While attending a Janmashtami event on Thursday in Chattogram, foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said that during his recent visit to India, he had requested them to do everything that was needed to keep the present government in power in Bangladesh.
With an India visit scheduled for prime minister Sheikh Hasina next month, this remark by the foreign minister has sparked off strong reaction amount various quarters. Former diplomats and analysts feel that the foreign minister’s statement is not only embarrassing for the diplomats of the two countries, but humiliating for Bangladesh too.
This statement by the foreign minister has created a stir in the country’s political arena too. Various parties have been reacting sharply and angrily to his words. Many contend that this has tarnished the image of the country.
While addressing an event on Friday in Dhaka city, Awami League general secretary and minister for road transport and bridges, Obaidul Quader, highlighted the stand of the party and the government in this regard. He said the government had not given anyone the task of requesting India to keep this government in power. Awami League had made no such request. It was the foreign minister’s personal remark.
He (Abdul Momen) doesn’t seem to bother about what can be said and what cannot be said. The choice of words is extremely important in diplomatic ties. He has being displaying continued failure in this contextTouhid Hossain, Ex-foreign secretary
On the same day, in Tungipara, Gopalganj, the foreign minister faced questions from the media on the same issue. He explained the statement he had made the previous day, saying, “I had said we want the stability of Sheikh Hasina to remain in place. We will be very happy if you (India) help us in this regard.”
Diplomatic and international relations experts say there is no scope to interpret the statement of a cabinet member as his personal statement. The statement of a minister is taken to be the government’s statement.
According to the analysts, the present government’s proximity with India is no secret. India lent direct support to Awami League in the one-sided election of 2014 and the controversial election of 2018 as well. Everyone is aware that without India’s support in the 2014 election, it would have been hard for Awami League to manage the situation.
Diplomats feel that even if there had been talks of India’s closeness and support, this should not have been revealed in public. The foreign minister’s unwarranted comment will create unease for the diplomats of both countries.
His comments lack dignity. While the country is entering another level economically, the tactless remarks of the foreign minister reflect a lack of competence in the country
Speaking to Prothom Alo Friday morning, former foreign secretary Touhid Hossain said, “He (Abdul Momen) doesn’t seem to bother about what can be said and what cannot be said. The choice of words is extremely important in diplomatic ties. He has being displaying continued failure in this context.”
He further said, “India wants a friendly government in Bangladesh. In that context, it is clear that Awami League is reliable to India. It is not understandable why it was necessary to make such a request to India. If he made such a request, this was very wrong of him. And even so if he did, it was not right to make it public.”
Several diplomats, on condition of anonymity, told this correspondent, the US has imposed sanctions on RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) and seven former and serving officers of the force for serious human rights violations. At Bangladesh’s request, India has also been trying to have the sanctions against RAB lifted.
The foreign minister in April revealed to the media this request made to the neighbouring country to have the US lift its sanctions. When the Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar visited Bangladesh in April this year, the newspersons questioned him about this. He replied, “You had better pose the question to Dr Momen.”
But the reactions and responses to Abdul Momen’s remark made on Thursday have surpassed all past reactions. He said he had requested India to do anything that was required to keep the incumbent government in power. He made the comment at such a time when both countries are preparing for prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s Delhi trip next month.
Bangladesh’s former ambassador in Washington, Humayun Kabir, speaking to Prothom Alo about the foreign minister’s remark, said, “From the very outset he has been making such irrelevant remarks in connection to India. Such remarks are very degrading for the country. Needless to say, such remarks also create embarrassment for the diplomats of both the countries. And it is clear that the foreign minister is making such remarks thoughtlessly.”
This correspondent spoke to several diplomats, local and foreign, about this latest statement of the foreign minister. They say there is no way that these remarks of the foreign minister can be taken lightly. His comments lack dignity. While the country is entering another level economically, the tactless remarks of the foreign minister reflect a lack of competence in the country. It creates apprehensions regarding the country’s image.