By: Ashis Biswas
A section of Bangladeshi media analysts, unlike their more diplomatic Indian counterparts, has taken a distinctively acerbic view of the role played by Ukraine in Europe and elsewhere in recent years. The mainstream Dhaka-based media however is broadly supportive of their country’s present neutral positioning on the war in Ukraine.
For the record, Bangladesh like India has called for moderation, seeking an immediate end of the Ukraine conflict and an early negotiated settlement. It has neither condemned Russia as the aggressor, nor imposed any sanctions against it following the call of the Western bloc. Dhaka regards both Russia and Ukraine as ‘friendly’ countries.
No wonder the censorious stand taken by some Dhaka-based observers on Ukraine comes as a surprise. They also endorse the official decision not to disrupt in any way all existing trade/business arrangements with Russia, regardless of mounting Western pressure to the contrary.
Some writers have also scathingly attacked the alleged double standards on part of the US/EU allies explicit in their contrasting reactions towards the endless Rohingya Muslim exodus to Bangladesh from Myanmar and to the situation now evolving in East Europe.
Despite Myanmar’s established record of carrying out an anti-Muslim genocide for years, the West has not felt it necessary to impose crippling sanctions on the Naypitaw-based Army rulers. Analysts ascribe such western restraint to its policy of not offending the ruling army junta in view of the rich natural/mineral resource base of Myanmar, which it may need accessing for future development of manufacturing industries in the US or EU. As of now, far too many resource-rich countries like Russia, Iran or Venezuela have become political untouchables for the West.
Again, it is not a question of securing long term Western economic interests only. The ‘tread softly in Myanmar’ policy is also useful in not letting China have a free hand in South Asia.
By not declaring stringent Russia-like sanctions against the army Junta headed by Gen Min Aung Hlaing, it has been alleged, the West is securing its own long term economic interests. Assets worth only $1 billion were ‘frozen’ by way of ‘punishment’ in addition to ‘restrictions’ imposed on a few people. No wonder followers of Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the pro democracy movement in Myanmar felt short-changed and declared that such leniency would only encourage more rigidity within the ruling Army against protestors who rose against the new regime.
True or not, this explains in part why Myanmar shows little interest in repatriating over 1.1 million of Muslim Rohingyas, former Myanmar citizens, driven out forcibly from the Rakhine province, Except for making promises to Bangladesh and advancing financial help occasionally, the US/EU bloc has not shown much initiative to ensure the return of the Rohingyas to the Rakhines.
The standard Western argument has been that economic sanctions against Myanmar will end up hurting the hapless Burmese community as a whole.
In contrast, the US and Europe have imposed by their own admission the most stringent of economic sanctions targeting the entire Russian population despite their non-involvement in the present war!
Such an instant yet overwhelming reaction indicates that Western powers were pre-disposed to bring about a regime change in Russia, culminating in the ouster of President Vladimir Putin – never mind the hardship, sacrifice and high political/economic price that Russian people must pay/suffer in the process! It also exposes the fear of the declining West about the resurgent Russia backed by its major powerful ally, the new rising China’, says Charubrata Ray, Kolkata-based analyst.
Bangladeshi analysts argue that not only have Western countries have announced sanctions, they are also pressuring other countries including India and others , to fall in line and cut off all financial engagements with Russia–period ! This is simply unacceptable in the multi-polar world of 2022.
It is not surprising that most major countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America have not followed the West. Bangladesh has announced that it would not in any way curtail any existing trade/business arrangements with Russia. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has announced that all ongoing projects, such as the construction of the $12 billion nuclear power plant at Rooppur will continue as scheduled and the second such plant too would be built, on schedule.
Bangladesh as of now is suffering from a critical shortage of natural gas, which has hit its industries hard. Even in normal times it has a power shortage to contend with. It buys gas from neighbouring India and other sources. Its decision to set up nuclear power plants had been taken long back, keeping in view the long term energy requirements of its expanding local industrial/ manufacturing base.
As for Ukraine: the country has always been a part of the US/EU bloc in matters relating to foreign policy. Despite its current denials issued under duress, the fact remains that Ukraine had always pressed for an entry into the anti –Russian military alliance, NATO.
Among major questions being discussed among Dhaka-based experts are the following: “After the dissolution of the USSR, why was the membership of NATO increased from 12 to 30? Who is being targeted in Europe and why has it been found necessary for smaller entities like Montenegro, Estonia, Luxembourg, Lithuania and Albania, for heaven’s sake! – join a military alliance possessing a nuclear arsenal? Who has threatened them? Would the US ever accept the emergence of a military alliance at its doorstep, based off Panama or Cuba?”
More alarmingly, the NATO’s exertions to further the cause of democracy and the pursuit of universal happiness were NOT necessarily restricted to Europe only. Like the erstwhile Soviet-led Warsaw Pact, older Western military alliance like the SEATO or CENTO exist no more. But that has hardly changed anything.
It has been NATO which has been involved in the long, and eventually fruitless military campaign in Afghanistan, an ill-advised misadventure leaving the Afghans with a ruined economy, a devastated country and countless poor people currently looking to recover the basic necessities of life!
It needs stressing strongly, troops from Ukraine had participated in the Afghan campaign. Today Ukraine is accusing that democracy has been trampled by Russia, its aggressor in east Europe. Its critics in South Asia point out that Ukraine had never protested even verbally against the mistreatment of displaced Palestinians and the loss of their human rights by Israel, backed by the West, at any level!
The present Indian Government led by Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, whatever its other faults, has made it unapologetically clear not only to Ukraine but to the US and EU as well, that they deal with a sovereign country capable of securing its own long interests – thanks, but no thanks to others. (IPA Service)