Thorny issues with neighbours impede diplomatic success

Sheikh Shahariar Zaman
Published : 09:40, Jan 14, 2020 | Updated : 09:43, Jan 14, 2020

A general view of Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi, India. GOOGLE MAPSA person may change his/her neighbour but that is not possible for a country and therefore, in global diplomacy, the neighbouring country is always given preference and Bangladesh is no exception. But there are some differences of opinion with the neighbour which prevents Bangladesh from getting the needed advantages.
For Bangladesh, the closest neighbours are Myanmar and India and from a historical perspective, Pakistan also takes keen interest in Bangladesh. With these countries, Bangladesh shares similarities but there are areas of contention also.
On climate change, eradication of militancy and expansion of regional trade, Bangladesh shares similar position. But the vexatious points are Rohingya issue with Myanmar, water sharing plus National Register of Citizens (NRC) with India and interference of Pakistan in internal matters.
Former Bangladesh ambassador Liaqat Ali Chowdhury said: “Bangladesh’s the policy about neighbouring country is to maintain a cordial relations; but this is often hampered due to presence of some irritants.”
Saying that Bangladesh is always eager to find a solution to the problem, he said: “Sometimes, despite knowing the solutions, we cannot pursue them due to circumstances beyond control.”
Therefore, regular dialogue is needed which is not possible all the time.
“The Bangladesh government has taken a bold step and has improved relations with India and everyone has to work to solidify the link.”
He also alluded to the current strong ties with USA and Vietnam saying that once they were sworn enemies with Beijing and Moscow supporting Hanoi.
Former adviser to the caretaker government, AB Mirza Azizul Islam, said: “The government is not too vocal about killing at the border and the NRC issue has to be resolved with clarity. We cannot let the NRC issue pass on the grounds that it’s an internal matter. Also, the Teesta issue is stalled.”
Talking about the Rohingya issue, he observed: “India, China and Japan have economic interest in Myanmar and so, cannot create any pressure on them. ASEAN countries are also inactive. We need to increase our diplomatic efforts here.”
Regarding Pakistan, he said: “Statements issued by Pakistan when collaborators during the liberation war were given death sentence are not acceptable and this is the only thorn with them.”
Several foreign ministry officials say: “We have several contentious issues with neighbours which our top officials have mentioned at international forums.”
“We have been working with the Rohingya issue for some time and have changed our foreign policy towards Myanmar; the NRC issue has been discussed at the highest levels of two governments and regarding trial of war criminals our stand is firm; we did not accept the Pakistan high commissioner selected for Bangladesh two years ago; however, they sent another proposition at the end of last year whom we accepted.”