Qatar diplomatic row: Test for Bangladesh’s foreign policy

Fri, September 22, 2017
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Qatar diplomatic row: Test for Bangladesh’s foreign policy
Published : 07 Jun 2017, 11:08:11
Qatar diplomatic row: Test for Bangladesh’s foreign policy
bbarta desk
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 Bangladesh is a member of the Saudi-led alliance against terrorism

The dramatic snapping of diplomatic ties by top Arab countries with Qatar, led by the Saudi Arabia, will test Bangladesh’s foreign policy as the country has special relations with Saudi Arabia, and its manpower export to Qatar is huge.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt have cut ties with Qatar on allegation of its support to militant groups, including some backed by Iran, a charge Doha has denied and also accused its Gulf neighbours of seeking to put the country under "guardianship”.

Bahrain, UAE, Yemen and the Maldives have also joined Saudi Arabia and Egypt in severing ties with Qatar, forcing Doha to face an apparent isolation.

Bangladesh’s position is somewhat delicate as it has joined the Saudi-led alliance against terrorism and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina attended the Arab Islamic American summit, where leaders spoke tough against Iran. The summit also issued a joint statement mentioning Iran’s “malign interference” in the ongoing Middle East crisis. Bangladesh also supported Saudi-led strikes in Yemen.

The diplomatic row came a few weeks after US President Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia and called for a united front among Muslim countries against terrorism and extremism. It also followed weeks of rising tensions between Qatar and its neighbours, among others, over Doha’s accusations of a concerted media campaign and the alleged hacking of the Qatar News Agency. Gulf states have for years accused Qatar of supporting extremist groups, in particular the Muslim Brotherhood.

Although Bangladesh has for now preferred to be non-committal, diplomatic observers are not sure what would happen if the row lingers and aggravates. If the situation deteriorates, then it might deepen Dhaka’s new dilemma as both Saudi Arabia and Qatar are the major destinations for Bangladeshi workers.

In addition to the thousands of workers already in Qatar, many new Bangladeshi workers went to the country during the last few years to work in ongoing infrastructure projects ahead of the 2022 football World Cup to be hosted by Qatar.

Humayun Kabir, Vice President of Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI), a think tank, hinted that if the tension escalates, it is likely to affect Bangladesh. “There will be a pressure on Bangladesh to take a side because Bangladesh is already a member of the Saudi-led military alliance,” said the former diplomat.

A senior research fellow of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, Naznin Ahmed, however sees no immediate effect on country’s economy. She also said Bangladesh needs to analyse the situation carefully before taking any decision.

A number of former diplomats contacted by The Hindu also suggested the country’s policymakers do an “in-depth analysis ” before making any decision.-The Hindu

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