Jesmin Papri | BenarNews
Bangladesh expressed anger on Tuesday over “very unfortunate” and “presumptuous” comments made by China’s envoy a day earlier, when he warned Dhaka against participating in the United States-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue on the Indo-Pacific region.
On Monday, Ambassador Li Jiming had said that ties between Bangladesh and China could be “substantially damaged” if the South Asian country joined any initiative by the four-nation Quad.
Bangladesh is a sovereign state and will make its own decisions about the nation’s foreign policy, Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen shot back on Tuesday.
“Usually China does not interfere in others’ affairs. The aggressive way the ambassador spoke is very unfortunate,” Momen said in response to reporters’ questions about Li’s comments from a day earlier.
Quad members the United States, Japan, India and Australia have said that the Indo-Pacific region is their focus – specifically an Indo-Pacific region which is “free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion.” And in March, the four nations agreed to deliver 1 billion COVID-19 vaccines to Indo-Pacific nations by 2022.
According to Momen, no Quad member had talked to Bangladesh about joining the group or participating in its efforts in the Indo-Pacific region, and so Li had made too many assumptions.
“The organization he [Li] speaks of has shown no interest in us, so [Li’s] statement was presumptuous,” Momen said, referring to the Quad.
Li had told reporters at a virtual meeting with the Diplomatic Correspondents Association that Bangladesh would gain nothing by participating in the Quad’s efforts.
“It is not wise to ponder over joining [initiatives] with such a small group or club. [The Quad] is a narrow-purposed geopolitical clique, and Bangladesh should not join it,” Li said.
That was for Bangladesh – and not China – to decide, Foreign Minister Momen said.
“We are an independent and sovereign state. We decide our foreign policy. But yes, any country can uphold its position,” Momen said.
“But we will decide what we will do. This is a matter of the interest of our country. We do things we need to for the welfare of our country.”
Bangladesh’s top diplomat said his country remained non-aligned and maintained a “balanced” foreign policy.
“We will continue to do it. What he [Li] said is fine. We have no special comment on that. [But] We didn’t expect such behavior from the Chinese.”
“We’ll listen to what they say. But we’ll decide what is good for us.”
‘A minor anti-China initiative’
A Bangladeshi political analyst, who has watched China-Bangladesh ties for decades, was also taken aback by Ambassador Li’s comments
“Usually, diplomats don’t speak in such language,” Delwar Hossain, a professor of international relations at Dhaka University, told BenarNews.
“China sees this alliance as threat, [but] Bangladesh didn’t join the Quad, and did not even express a desire to join. So, making such comments is against diplomatic norms.”
However, according to Chinese state media, Defense Minister Wei Fenghe conveyed a message similar to Li’s to the Bangladesh president last month.
Xinhua news agency said that Wei told President Abdul Hamid that Beijing and Dhaka should make “joint efforts against powers outside the region setting up a military alliance in South Asia.” Wei did not mention the Quad by name, according to the report.
But Li did mention it, at least once.
“China always maintains that the U.S.-led Quad is a minor anti-China initiative,” Li told reporters on Monday.
“It is aimed against China’s resurgence and its relationship with neighboring countries.”
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