Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Credit: Weekly Blitz - Photo: 2023

Behind Biden Administration’s ‘Democratism’ in Bangladesh

Viewpoint by Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury*

DHAKA, Bangladesh, 23 May 2023 (IDN) — The Biden administration is aggressively pushing forward its ‘democratism’ policy with the ulterior motive of kowtowing targeted foreign nations through its so-called approach for a better democracy.

The aim, analysts say, is to establish a monopoly influence of the United States with the ulterior motive of extracting multiple strategic and financial benefits by planting its marionette regime. At the same time, China is expediting its diplomatic approach intending to counter the US and establish its dominance in the world.

Following Western sanctions on Russia, the global economy is witnessing a drastic ‘renegade’ where a large number of nations are moving towards de-dollarization and establishing alternative payment methods. India is already expanding its new financial policy by sidetracking dollars while Bangladesh has started using the Chinese Yuan in making payments to Russia for the ongoing Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.

For obvious reasons, the United States is not feeling delighted seeing several countries already moving towards a new era of de-dollarization. Chinese success in mediating the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran although is seen by most Western analysts as “too early to comment” or an effort which would “fall flat soon”, others say, this has proved one key issue—China is gaining momentum in its global diplomacy.

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According to Christopher Mott, a Research Fellow at the Institute for Peace and Diplomacy, “While the long-term results of the People’s Republic of China’s diplomatic outreach into bothn the Middle East and Ukraine remain unknown, it is apparent that the foreign policy establishment in Washington DC was taken aback by the speed at which Beijing’s reputation is rising“.

But they shouldn’t be, he adds. “The long-running Saudi-Iranian rivalry has been partially fueled by the United States, meaning that Washington could never serve as a reliable mediator for all parties. China’s distance and relatively non-partisan-seeming approach to the region, however, enables more parties to be willing to at least discuss putting aside one of the more dangerous rivalries of the twenty-first century.“

“Elsewhere, India plays an agile game of diplomacy, neither endorsing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nor rejecting its long-standing and beneficial security relationship with Moscow that dates back to independence. Brazil, increasingly, kowtows no one’s line at the UN and is quick to question narratives from the great powers. France asserts that European core interests and North American core interests are rapidly diverging.

Meanwhile, as America’s relations with China are gradually reaching the point of a cold war era psychological and geopolitical battle, Bangladesh’s growing relations with China are not making Washington policymakers delighted, especially when Bangladesh has already become extremely important in Indo-Pacific geopolitics. America does not want any third party’s influence in the region subsiding its one. In this case, for Washington, both Beijing and New Delhi are strategic rivals.

Since Awami League came to power in 2009 under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Dhaka has been gradually strengthening relations both with Beijing and New Delhi, despite the fact, China and India are competing in establishing influence over South Asian nations.

The matter has been somehow overlooked by the Obama and Trump administrations to a great extent, but the Biden administration has adopted a policy of stopping the world from slipping from its decades of almost monopoly influence.

Washington wants a government in Dhaka that would give priority to America’s interest over national interest. They want a Hamid Karzai-type government in Bangladesh and some other nations, including Nigeria, Turkey, and Central Asian countries.

To satisfy the Biden administration’s desires, America needs a political party in Bangladesh that is in desperation in going to power in exchange for unconditional loyalty, instead of bargaining with Washington on issues such as allowing Washington in setting its naval base in the Bay of Bengal, waging war against Myanmar on Rohingya issue and continuing cross-border insurgency within northeastern states in India thus keeping New Delhi on toes.

It is no more unknown to anyone that the Biden administration is once again pushing forward America’s warmongering agendas, which would greatly benefit the country’s military-industrial complex, which has always been a major donor in any of the elections.

Moreover, the majority of American policymakers—both in the Senate and Congress—are directly or indirectly benefiting from the military-industrial complex, while some of them are even recipients of kickbacks that land into their hidden offshore accounts thus making their political careers a “profitable venture”.

Jamaat-e-Islami has been enjoying decades-old cordial relations with the United States as this party serves American purposes under the garb of Islamism. Jamaat’s cousin organization Muslim Brotherhood is a brainchild of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), whereas Washington funded and instigated Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in waging the so-called Arab Spring, which was designed to overthrow rulers in the Middle East and replace them with American puppet regimes.

In Bangladesh, Jamaat-e-Islami is readily offering its absolute obedience and loyalty to Washington, once it can return to power – either solely or by remaining in coalition with Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). It may be mentioned here that both Jamaat and BNP are hardline Islamists, with anti-India ideology, whereas none of these parties are committed to China.

Since 2014, Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami have been vigorously pushing forward their lobbyist activities in Washington DC with the target of gaining the sympathy and support of the US government. But, due to their Islamist nature, Donald Trump did not grant them any access.

Things started moving in favor of BNP and Jamaat, when Joe Biden entered the Oval Office, and America once again resumed its policy of meddling in domestic affairs or foreign nations and expanding American influence in those countries. This is where the Biden administration has found a match in BNP and Jamaat in pushing forward its ideology of democratism.

In 2022, eminent scholar Dr. Emily Finley released an important and comprehensive book that charts the history of this worldview. In ‘The Ideology of Democratism’, Dr. Finley charts how the world view of Rousseau, built upon by later additions coming from Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, John Rawls, Leo Strauss, and up through the Bush Era neoconservatives, injected a universalist faith in liberal democracy as the guiding principle of not just specific societies and local circumstances (the preference of Washington), Hamilton, and the early Federalists in US history), but of the entire world.

Democratic systems are no longer outgrowths of particular historical and geographic circumstances but are taken to be the inevitable destiny of all of mankind. For a democracy to be threatened anywhere is to be threatened everywhere. Thus, democracy becomes a kind of civic religion known as “Democratism”.

America’s Blueprint in Bangladesh

On 10 April 2023, during his meeting with Bangladesh’s foreign minister, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the whole world, including the US, is looking at the elections in Bangladesh. In addition to this, Washington talks about the new criteria for the election—setting a strong example of free and fair elections for the region and the world.

It was probably the most challenging diplomatic assignment any diplomat could have wished for. Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen’s meeting with US Secretary of State Anthony J Blinken on 10 April was understandably a delicate one, not least for the unusually harsh public criticism of the US by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that preceded it, but for convincing his host that Bangladesh can deliver a free and fair election.

The opening statements by both the foreign policy chiefs were broadcast live on the State Department’s YouTube channel, which made it easier for us to understand the tone of the talks. In a very short opening statement, Secretary Blinken said, “We’re looking—the world is looking—to Bangladesh for its next elections, to make sure that they set a strong example for free and fair elections for the region and the world”.

Bangladesh’s foreign minister’s response was all about thanking them for their partnership and appreciation to President Biden for using the words “Joy Bangla” in his letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 26 March, Independence Day of Bangladesh.

Following the meeting, Antony Blinken in a tweet said: “I underscored that free and fair elections and respect for human rights, media, and civil society are critical as we seek to deepen US-Bangladeshi ties”.

In his statement, US State Department’s principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said that the secretary [Blinken] “reiterated our commitment to promoting inclusive economic growth, free and fair elections, human and labor rights, and freedom of expression in Bangladesh. Additionally, Secretary Blinken expressed concerns about violence against and intimidation of the media and civil society, including under the Digital Security Act [DSA]. He underscored that free and fair elections and respect for human rights in Bangladesh are critical as we seek to deepen our bilateral relationship”. At a separate media briefing, Vedant Patel termed the DSA “one of the world’s most draconian laws for journalists”.

It may be mentioned here that earlier the US Department of State, on its ‘2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Bangladesh’, which was released recently, the US State Department said: “Leaders and members of Jamaat-e-Islami (Jamaat), the largest Muslim political party in the country, could not exercise their constitutional freedoms of speech and assembly because of harassment by law enforcement authorities. Jamaat was deregistered as a political party by the government, prohibiting candidates from seeking office under the Jamaat name”.

This statement drew tremendous criticism in Bangladesh.

We have been witnessing the Biden administration’s over-enthusiasm focusing on Bangladesh’s next general election, while Washington has been almost openly exhibiting its anti-Awami League bias through multiple actions. They also have been trying to portray BNP and Jamaat as “victims” and even angelic political forces while in their latest interpretations, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government has been publicly demonized by the Washington policymakers.

While American policymakers are repeatedly talking about Bangladesh’s next general election to be free, fair, and participatory, they are fully aware of BNP’s mindset of boycotting the election unless it is held under a so-called interim government comprising chosen individuals or the party. Meaning, Washington wants to create a political vacuum in Bangladesh thus paving the path for any undemocratic element in coming to power.

*Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research scholar, and Editor, Blitz, a newspaper publishing from Bangladesh since 2003. He regularly writes for local and international newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @Salah_Shoaib [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Credit: Weekly Blitz

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