Bangladesh case: What is the need for diplomatic channels if ambassadors become critical in the media or in public on all minor matters? By Nandita Roy

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Foreign diplomats poking their noses at the country's internal affairs does not fall within the Vienna Convention. Although the government has repeatedly expressed its enthusiasm on this matter, the foreign ambassadors are not stopping talking. The government warned the ambassadors and heads of missions of 13 countries including the United States for talking about the internal affairs of Bangladesh. The ambassadors of the countries have been called and informed about the displeasure of the government regarding a joint statement centered on Ashraful Alam, an independent candidate for Dhaka-17 seat. Foreign diplomats are becoming active day by day about the upcoming parliamentary elections. Elections are internal affairs of the country. The interference of foreign envoys in the internal affairs of our country is unfortunate. State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam held a meeting with the diplomats of 13 countries of the European Union including the United States at the Rashtriya Guest House Padma on Wednesday and expressed the government's displeasure. He says that the joint statement given by them has been prepared very quickly. It did not mention the steps taken by the government. So there are questions about its objectivity and objectivity. Diplomats present at the meeting were urged to follow the Geneva Conventions and refrain from unethical conduct. The election commission and the government have taken legal measures as soon as they learned about the untoward incident. But the two were arrested long before the diplomats gave their statements on July 19. On July 18, it was also published in the media. But even after taking legal action, these diplomats have called for taking legal action, which is unwarranted. We are also in favor of fair and peaceful polls. A new independent and impartial Election Commission has already been formed. Everyone needs to have confidence in that impartial Election Commission. There is no opportunity to bother with foreign envoys' comments in advance. Foreign interference in the politics of Bangladesh is an old phenomenon, especially after the assassination of Bangabandhu, when the military forces started participating in the politics of this country, what to do and how to do Bangladesh, all the instructions kept coming from abroad. Even though money was provided for politics from Pakistan and the Middle East countries, politics was controlled mainly on the basis of the United States and its intelligence activities. Although the picture of such interventions has changed somewhat, it cannot be said to be decreasing. It appears that the foreign ambassadors are commenting on the election management, fairness and neutrality of the elections ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections. According to political analysts, we are responsible for such a situation. We are giving opportunities to foreigners to speak. Whenever the politicians of this country are out of government, they appear to foreigners with 'complaints'. This is the political reality here. Interference in internal politics by ambassadors is unethical. But just as diplomats are responsible for conducting unethical activities, the lack of coexistence between the conflicting political parties in Bangladesh is equally responsible. Bangladesh has progressed a lot now, there has been a lot of progress in economic and social fields. So we need to respect ourselves. There will be problems and they have to be solved through discussion and protest among themselves. All political parties and groups need to get out of the political system of defaming or complaining about the internal affairs of the country. So that foreigners cannot interfere in our internal affairs. Several foreign diplomatic missions in Bangladesh have repeatedly provided fodder for discussions. They are giving many speeches on political issues. The Government of Bangladesh and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are in close contact with friendly countries. Development and commercial partners may need to know or communicate different things. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was the competent authority to issue those messages. Not so, the foreign minister and deputy foreign minister of Bangladesh are not friends. But if the ambassadors become critical in the media or in the public sphere, what is the need for diplomatic channels?

 In November last year, Japanese ambassador to Dhaka Ito Naoki drew public attention and criticized the government and related parties by commenting on the voting process in the 2018 elections. This year it is seen that some diplomatic missions could not learn any lesson from that incident. 

This incident reminds us of the limits of foreign diplomatic activity in an independent-sovereign country. Etiquette was the main theme of the discussion about the diplomats' speeches. Being a foreigner, the native country cannot be admonished or reprimanded. In this regard we may remind them of the principles of the Vienna Convention of 1961. In that convention, states agree on the principles of diplomacy. Article 41 of the agreement states that all persons who enjoy the status and privileges of diplomats in another country shall be bound to abide by the laws and policies of that country. After this, it is said that the urgent instruction is that they cannot interfere in any internal affairs of that country. If this is the limit of diplomacy, then the diplomats of the 13 countries have already crossed it.

Bangladesh is a country of flexible foreign policy and has not yet behaved in any unpleasant way. In consideration of mutual trust, diplomats should reciprocate this behavior with good behavior.

All the foreign officials, including the United States, who have visited Bangladesh, are doing and will do, have said what they have to say to the government. They did not embarrass the government or themselves by making speeches or statements.

Diplomats in talks are urged to remember the Vienna Convention's milestones.

The activities of political parties in carrying out election programs are increasing in view of the National Parliament elections. The parties are giving counter programs to increase public participation. At the same time, as the elections are approaching, the activities of foreign diplomats are also increasing. They are making various comments about the election. Not only elections, foreign diplomats are seen to be active whenever there is any political crisis in Bangladesh.

Although the government party sometimes ignores the various comments of the diplomats, the opposition parties always support their comments with 'importance'. In such a situation, the section of the Vienna Convention that is spoken about by the government is the section 41 of the agreement. It is stated in subsection 1 of this article - "Those who enjoy the status and privileges of diplomats in any other country shall be bound to comply with the laws and policies of that country." Apart from this, they cannot interfere in any internal affairs of that country.'' Nevertheless, diplomats are seen to act on various issues of the country, which is practically a violation of the Vienna Convention. Finally, on July 17, independent candidate Ashraful Alam alias Hero Alam was attacked at a center in Banani of the capital during the by-election polling for Dhaka-17 constituencies. The statement called for a full investigation into the attack on independent candidate Hero Alam and accountability of the culprits. The joint statement was signed by the embassies and high commissions of Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States, and the European Union (EU).

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has warned the ambassadors and heads of missions of those 13 countries for talking about the internal issues of Bangladesh. Ambassadors were called to the Foreign Service Academy for a briefing on Wednesday (July 26). Later, the State Minister of Foreign Affairs spoke to the journalists. Shahriar Alam. He said, "I called the embassies of Dhaka which broke diplomatic norms and gave a joint statement to the media in the context of an unwanted incident centered on Ashraful Hossain alias Hero Alam, an independent candidate of Dhaka-17 constituency, on Wednesday. We expressed our displeasure at their undiplomatic behavior. We have said, this is an isolated incident, which cannot be used to judge the peaceful, fair and free elections of the whole day.'

One or two minor isolated incidents can and do happen in any election center. It happens even in developing countries. The entire electoral system cannot be questioned for that. Just a few days ago, there was widespread violence during the municipal elections in West Bengal, India. There were many casualties. No one was seen to make a statement about those incidents. We think that Bangladesh has the power to take any decision on its own internal matters. We do not think there is any need for foreign intervention here. We would like, in the future, such an undesirable situation will not be created. It's better for everyone not to be.

 

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