Even as the United States and other Western nations, including the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU), try to destabilise Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government, a Russian Naval flotilla docked in Bangladesh after half a century.
The last time a Russian naval flotilla visited Bangladesh was 50 years ago, after its independence from Pakistan with the help of India.
The flotilla from the Russian Pacific fleet, comprising the anti-submarine warfare ships Admiral Tributs and Admiral Panteleyev, and the tanker Pechenga, docked at the port of Chittagong on Sunday (12 November).
The Russian embassy in Dhaka hailed this event as a significant milestone in the longstanding relations between Russia and Bangladesh.
Russia's Ambassador to Bangladesh Alexander Mantytskiy reflected on the historical context of the Russian Navy's visit 50 years ago, emphasising the humanitarian support provided after Bangladesh gained independence in 1971.
During the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971, the presence of Pacific Fleet warships prevented the American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise from reaching the Bay of Bengal.
Post-independence, the Soviet Union also contributed to Bangladesh's economic revival through a mine-sweeping operation at Chittagong port during the last visit of the Russian Navy.
The current political climate in Bangladesh involves tensions with the US, particularly concerning the general election scheduled for January.
The BNP, and other smaller opposition parties, have been demanding that the parliamentary elections in Bangladesh, slated for January 2024, be held under a neutral caretaker government headed by a former chief justice of the Supreme Court.
The US and other Western nations, have bought into the BNP’s demand.
The US had, in May this year, threatened visa sanctions against Bangladeshi politicians, officials and members of its security forces who it perceives are guilty of subverting the poll process and putting opposition parties at a disadvantage.
Other Western nations have followed in the footsteps of the US and threatened action, including similar sanctions. The envoys of US and UK have been meeting the chief election commissioner and other Election Commission officials to enquire about preparations for the polls.
India's Stance On This Issue
India, on the other hand, has asked the US to stop meddling in Bangladesh internal affairs.
The US has been cautioned by India that pressuring Bangladesh too much will push it into China’s arms. Indian leaders and diplomats have also pointed out that the BNP and its Islamist allies have an agenda that could potentially pose a threat to regional and global security.
In fact, China has already weighed in and assured Bangladesh that it supports Dhaka’s stance in 'opposing external interference' and has promised help to Dhaka to resist such interference.
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