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Bangladesh: MOFA’s Denials Unconvincing

Dr. Richard L. Benkin

Information was brought to me recently that the Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry—and in particular, Foreign Advisor Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury—is unhappy about recent articles in Weekly Blitz by senior reporter of the newspaper, M Ali Ahsan, reporting on the rise of Iranian influence in the country and Bangladesh’s continued be movement in an anti-American direction. Let us first look at what the articles said and what the Foreign Advisor did.

Several articles in Blitz reported on the recent “Al Quds” rally in Dhaka, which was attended by several members of the Foreign Ministry including Dr. Chowdhury. None of the articles allege that the Foreign Minister himself made any anti-American statements there; but they do report several anti-US statements made by prominent individuals joining him as participants; like this one by Workers Party leader Haider Akber Khan Rono. “American imperialism is determined in spreading wings around the entire world. All of the boundaries in Bangladesh are under US capture.” Another speaker, Professor Emaz Uddin Ahmed said, “US administration is rogue.”

Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish leader Moulana Mohammed Ishaq said, “If the Muslim nations were not licking feet of Unites States, Israel would have already been eliminated from the global map.” Those were only a sample of the anti-American vitriol at the event—an event for which the Foreign Minister sent a letter expressing his government’s solidarity with the program.

It is customary—in fact, expected—among world leaders and diplomats that if government officials happen to be at an event where inflammatory words are uttered to the offense of a friendly nation, they will issue an official statement to the effect that the comments made do not reflect their personal beliefs or government positions. This is simply what is expected—and especially so when the official is a member of the Foreign Ministry who should be well-versed in the language of diplomacy. It is even more incumbent on the officials if they had expressed solidarity with the conference and by extension those comments. But the Foreign Ministry was silent—an especially grave mistake considering that diplomats and world leaders are as attuned to what is not said as to what is said.

They can draw one of only two possible conclusions. The first is that the Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry is so inept, so amateurish that it does not know the very basics of international relations. The second is that the Bangladeshi government agrees with the anti-US screeds at a conference with which the Foreign Minister said in writing that he is solidary. Either way, people in the United States Congress and elsewhere in the government have another reason to suspect regular pleas coming from the Bangladeshi embassy in Washington to consider them allies in the war on terror. It is by no means the first piece of evidence contradicting those pleas, and from the look of things it will not be the last.