Some of our politicians very often put complaints on various internal issues to the foreign diplomats working in Bangladesh. This instigates the diplomats to unwanted involvement in our internal matters, especially in political affairs.
A patriotic Bangladesh national would never accept such activities. Due to my inability as a government employee, I requested some columnists a number of times to write on this issue. Though it was not so seriously taken, but some of them came forward. However, the issue went for hibernation temporarily. In fact, we, the Bengalis, are so unmindful people that we cannot recollect what we should, but we do not forget what we should not. That’s why I would like to share here my feelings hidden since last few years.
Practices of democratic politics, more or less, are visible in many countries of the present world. But it is not true that some events are not happening now and then to hinder the smooth running of democracy. However, we see a number of political parties or organisations in a country where democracy exists. In the political system, a group of people can form a political party to acquire power and as such to exercise that power. It is true that no such rule exists regarding the number of members a political party should have at the time of its formation or for its continuation. The present form of political party existed in Europe and America during nineteenth century with the development of election and parliamentary systems there. During the twentieth century, the formation of political parties started in all corners of the world. Ethnical or tribal issues got preference in Africa while forming a political party. On the other hand, religion based political parties were found in many countries of Asia. Besides, political parties were also formed on ideology basis like socialism, communism or militarism. There are examples of one party rule in some countries where dictatorship captured power in an undemocratic way. However, the scenario is totally different from others in constitutional or absolute monarchy system.
In the democratic system, a party can form the government once it got sufficient majority in the parliamentary election. If a party alone cannot form the government, then it goes for coalition. This sharing is done through mutual understanding among parties involved. The role of the opposition in a democracy counts a lot. A strong opposition can bless the country and its people. The party (or parties) in power and the opposition are never enemies to each other, rather one can complement other in running the country in the right direction. When the government takes any step against the interest of the people, the opposition comes in front with people’s demands. On the other hand, if any matter of public interest is sidelined by the government, the opposition brings that before the government. In a welfare oriented democratic state, it is expected that the party in power and the opposition party would stay together with respect, tolerance and friendship. No political party should be involved in any activities that can damage the interest and image of the country and the people or hinder country’s development. Because, doing politics or political party is nothing but for the country and its people. A citizen has every right to do politics or can protest if his rights are violated. Simultaneously, he should be careful so that his activities do not hamper or create any obstacle to others’ rights.
Diplomatic culture started among people and regions for each others’ understanding at the very beginning of human civilisations. Ancient diplomacy, perhaps, begun with sending of primarily special envoy or messenger for trading or defence cooperation. At that time, the purpose of diplomatic activities or sending of envoys was to strengthen bilateral cooperation or to solve any problem. That means, it was to fulfil some definite purposes. However, the characteristics of diplomacy and behaviours of diplomats took an organised form with the development of state system and ultimately transformed into the present day diplomacy.
The foremost work of a diplomat is normally to maintain his country’s diplomatic relations with other countries or international organisations. Mainly his tasks are to: represent his country and to protect the interest of his country as well as his nationals staying in the host country; take necessary steps to sign any agreement, memorandum of understanding or convention; develop friendly relations; exchange information and technology; widen trade and investment sectors; etc. A diplomat, in one hand, does the job of strengthening and widening two countries’ relations and, on the other hand, plays the principal role in bridging two peoples including politicians of the two countries. In addition, a diplomat also takes necessary steps to introduce and liaison respective authorities of the two countries in sharing expertise and technological know-how for development.
The way a politician needs to go by the rules and regulations of his country as well as his party; a diplomat, in the same way, has to work within diplomatic norms and practices. That means, a politician or a diplomat, their behaviours are desired to follow the already defined paths. It becomes unpleasant or offensive if anyone of them crosses their respective boundary. However, a politician could be brought before justice for his activities against law or interest of the country. And a diplomat could be asked to leave the host country declaring him as ‘persona non grata’.
As a diplomat comes to a country to represent his own country, he, for obvious reason, would establish relationship with peoples of different sectors and societies through exchange of meetings and calls on. The more a diplomat would be able to know and understand the host country and its people, his works would be easier and be able to contribute to enhancing and strengthening two countries’ bilateral relations. It is quite natural that a diplomat, like other people, would meet and establish relations with the politicians of his host country.
For the last few years, sounds of country’s image damaging created among some of our politicians and few diplomats working in Bangladesh have been floating in the air. This is very irritating and beyond desired courtesy. We, very often, forget what matters we can share with diplomats or what we can’t. We should always keep in mind what might damage our image if shared with them. We should not, in any way, tell them anything during our meetings or conversations that might give them bad impression about our country, people or politicians. Actually, these acts of politicians would dishonour the politicians themselves. But, it is fact that some of our politicians, now and then, run to the foreign diplomats with complaints. They never think that he is denigrating himself to a foreigner instead of denigrating the person or party against whom he complains. It is well known even to an illiterate citizen of Bangladesh that a member of a family does not only damage the image of his family by saying family’s internal problems to an outsider but damages his own image. Others would never show any respect towards that guy. On the contrary, a politician is much more sensible than general people. It is not known why they do not understand that.
The role of a politician or a political party in national development is more countable than general people of the society. Because, the politicians are the people to whom the important and noble responsibility of running the country is given. Any deviation from their responsibilities would make the country and its people sufferer. Their activities could make the country’s image, in one way brighter and praiseworthy, or in other way discreditable, to the world society. That is why they should be sincere and honest in doing their job. Besides, their behaviour is expected to be refined, exemplary to others. The people of Bangladesh could be the prey of their simple wrong doings. And for that, the responsibility ultimately goes on the shoulder of the concerned political party.
A diplomat working in Bangladesh, as routine work, will deeply observe all activities including political, economic, social, cultural, etc and would send reports on those regularly to his government. His report should be informative as well as analytical added with his suggestions or remarks. But, he should never be involved in any local activities that might turn him controversial or questionable. It is expected that he would, especially, keep him away from any such acts or remarks that might be objectionable or cooling down two countries’ bilateral relations. Sometimes, some diplomats either interfere or intervene in our political affairs due to some of our politicians. Often these diplomats, irrespective of their rank and file, behave like our guardian. At the end, this situation provides those diplomats the opportunities to disrespect and undermine our politicians. In a normal diplomatic environment, a diplomat can never do such activities or behave undiplomatically in any way. Will Bangladeshi diplomats working in their countries be able to behave like this? Or, will their government allow and tolerate such activities of any Bangladeshi diplomat working there? Can a Bangladeshi diplomat stick his nose into the internal affairs of his host country? In my diplomatic career, it was beyond my imagination to be involved with such unwanted and undiplomatic affairs.
We normally expect that the diplomats working in Bangladesh would do their best in further strengthening and diversifying Bangladesh’s relationship with their countries. They would also play a vital role for mutual support and cooperation at the time of any disasters or natural calamities occur in our country or theirs. It is also our duty to make their lives easy, comfortable and worthy so that they would be able to contribute a lot for two countries’ benefits. They are our friends and partners of development. It is desirable that being diplomats, all their activities would run within diplomatic norms and practices for smooth continuation of bilateral relations existing between Bangladesh and their respective countries.
Among us who are running, with or without any cause, to the diplomats with sack of complaints should understand that it is a part of their job to know and understand everything about Bangladesh and its people. So, such activities from our part actually prove our ruined political behaviour. Rather, we should prefer to restrict our problems within us. We could protect our dignity and respect if we refrain from going to the foreigners with such complaints that degrade our status. We, very often, forget that a party’s interest remains above any party man’s interest and the country’s interest remains above a party’s. In fact, the protection of the interests and image of a country comes first. The international community especially the diplomats will honour and respect our political parties and politicians so much as our politicians would maintain their dignity and sense with the foreign community working in Bangladesh.
We are proud that we belong to a heroic nation. We should not forget that we fought for the independence of our beloved country Bangladesh. It is our expectation that our politicians would be much sensible and careful in safeguarding the interest and image of Bangladesh and its people during their discourse with the foreign diplomats. I would like to remind that they are our friends and have nothing to do in our internal matters at the end.
The writer is former Ambassador and Secretary