HomeHistoryBangabandhu's Post-war Diplomacy: Amplifier of Glorious Victory

Bangabandhu’s Post-war Diplomacy: Amplifier of Glorious Victory

Coming out as a sovereign state on December 16, 1971, Bangladesh was immediately dragged into a squeezed condition from where the expectation of a well-balanced diplomatic mechanism was virtually bleak. “Friendship to all, malice towards none” Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared this after returning to his homeland on January 10, 1972. It was a declaration that Bangabandhu’s far-sighted diplomatic prudence was recognized. Bangabandhu announced his foreign policy following the policy of independent non-alignment, respect for another state’s sovereignty, equality, geographical integrity, and non-interference in other states’ internal affairs through cordial relations with all. He was in power for three and a half years, from January 10, 1972, to August 15, 1975. This was a critical time for Bangladesh. Recognition of different countries of the world, gaining membership of the United Nations was an important issue. However, with his pragmatic leadership and true patriotism, he was not afraid to shoulder the war-torn country’s burden.

When Bangladesh obtained its independence from Pakistan, he was still captured in a Pakistan prison. He arrived back in his country from the jail via London and New Delhi on January 10, 1972, by a Royal British jet instead of an Indian aircraft. There is a scope for questioning, why Royal British Jet? It was a signal of strategy to world leaders that there could be a possibility of being dominated by a friendly neighbour. Besides, it indicates his neutral gesture to world power holders. He wanted to make Bangladesh “The Switzerland of the east,” which means he should remain apathetic towards politically polarized states and build it as tourists. On February 6, 1972, he visited India. He demonstrated his sincere gratitude in his address to the Indian people and government for their assistance and cooperation during Bangladesh’s liberation war. Dhaka was in little mood to be seen as being under the influence of Delhi. Indian soldiers trooped back to their country a few days before Mrs Indira Gandhi paid an official visit to Dhaka on March 17, 1972. Then came a defining moment in relations between Bangladesh and India by initiating a “25-year Treaty of Friendship” that would have the two countries coming to mutual support and friendship in the event of hostility occurred by other nations.

The world was then dominated by two superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States. The Soviet Union and present-day Russia were in favour of the liberation struggle of Bangladesh. Bangabandhu paid his first goodwill visit to the Soviet Union on February 29, 1972. He was greeted warmly by the Soviet government, and he heartfully thanked its people and government for supporting Bangladesh’s liberation war. With the then Soviet President Aleksei N. Kosygin, Bangabandhu discussed future relations between the two benefactor states and asked for emergency food aid, technical assistance, and higher study opportunity on behalf of Bangladesh. At that time, Bangladesh faced a disaster with the Chittagong port. During the war, submarines, floating mines, etc., were buried at the port entrance, making the navigation of Chittagong port unsafe. The Soviet Union took over the responsibility of cleaning the port of Chittagong. More than 600 Russian mariners took part in mine-clearing operations in the Bay of Bengal from 1972 to 1974.

During the great liberation war of 1971, the expected cooperation from Bangladesh did not match with China. Even after independence, China’s hostile policy towards Bangladesh remains effective. China was against Bangladesh’s freedom, being sided with Pakistan and kept the same approach for a reasonable time to block Bangladesh’s entry into the United Nations through veto power. On August 7, 1972, Bangladesh applied for membership in the United Nations;  But on August 10, it was rejected by China. The Chinese action surely dismayed Bangabandhu. In his speech, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman said, ‘When the UN vetoed against China, Bengal’s people used to protest. I have spoken many times against that veto.  The veto for which China could not go to the UN for 25 years, sadly, that China got the veto ‘power’ and gave the first veto against my Bangladesh. Yet I wish them friendship. I don’t want to be hostile. The role of America was not in our favour during the liberation war of Bangladesh.  Although many heartfelt personalities of that country, many legislators and intellectuals have collected public opinion in favour of the war in Bangladesh, they have raised funds for the war-torn country. After independence, Bangabandhu emphasized developing relations with the American government. However, they recognized Bangladesh officially in 1972 after the United Kingdom recognized us. Bangabandhu visited the United States in September 1974 and met with President Gerald R. Ford at the White House on October 1. Bangabandhu wanted aids from America and Ford assured him about sending aids. Resultantly, massive US aids poured into Bangladesh.

Bangabandhu’s other move took a striking turning when he took Bangladesh into the Non-aligned Movement or (NAM) in Algiers, the capital of Algeria, from 5 to September 9, 1973. This movement recommends a middle route for developing states between the western and eastern blocs. In his farewell speech on September 9, Bangabandhu also emphasized the establishment of world peace and cooperation. “For a prosperous world, we need to focus on nuclear disarmament,” he said. The conference’s declaration included the strong support of the non-aligned countries to grant Bangladesh membership in the United Nations. Diplomatic efforts led by Bangabandhu were the main driving force in gaining this support. On September 18, 1974, Bangladesh became a United Nations member as the 136th independent country in the world. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman addressed the 29th session of the UN General Assembly for the first time in Bengali. That speech was a speech to establish the rights of the disenfranchised people all over the world. On February 22, 1974, Bangladesh became the 32nd country to become a member of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). For the first time, Bangladesh officially participated in this conference. This was the second OIC conference. This conference is a significant event for Bangabandhu’s diplomacy.  Because Bangabandhu firmly declared that Bangladesh would not participate in this conference unless Pakistan recognizes Bangladesh as an independent-sovereign country first. That bargaining flawlessly worked, and Pakistan officially recognized Bangladesh in 1974.

From January 1972 to July 1975, in just three and a half years, more than a hundred visits of various levels, including 50 heads of state or government, were made in the war-torn newly independent Bangladesh under the successful diplomatic activities of the Bangabandhu government. In just three years of independence, Bangladesh gained the recognition of 128 countries. Getting recognition from so many countries in such a short time is not a trivial matter at all. In a short period, Bangladesh has signed more than 60 agreements and memoranda of understanding on various cooperation issues with different world countries. He started his glorious journey with the mission of maintaining a friendship with all. Within a few years, Bangladesh began to enjoy its full benefits. Under Bangabandhu’s leadership, foresight and his relationship with world leaders contributed significantly to these achievements. He laid a pragmatic framework of diplomacy. His diplomatic approach was soft yet firm, with the vision to complete his foreign policy objectives. It’s been over four decades since his dreams and ideas have glorified our victory and shaped Bangladesh’s foreign policy not from his title but through the faculty of his visionary ideas and keen intellect.

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