Bangladesh can't ignore suggestions from the US, says foreign minister

Momen says Bangladesh take advice from the US “very seriously” but work according to the reality

Senior Correspondent
Published : 27 Nov 2023, 03:41 PM
Updated : 27 Nov 2023, 03:41 PM

Although Bangladesh takes advice from the United States about the election "seriously", the government operates according to the reality of the country, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has said.

Asked about the chief election commissioner's comment that foreign powers were "meddling with" election preparations on Monday, Momen said he had not heard about the remark.

"But it's true that America is a superpower and we can't ignore them. Neither do we intend to do so," he said.

"So we take their [US] advice very seriously. But we work according to the reality of our country.”

Earlier on Monday, CEC Kazi Habibul Awal said foreign powers have been ‘meddling with’ the preparation of the upcoming 12th general election.

While the Election Commission prepares to hold national elections in January, interference from foreigners was ‘unfortunate but a reality’, the CEC said.

There was no alternative to a free, fair and acceptable election to secure the future of the nation, Awal added.

Pointing out that an improper election would pile pressure on the economy, he said: ““We need to ensure that the election is free, fair and credible to save our economy, future development and the garment sector.”

The CEC also talked about the statements issued by the United States over the elections, adding: “I can't dictate the US the way it can command me. That is another reality.”

Awal also mentioned that ‘sovereignty’ is a ‘relative’ issue.

On the CEC’s comments, Momen said: “We’ve kept constant involvement and communication [with the US] in case they propose something realistic. We apprise them about the good and bad and they make suggestions based on our reality.”

Mentioning that the US was “practical”, he said even if the country takes a position at the start of an issue, they do change their stance if something “actually occurs”.

Momen reminded everyone about the US position during the 1971 Liberation War, mentioning that it breached the country’s own and international laws to provide support to the Pakistan government to carry out genocide.

“But when we were liberated on Dec 16, the US persistently gave us uninterrupted support. Which meant that ‘a country has formed and we are with them’.”

“I think we ourselves want a proper election. It’s their only demand and the US doesn’t ask too much of us -- they seek a free and fair election, something that we also want. They are helping us.”

“Rather we’d ask them to include those trying to spoil the election into their visa restriction policy. They can do whatever they want with [those obstructing elections].”

The United States has many parties but not all of them participate in elections, said Momen, who spent a lot of time in America.

On the CEC’s remark about a fair election being key to saving the garment sector, Momen said it was no cause for concern.

After the US lifted the quota system for Bangladesh garment exports in 2005, everyone was expecting a negative impact on the industry, but on the contrary, the exports increased by several times, he said.

“People don’t buy the goods we sell abroad out of kindness. We simply sell good products at cheap prices on time and that inclines people towards buying them,” Momen said.

“And in America it’s a private sector and the people in the private sector buy our goods. They buy goods of good quality at cheap prices which are delivered on time. We’ve acquired proficiency in that. So there’s no reason for us to fret.”

Asked whether diplomats who raised their voices about the election before but were quiet at the moment were being “forced” to be silent, he said the government had “no power” to do so.

Momen said Bangladesh was always welcoming of advice from friendly nations aimed towards a transparent and proper election.