to offer transit to neighbouring countries, read India, but maintained silence over killing of Bangladeshis by the Border Security Force of India or New Delhi’s plan to erect the Tipaimukh Dam on a trans-boundary river, persistent refusal to share equitably the water of common rivers, unwillingness to remove tariff and para-tariff barrier to exports from Bangladesh, etc.
Such duplicity of the US is neither unprecedented nor isolated. In fact, double-standards have come to be the cornerstones of the US diplomacy these days. Hence, when Clinton talked about democracy, human rights and rule of law, there is hardly any reason to feel encouraged and assured. After all, the US currently is the most potent enemy of democracy, human rights and rule of law in many countries and regions such as Afghanistan, Iraq, West Asia and even Pakistan. Indeed, all sides should ‘construct a political dialogue’; there should be ‘thorough and independent investigations’ of enforced disappearances and murders; and all parties need ‘to do everything necessary to support democracy, to plan for another free, fair and credible election’ but not because the US government wants but because that is how it should be.
Of course, society in general and its conscious sections in particular need to sustain the pressure on the ruling elite, especially the government, to resolve these issues and thus dispel the growing political uncertainty. Equally importantly, however, they need to remain alert so that the ruling quarters, in their insatiable greed for partisan and material gains, become the US’s poodles and, in the process, make Bangladesh its doormat. It is not just a question of national pride but also independence and sovereignty of the state. Some people have seen through the US duplicity and staged protests against Clinton’s visit; it is time that more people joined in.