Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova has accused US Ambassador in Dhaka Peter Haas of aiding the opposition parties to hold anti-government protests in Bangladesh.
Various Bangladeshi media houses have been accusing the US of interfering in the domestic politics of Bangladesh for a long time. Now, the accusation has been attested by one of the prominent development partners of the country.
Violation of Vienna Convention Sparks Concerns
It is needless to say, the American ambassador’s meddling in Bangladesh’s internal politics grossly violated the Vienna Convention and could deteriorate the vital USA-Bangladesh bilateral relations.
“At the end of October, US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas met with a member of the local opposition to discuss plans for organizing anti-government rallies,” Zakharova told a media briefing in Moscow, Russia, on November 22.
“We have repeatedly highlighted the attempts by the US and its allies to influence the internal political processes in Bangladesh under the guise of ensuring that the upcoming parliamentary elections in the country are transparent and inclusive,” she said.
“How can these actions of the American Ambassador to Bangladesh be assessed? Nothing less than gross interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state on the part of Washington and its satellites, demonstrating open disregard for the norms and rules enshrined in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961,” Zakharova said.
She also said Russia does not “doubt the ability” of the Bangladeshi authorities to hold parliamentary elections scheduled for Jan 7 “in full compliance with national legislation independently without the help of overseas well-wishers”.
In a separate post on X handle, formerly known as Twitter, Maria Zakharova said, “Such actions amount to nothing less than gross interference in internal affairs.”
Bangladesh is readying for the 12th Jatiya Sangsad elections slated for January 7 amid much enthusiasm. The election is vital for continuing the ongoing development of Bangladesh, scheduled to graduate from LDC countries in 2026.
The election also came under the international geopolitical spotlight as the USA and its satellites kept pressurizing the government to hold a free, fair, and participatory election though the government and independent Election Commission repeatedly assured that they would do so.
Given the backdrop of the USA’s suspicious interference, other global powers including Russia, China, and India stood with Bangladesh and said they would overtly oppose any foreign meddling in the elections.
US-Led Dialogue Initiative Sparks Questions
USA Ambassador Peter Haas, who previously maintained a warm relationship with the BNP-Jamaat leadership before the violent events of October 28, had not previously called for political dialogue.
But when the BNP failed to steer its anti-government movement on the streets, and its top leaders landed in jail for alleged involvement in arson-terrorism and killing of a police official, the USA vehemently called for dialogue, raising questions about the country’s underlying motives.
Nevertheless, the arson attacks carried out by BNP-Jamaat miscreants at different parts of the country since October 28 have changed the political situation in the country. All the major political parties are now preparing for the election with much enthusiasm and fervor. On the other hand, BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami opted for brutal violence instead of the democratic path of the election.
According to media reports, as many as 310 incidents of vandalism and 376 arson attacks have been reported from across the country during the blockade and hartal enforced by the BNP in its efforts to thwart the national elections.
Despite being perceived as an advocate for peace, the US has conspicuously refrained from making statements on BNP’s widespread brutality against common people in Bangladesh.
The lack of condemnation for the loss of lives raises concerns and fuels speculation about whether the US is intentionally endorsing the BNP’s anarchic agenda.
Did Peter Haas Breach Diplomatic Norms?
The US ambassador’s interactions with the opposition and vocal opinions regarding electoral procedures can be easily termed as violations of diplomatic protocols.
Haas made a deliberate choice to violate the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations, a foundational treaty in international diplomacy since its adoption in 1961. This convention serves as the fundamental guidebook for almost all contemporary diplomats.
Article 41, paragraph 1 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations clearly stipulates that individuals benefiting from privileges and immunities must, despite these entitlements, adhere to the laws and regulations of the host country. Additionally, they are obliged not to meddle in the internal affairs of the host state.
President Joe Biden nominated Peter Haas on July 9, 2021, to serve as the USA Ambassador to Bangladesh. However, since assuming the position, Haas has encountered substantial criticism from Bangladesh’s political and intellectual circles due to perceived biases against the current government and ruling party. Certain controversial actions taken by Haas have been interpreted as aligning closely with opposition agendas, which the opposition has utilized as propaganda tools to topple the government.
BNP vice-chairman and former lawmaker Shahjahan Omar recently termed the US ambassador as the ‘God’, urging the ambassador to save the party.
He said, “Mr Peter D Haas has come (to us) as a god. O Father, save us. We are with you.”
The US Embassy in Dhaka maintains an active social media presence via its Facebook page. However, there appears to be a significant bias evident in the dissemination of its content, potentially creating uncomfortable situations for Bangladesh. A noticeable difference in the level of paid engagement and post reach is evident between content portraying Bangladesh negatively versus generic or positive content. These activities are being exploited by opposition parties and anti-government activists as a means of propagating instability within Bangladesh.