Russia-Bangladesh relations - Need of new initiatives
Russian President Vladimir Putin just wrapped up his visit to Beijing. Russian Prime Minister is due in New Delhi. Before that Putin visited Tokyo. As a major world energy supplier Russia is playing an ever increasing role in the world arena specially after its newly found friendship with Saudi-Arabia . America's invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq gave a new dimension to Russian involvement in the post-Soviet World. Russia's participation in the OIC summit as an observer in which both Pakistan and Bangladesh made major contribution has taken us from the misunderstanding of the past to a new fruitful beginning.
We never forget the crucial support that Soviet Union provided us. But after that Soviet Union was identified with the corruption and misrule that followed. The anti-liberation forces used it as a weapon of defamation against the Russian people. After Bangabandhu's visit to Soviet Union no Bangladesh leader has visited Soviet Union. President Zia had planned to visit Moscow to win Soviet support to stop Iraq-Iran war but he was mysteriously killed by an army revolt. Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme who was engaged in peace negotiation between Iran and Iraq was killed a month before his Moscow visit. Many political observers point out that a particular power was fomenting the Iran- Iraq conflict as a part of their present strategy of occupying those countries. Former Pakistani Ambassador to Sweden Babar told this writer that the fratricidal war and genocide in Bangladesh were a part of that game . Soviet Union was portrayed as a villain to the Pakistani people and they were made to participate in the destabilisation of Afghanistan against Soviet interests. That led to the ultimately collapse of Soviet Union. Everybody knows this created the hydra of terrorism that affected Pakistan as well. If Pervez Musharraf did not play intelligently and India did not stand by - Pakistan too could be an occupied country -just like Iraq and Afghanistan. Pakistan understood this game. It was Pakistan's Bengali Ambassador to Moscow Syed Iftekhar Morshed , a grand nephew of Shere-Bangla Fazlul Huq, who played an important role in normalising Russian- Pakistan relations that ended up with Pervez Musharraf's Moscow visit.
Should not Bangladesh make similar efforts? The Russian Ambassador met with our foreign minister congratulating him on Bangladesh's actions against the terrorists. These terrorists were created in the Afghan mountains by the intelligence agency of a super power under the supervision of its the then vice-president . Thirty-eight terrorist groups were trained the world over against the left democratic regimes. Unfortunately our the then President Hussein Mohammad Ershad along with Ziaul Huq of Pakistan supported and thousands of our young people were sent to be trained as terrorists. So Russian congratulation is meaningful to us when efforts are being made to prove our country as a failed state and make way for overseas intervention like in Iraq and Afghanistan. Russia with its experience in Afghanistan can provide us important help on this security issue.
Specially the high technology in fighting terrorism is an important factor - and we can not expect it from people who have created this hydra. Mysteriously a political party , possibly unaware of this back-ground wants us to turn to them. Ironically this hydra first raised their head during their rule. We understand the United States has also learned from its support to Afghan counter-revolutionaries. But using the term Islamic terrorists , they are defaming Islam and making these criminals heroes.
But our co-operation with Russia is not limited to this background. Our Armed Forces in the post-liberation period was built with Soviet arms. They provided us with tanks and migs and naval vehicle and thousands of our students have studied in Soviet Union. Unlike in the Western countries their expenses were paid by the Soviet government. Today, we have got thousands of doctors, engineers and academicians who speak fluent Russian in our country. They are our unsung heroes
The Russian contribution to our energy sector, Ghorasal Power Plant is a legend in the developing world. In the gas and oil sector co-operation goes back to Paskistani days. In the fifties the American oil companies made a survey and said there was no oil and gas in our country. But pre-partition Geological survey of India knew we had. Ayub Khan after taking over power asked his young energy minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to make an oil and gas exploration agreement with Moscow. But then came the '65 war and fall of Ayub Khan.
In independent Bangladesh Sheikh Mujib had not enough time to revive the oil and gas co-operation.
The regime shift in 1975 took us to another orbit of the cold war. We were packed up in the same wagon with Beijing and Ryadh - along with Washington against Moscow and Delhi.
But that equation has changed . Our Prime Minister just made a successful visit to Delhi. On the other hand Moscow has been partner with Ryadh and Beijing. As Kautilya said, in diplomacy, there is no permanent friend and enemy. We too should learn it in re-adjusting our foreign policy.
Foreign Secretary Hemayet Uddin made a successful visit to Moscow to attend the joint Bangladesh- Russian council moot. This was created during the first Khaleda Zia government in 1992. That was the hour of trial for Russia after the fall of Soviet Union. We had an able Bangladesh Ambassador in Moscow under Khaleda Zia, AMSA Amin in Moscow. An old friend, he had predicted to this writer in Moscow at that time that Russia would rise up, like phoenix from its ashes. Russia has made it. We too have risen up from the destruction and orgy of genocide to stand a vibrant medium power with five per cent growth and a leading force in peacekeeping operation the world over.
We have common interest with Russia, our old friend in world peace, economic development and fighting hydra of terrorism. Whatever regime may be in power, this is our national objective.
The deadlock that has been created by the Western companies make us worried about their long term strategy. The energy adviser recently observed the agreement with Asia Energy was anti-national . May be he was outspoken in his comments. But we should look for our interests and here we hope Russia can play a vital and trusted role. Let us forget the cold war jargons. US energy secretary was just in Russia and the Russians are best in gas and oil technology. Let us recast our agenda and revive our co-operation with Russia both in security and economic fields in the spirit of the Liberation War.