- Israel offered to recognize newly-founded Bangladesh in 1972. Despite similar independence struggles, the logic of a strategic relationship, and the lack of direct hostilities, they still have no economic, defense or diplomatic ties. It’s time for change
- Bangladeshi foreign policy is “Friendship to all, malice to none”, then why wouldn’t Bangladesh extend friendship to Israel?
Silent changes are taking place in the politics of the Middle East. On Friday (September 11), Bahrain officially recognized Israel. Earlier, on August 13, the United Arab Emirates signed a peace agreement with Israel. Now flights from the United Arab Emirates have started going to Israel. Israel has diplomatic relations with 162 of the world’s member states.
Among Muslim countries, Israel established diplomatic relations with Egypt in 1969, and with Jordan in 1994. But in recent times, Trump’s policies and tactics have led to polarization in the Middle East, and Islamic states have been slowly coming to terms with Israel. Diplomatic analysts believe that this trend will continue.
Bahrain-Israel diplomatic relations have been established. It is expected that some other Muslim states that are members of the OIC or the Arab League will establish diplomatic relations with Israel in the same vein. The United States is working on this.
Bangladesh is one of the countries in the world that is most vocal about Palestinian rights and one of the countries in the world that has refrained from having any relations with Israel. The first page of the Bangladeshi passport states that this passport is applicable to all countries except Israel. Bangladesh has officially closed all diplomatic relations with Israel.
On the first page of Bangladeshi passport, there is a sentence that troubles everyone, as it troubles many young Bangladeshis. It says: “This passport is valid for all countries in the world, except for Israel.”
Young people in Bangladesh have learned about the world from the Internet rather than state-controlled media. Bangladeshi young generation’s perception of Israel is changing. Many Bangladeshi do not see the benefit of Bangladesh barring its citizens from travelling there.
Direct flights from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Morocco to Israel
Bangladeshi knows that many Muslim countries do not have diplomatic ties with Israel, yet they do not have any such prohibition in their passports. Other Muslim countries, such as Egypt, UAE, Jordan, Bahrain, Morocco, Oman and Turkey, do have diplomatic relations with Israel.
Direct flights to Tel Aviv airports from the UAE, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain will expand the travel, investment and tourism reach in the Middle East. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are expecting influx of Israeli tourists which will increase trades between Israel and Arab neighbors. A similar approach would help Bangladesh gain Israeli markets for its ready-made garments industry and new export opportunities.
The world for Israelis became a lot larger with US president Trump negotiating a peace deal with a growing number of countries in the Middle East and the Gulf Region.
Palestine Shouldn’t Dictate Bangladeshi Foreign Policy
“Friendship to all, malice to none”, then why wouldn’t Bangladesh extend friendship to Israel? The issues on which all the political parties in Bangladesh are in agreement are the Middle East issue, the question of the just rights of the Palestinian people. But the polarization of Middle Eastern politics in recent times, will Bangladesh fall into that polarization? Will the United States, especially the United States, urge Bangladesh to build relations with Israel? Or will it create pressure? Such questions are being raised in the diplomatic arena. Especially yesterday, the US Secretary of Defense.
Many questions have been raised in the diplomatic arena about Mark T. Asper’s telephone conversation. Asper made the call at a time when Bahrain was establishing diplomatic relations with Israel. Two more Muslim states welcomed the establishment of diplomatic relations. Has the US Secretary of State said anything about Israel with Bangladesh?
However, the Foreign Ministry has ruled out such a possibility. That being said, the subject of the U.S. Secretary of Defense’s telephone was completely different. Indo-Pacific strategy and US bilateral defense relations with Bangladesh were discussed here. But even before that, when the United States officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the United States contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh. Many diplomats believe that if Bangladesh and some other countries in the Middle East establish diplomatic relations with Israel, which the Trump administration is desperately working to do, it may be difficult for other countries to sever ties.
However, diplomats also feel that Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was vocal about the just rights of the Palestinians. Bangladesh is one of the few countries in the world that speaks out for the rights of the Palestinians. Therefore, the issue is very sensitive for Bangladesh.
In the true sense of the word, Islam is Bangladesh. Bangladesh has emerged as a liberal democratic secular state with the spirit of Islam, its essence and its message of peace. Bangladesh may be the last country to respond to the changes in the Middle East. Bangladesh does not bow to any pressure and establish a relationship, it has been proven in the past, will be proved in the future. In the coming days, various diplomatic invitations and pressures may come on Bangladesh on the issue of Israel. But diplomatic analysts believe that Bangladesh is accustomed to dealing with such pressures and will not back down from its diplomatic position.
On the Israeli side, there is no impediment: Israel was one of the first governments to recognize Bangladesh as an independent country in 1971, in the aftermath of its bloody war of independence. The foreign minister at the time, Khandker Mushtaque Ahmed, was a conservative who issued a letter on behalf of the government saying this recognition was not acceptable.
Israeli sold many arms to Myanmar which included the sale of patrol boats to the country’s navy, which Myanmar publicized on government-run media both after the agreements were made and when the boats were delivered.
The Israeli company Tar Ideals Concept also revealed on its website, apparently accidentally, that it had sold its CornerShot gun modifier, which allows the user to shoot at 90 degree angles, to Myanmar and trained the country’s special forces.
A diplomatic relationship with Israel will help Bangladesh military to counter the Myanmar military. Bangladesh also could buy high-tech American ITAR-free Israeli weaponry such as SPYDER ADS and drones. Israel could potentially train Bangladesh military to gain an advantage over the Myanmar military.
The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) is the United States regulation that controls the manufacture, sale, and distribution of defense and space-related articles and services as defined in the United States Munitions List (USML). Some of Israeli origin military hardware doesn’t require approval from U.S. defense department, for example, Israeli drones, small arms, munitions and missiles are widely exported to Southeast Asia, Africa, Middle East and Europe. Myanmar is one of the recipients of Israeli arms.
Chowdhury Hasan Sarwardy is a retired Lieutenant General of Bangladesh Army and former commandant of National Defense College told Global Defense Corp that Bangladesh would be better off having a diplomatic relationship with Israel to counter Israeli arms transfer to Myanmar. India is arming Myanmar at an expedited pace, India recently supplied Myanmar with a reforbished Russian kilo-class submarine and supplied Indian-made torpedoes to Myanmar. Bangladesh has to adopt new tactics to counter geopolitics of the region than rely on traditional allies of Bangladesh, said Lieutenant General Sarwardy.
Israeli Always Appreciated Bangladeshi Struggle for Independence
Israel, by all indications, is open to establishing relations with Bangladesh, its people and its government. Even Islamic pilgrims are welcome in Israel.
A Israeli government spokesperson recently said: “We have no conflict with Bangladesh. We want dialogue. We want people-to-people relations. We welcome the religious-minded people of Bangladesh to visit the holy land of Jerusalem.”
Ruth Kahanoff, deputy director-general, Asia Pacific, of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said in a recent interview: “We have great admiration for the development and achievements of modern Bangladesh – its economic development, democracy and the impressive status of its women. We are impressed at the development made by Bangladesh under the leadership of two very capable women – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and leader of the opposition Begum Khaleda Zia.”
There is no reason for Bangladesh and Israel to remain strangers. If the government is not willing or ready, the change will come from below – especially from the younger generation.
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