Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states: ‘’Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.’’
The US Department of State’s decision to impose visa restrictions on Bangladeshi individuals responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh is a clear violation of Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of national and social origin. The US’s self-proclaimed role as the main interpreter and promoter of human rights does not give it the power to police and lash out at countries that it thinks are poor, needy, and vulnerable to threats. The US visa restrictions on Bangladeshi individuals are a violation of human rights and a threat to democracy, and the US should immediately reverse this hypocrisy in the name of visa policy and respect the sovereignty of Bangladesh.
The United States, located 8,500 kilometres from Bangladesh, has nonetheless inserted itself into the heart of Bangladeshi domestic politics. To US Indo-Pacific policymakers, this may seem like a distant adventure, but for Bangladeshis, it has the potential to be a source of political instability for years to come. By interfering in Bangladesh’s internal affairs, the US has opened the floodgates for other powers, such as India, China, Russia, and Japan, to do the same. Therefore, the US must take the total responsibility if Bangladesh faces any catastrophic political consequence.
However, let’s examine how the United States has redefined its approach to human rights following the devastating nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. According to a comprehensive study conducted by the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, the United States was involved in wars and armed conflicts that resulted in the staggering loss of between 20.7 million and 30.4 million lives between 1945 and 2019. Concurrently, the nation’s domestic security landscape has deteriorated, characterized by a rising tide of racial, religious, color, and political discrimination. A disconcerting analysis of 2021 data reveals a disturbing upsurge in a multitude of crimes and acts of violence within the United States: violent offenses, including murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, surged by an estimated 4.9%, accounting for approximately 1.1 million incidents; property-related crimes, spanning burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft, experienced a 4.6% increase, reaching a staggering 7.1 million reported cases; domestic terrorism incidents spiked by a substantial 26%, with 61 reported occurrences, driven by extremist ideologies such as white supremacy, anti-government sentiments, and environmental extremism; mass shootings, defined as incidents involving four or more people shot, excluding the shooter, escalated to a total of 692, marking a 6% increase; and hate crimes surged by 12.6%, totalling 7,250 reported cases, fuelled by biases rooted in race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation. These alarming trends collectively underscore profound challenges related to human rights, public safety, and security in the nation. It becomes increasingly evident in the 21st century that the United States, alongside its Western allies, has weaponized concepts like freedom, democracy, and human rights for geopolitical objectives, displaying a conspicuous lack of empathy in its actions.
The United States is cynically politicizing and, to a certain extent, weaponizing the issuance of U.S. visas for Bangladesh. This calculated move can be attributed to two key factors. Firstly, the U.S. has significantly heightened its interest in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly in the strategic Bay of Bengal area, as part of its broader efforts to counterbalance China’s influence. Secondly, the Western powers, led by the U.S., have masterfully cultivated a disruptive political climate within Bangladesh by exploiting political rivalries and divisions, while covertly or overtly supporting opposition factions to further their own geopolitical and geostrategic agendas, often aimed at destabilization. Consequently, it’s evident that the aggressive U.S. visa policy possesses the potential to not only foment political unrest but also obstruct vital Chinese projects in Bangladesh.
The current government should take robust measures to combat these activities, going beyond merely showcasing the strength of law enforcement agencies. Instead, it should explore alternative approaches, including seeking international support from countries like India, China, Japan, France and several other European countries, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, to deter U.S. interference and its allies in Bangladesh’s upcoming general election. Furthermore, it is crucial for the Awami league to exercise caution in mobilizing its party members and launching the electoral campaign. The government must also implement additional strategies to combat the proliferation of fake news, which poses a substantial threat to national stability. It’s essential to distinguish between sharing opinions and disseminating fake news; adversaries of Bangladesh’s stability may make decisions based on fabricated news, akin to instances where the United States unilaterally made decisions grounded in false information to manipulate public perception, as exemplified by Colin Powell’s infamous presentation on non-existent weapons of mass destruction before the Iraq War. Thus, in the interest of national security, Bangladesh must vigorously counter fake news sources and intensify surveillance on certain political backstabbers and ‘apolitical’ NGOs funded by Western democracy and human rights organizations.
Written by Rajeev Ahmed
Geopolitical Analyst, Strategic Thinker and Editor at geopolits.com