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Monday, August 17, 2020

[mukto-mona] Opinion: Shouldn't China apologize to Bangladesh?

Shouldn't China apologize to Bangladesh?

Chinese wolf-warrior diplomacy was on the lookout for 'friends' in South Asia to create political pressure on India. China brought together their all-weather friend Pakistan, new ally Nepal, debt-trap Sri Lanka under its folds, except Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Bhutan.
China seems desperate to take diplomatic and economic ties with Bangladesh to a new height.
Since 1991 after a democratic government took power the China-Bangladesh relationship was intertwined for the partnership for economic development.
The new pro-Islamist regime of Khaleda Zia reached out to China to shrug off Indian influence which was an extended strategic gain for both countries.
China and Pakistan was the major military hardware supplier to Bangladesh military forces, which was also needed for United Nations Peacekeeping operations. The weighing scale plummeted under the growing influence of the China-Pakistan axis and penetrated deep into politics, bureaucracy, and economic development of the country.
In subsequent years, China emerged as the major economic partner in mega infrastructure development in Bangladesh and the cheering politicians began to beat their chest like King Kong.
Sheikh Hasina, a woman prime minister for successive fourth term has told her government officials that Bangladesh will give second-thought regarding multi-billion dollar development projects with China.
The world media reports have caught the attention of the Bangladesh leaders regarding several third-world countries were caught in debt-trap in South Asia, Africa, and the Pacific Ocean Islands. What happened was the country's national exchequer failed to repay the huge loan invested in mega projects. China in a bid to salvage the debt-trap government took a 99-years lease of maritime ports and other facilities. End of the story!
Not very long Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of assassinated Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founder of Bangladesh has reassured the Indian journalists that India is an 'organic' friend of Bangladesh and have jointly shed blood during the brutal independence in 1971. She also said that China is a development partner and there is no conflict of interest. In 1971, the marauding Pakistan troops in eastern war theatre in desperate attempted to keep the two wings of Pakistan united. Pakistan troops and their Islamic militia continued to commit genocide and rape as a weapon of war. Pakistan troops were in a quagmire. In the monsoon rain in floodplain delta coupled with Mukti Bahini guerilla's hit and run operations gave the soldiers a hard time. Fortunately, Pakistan an ally of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) received unlimited military supply and political support for the war to suppress the people. Like the Pakistan media, Chinese media were tight-lipped of the genocide committed by marauding soldiers. China should admit the responsibility for the genocide perpetrated by Pakistan's military hawks in Bangladesh. For each victim of genocide, China delivered gifts via the Rawalpindi hawks which were "Made in China" bullets in brass that were pumped into the martyrs who wanted an independent Bangladesh.
China ignored world opinion on the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971. CCP closed their ears not to hear the cries and agonies of 10 million refugees who fled to neighboring India. Many countries in the world do not have 10 million populations!
On the other hand, on request of the Bangladesh government in exile, Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani, chairman of the pro-China left-leaning National Awami Party's appeal to the CCP for political support for Bangladesh went unanswered. Instead, China increased the supply of arms and ammunition.
After independence, China continued to politically and diplomatically harass the newly emerged independent nation.
The architect of Bangladesh's independence, Sheikh Mujib after three weeks of the historic surrender of 93,000 Pakistan armed forces and para-military forces in Dhaka, had returned from the prison of Pakistan.
He took charge of a war-ravaged nation with a promise to feed the hungry people and task to rehabilitate the millions of refugees slowly trickled back home from camps in India. This phenomenon created a challenge for the new government. By April 1972, one after another, including the United States, Canada, Great Britain, European countries, allies of the Soviet Union, Japan, Australia, and scores of countries recognized the war-torn nation of 75 million. The trouble started when Bangladesh applied for membership to the United Nations in 1972. China spontaneously twice vetoed Bangladesh membership in the United Nations as the country desperately needed international food aid and budget for rehabilitation of the returnees from Indian refugee camps. China deliberately vetoed the application because two United Nations resolutions regarding the repatriation of Pakistani prisoners of war (POWs) and civilians held in India had not yet been implemented. Chinese move was certainly to keep Pakistan in good humor.
To withstand Asian-giant China, Sheikh Mujib to add diplomatic clouts joined the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), The Commonwealth, and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), which indeed strengthened Bangladesh foothold in the global arena.
However, Pakistan recognized Bangladesh in 1974 under duress of the leaders of Islamic nations weeks before the OIC conference.
Even after diplomatic recognition by Pakistan, China continued to intimidate the government of Sheikh Mujib.
Overtly the pro-Beijing communist parties in the country received political blessings from CCP. The left parties despite divided into several factions opposed the liberation war, rejected independent Bangladesh, and expressed dissent on the government of Sheikh Mujib, blaming him a stooge of India.
The pro-Chinese extremist groups remained underground and their parties deliberately had prefix "East Pakistan (Purbo Pakistan)" or" East Bengal (Purbo Bangla)".
Not to anybody's surprise, the left extremist raised their heads above the ground and made the unconditional suspension of armed struggle during the military junta on the behest of the CCP's.
Mujib in his book 'Amar Dekha Nayachin' (New China As I Saw) had visited China twice. First in 1952 and second in 1957. During his visit, he met both Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and other CCP's key leaders. He was confident that the Chinese leaders would listen to his request to recognize Bangladesh.
Stubborn Mujib opened diplomatic channels to win the heart of CCP. Pakistan's veteran envoy to Beijing (1969-1972), Ambassador Khwaja Mohammad Kaiser, a member of Nawab clan in old Dhaka after his tenure in Beijing opted to return home.
Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai confided to Ambassador Kaiser that he understood his difficulties. Well, Kaiser returned to Beijing, as Bangladesh Ambassador in 1984 for two years.
Mujib had also despatched a journalist and poet Faiz Ahmed to China. Faiz had friends in high places among CCP leadership when he was working in Radio Peking (now Beijing) Bangla Service in the 1960s. Faiz was Mujib's play card game partner in Dhaka prison during 1966-1969. There he heard of Faiz's relationship with the Chinese political leaders.
He traveled to Beijing via Hong Kong and met the CCP senior leaders. Unfortunately, he returned home with an empty hand. Despite the missions reached a dead end, Mujib did not lose hope.
Finally, China recognized Bangladesh, but not an elected government of Sheikh Mujib, but after his brutal assassination on 15 August 1975. China recognized the regime governed by coup leaders.
China was among the last countries to recognize independent Bangladesh on 31 August 1975.
The 'dirty dozen' army officers, mostly liberation war veterans who spearheaded the mutiny remained in power for 84 days. Expect for few fugitives most of the leaders were captured and rewarded the death penalty.
CCP's anti-people policy during the bloody birth of Bangladesh, overtly providing military aid to Pakistan which augmented genocide with Chinese bullets should apologize. CCP should also apologize for harassing Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. #

First published in The South Asian Digest, Montreal, Canada on 12 August 2020

Author is an independent journalist, media rights defender in Bangladesh. Recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He could be reached at; Twitter: @saleemsamad

Recipient of Ashoka Fellow (1991) & Hellman-Hammett Award (2005)
Freelance Journalist & Columnist
Correspondent, Reporters Without Border (RSF)
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