Sheikh Hasina's diplomatic wizardry

Oct 11, 2016
By Nadeem Qadir
It has been 45 years since Bangladesh was born, with Russia in our favour and China along with the United States taking an “anti” stand in the name of what they called the “ping-pong diplomacy.”
Governments came and went, with the US recognising Bangladesh reluctantly and China vetoing our entry into the United Nations.
China only recognised Bangladesh after the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the man they held responsible for breaking up Pakistan.
Beijing steadily became Dhaka’s friend in the years that followed without an Awami League government.
A far-sighted Sheikh Hasina took her maiden visit to China as an opposition leader in what was then called an “ice-breaking” trip.
Beijing was exceptionally warm to her, and signalled that it was also courting her despite its strong relations with Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
But BNP made a blunder of its tested ties with China by allowing Taiwan to open a representative office with full consular services.
China thought BNP has given a slap on its face despite standing strong with it since military Ziaur Rahman’s time.
Sheikh Hasina, maintaining strong ties with Russia and India, started to build ties with Beijing. Balancing China, India, and Russia is no easy task, but it is indeed Sheikh Hasina’s diplomatic wizardry.
It is her leadership charm and charisma, along with strategic planning, that has put Bangladesh centre-stage of international and regional politics.
In an attempt to carve out innovative ways to strengthen the more than three decade old bilateral and diplomatic relations with the emerging Asian giant, Sheikh Hasina undertook a high-profile five-day official visit to China since coming to power for the third time.
And it was her first foreign visit since taking charge of Bangladesh’s new government, after the landslide victory in the December 2009 elections.
Sheikh Hasina, maintaining strong ties with Russia and India, started to build ties with Beijing. Balancing China, India, and Russia is no easy task, but it is indeed Sheikh Hasina’s diplomatic wizardry
The much anticipated high level talks between Sheikh Hasina and her Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao yielded a resolution to create a “closer comprehensive partnership of cooperation.”
This was a crucial stepping stone in Sheikh Hasina’s ambition to get a “comprehensive partnership” with Beijing, according to analysts.
The landmark talks dealt with a spectrum of issues that were significant for both countries. China gave a positive answer to Hasina’s call for Chinese financial aid and technical support for development projects, collaboration in agriculture, and the power sector.
Chinese premier Web Jiabao assured Hasina of overall backing and support in all areas.
We have seen how the US has taken a U-turn on its relations with Bangladesh as Sheikh Hasina disagreed with Washington on some issues, including the execution of 1971 war criminals.
Now, with the upcoming visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping from October 14, this will take Dhaka-Beijing ties to new heights, as China has committed to becoming the number one development partner of Bangladesh.
It is already a major defence partner with tanks, frigates, and fighter jets in the Bangladesh armed forces, besides being a partner in the prestigious Padma Bridge project.
Bangladesh — now for the first time since independence — enjoys a balanced relationship with all the major players.
Beijing may now help in solving our probelms with neighbouring Myanmar, and also push Aung San Suu Kyi to open the road through her country to link South Asia to Southeast Asia and onto China.
Dhaka Tribune, October 11, 2016

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