The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has hatched an elaborate plan to involve larger Muslim countries in their failed expedition in Yemen. In her latest intrigue Saudi Arabia’s authorities informed its Bangladeshi counterparts in the Foreign Ministry that they will deport all 2.2 million Bangladeshis from Saudi Arabia if Bangladesh does not give citizenship including passport to 54,000 Rohingya’s who reside in the kingdom.
Those Rohingya’s were taken in by the late Saudi king after witnessing their terrible persecution at the hands of the Myanmar junta in the 1980s and 1990s. After some 40 years there was no need for Saudi Arabia to poke around the issue given the Rohingya’s lived in peace in Saudi Arabia.
Moreover Saudi authorities never imitated their concerns to Myanmar authorities, where the Rohingya’s are from in the first place.
The Bangladesh government has categorically rejected the highly unusual demand of the Saudi authorities because it will open the doors for other countries including India, Malaysia and Indonesia to push Rohingya’s that reside in their country to Bangladesh. More importantly such a controversial decision would embolden the Myanmar junta to expel the remaining Rohingya people residing in the country to Bangladesh.
The cunning Saudi’s understand the follow on effects all too well, which is why this is a bluff designed to pressure Bangladesh in to a compromised deal that will lead to the deployment of Bangladeshi forces in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia led an intervention in to Yemen on 26 March 2015 leading a coalition of nine West Asian and African countries after the pro-Saudi President of Yemen Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi for military support after he was ousted by the Houthi movement due to economic and political grievances. Saudi Arabia contributed 100 warplanes and 150,000 soldiers to the military operation.
The conflict is described as a stalemate for years even though the Saudi’s used some of the most advanced military weapons against the Yemeni people that are in violation of the laws of war.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wisely delayed the signing of a bilateral military agreement with Saudi Arabia that would lead to Bangladesh’s active participation in the Yemen conflict.
Instead Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in February 2019 that encompasses joint military training, military exercises and advanced studies for defence personnel at defence institutions. The deal also includes exchange of intelligence information, exchange of military visits, enhancement of skill for military personnel, maritime security cooperation and curbing piracy at sea.
According to Article 15 of Bangladesh’s constitution it is not permitted to engage in any conflict. The state shall base its international relations on the principles of respect for national sovereignty and equality, non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, peaceful settlement of international disputes, and respect for international law and the principles enunciated in the United Nations Charter as per article 25 of the constitution.
The Saudi authorities have goaded Bangladesh in to sending 1,800 troops comprised of two Engineer Construction Battalions (ECB) to engage in civil construction and demining activities near the Yemen border in Saudi Arabian territory.
To this end the Bangladesh Army has not sent any personnel there.
The United Nations described the situation in Yemen as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Bangladeshi people remain strongly opposed to the deployment of Bangladeshi troops in service of Saudi Arabia. Political parties in Bangladesh too are against sending Bangladeshi troops in to conflict zones without the mandate of the United Nations.
Bangladesh is regarded as a stalwart in international peacekeeping through contributing the largest numbers of peacekeeping forces under the auspices of the United Nations. Analysts believe its image will be impacted if the country contributes troops in the Yemeni theatre without the United Nations involvement.
Bangladesh has very little to benefit from deploying troops to Yemen so this is why Saudi authorities are possibly trying to blackmail Bangladesh in to doing their bidding.
Being on the right side of things the Bangladesh government has the benefit from the support of a vast majority of Bangladeshis when it comes to the Yemen troop deployment issue.
It has to carefully reiterate to the Saudi authorities that their credibility is at risk if they try to strong arm other fellow Muslim-majority nations to clean up their mess.
Moreover the government must draw a red line in the sand when it comes to matters of national security. Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million Rohingya’s in the country already. It has a very volatile neighbour that has deployed regular army troops on the border at present. Saudi Arabia should not do anything that is counterproductive to world peace and stability.
Bangladesh should discuss the matter with Turkey and other non-Arab Muslim powers such as Iran if Saudi Arabia persists on the matter further.
Bangladesh is for Bangladeshis alone. The passport is a right for only Bangladeshi citizens. It must not be misused. Bangladeshi troops must not be used as a mercenary force around the world to act upon the whims of war mongering nations.
The time for myopic, aimless wandering approach to geo-politics must stop.
Bangladesh has to ensure the protection of its national interest, its citizens and territorial integrity through creation of a very strong military deterrence capability.
During Bangladesh’s Independence War in the 1970s the United States diplomat Henry Kissinger sent letters to King Faisal, encouraging its participation in the Bangladesh Liberation War against the Bengali people. F-86 fighter aircraft were sent from Saudi Arabia to help camouflage the extent of PAF aircraft losses and perhaps as a potential training unit to prepare Pakistani pilots for an influx of more F-5s from Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh formally established diplomatic relations in 1975-76, after the Assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by mutinous officers in Bangladesh Army.
The Kingdom also supported extremist zealots and anti-Liberation forces such as the Jamat-e-Islami in Bangladesh. These extremists largely acted as channels for Wahabi extremist ideology, which is contrary to the inclusive brand of Islam practiced in modern Bangladesh.
Saudi Arabia also shelters religious extremists and wanted war criminals from Bangladesh.
But now in Yemen, Saudi Arabia continues to attack aid organisations, use cluster munitions, white phosphorus. Its ally the UAE is accused of running secret prisons that are used to torture Yemeni prisoners.
The Saudi-led coalition also stands accused of targeting wounded and medical personnel. It uses child soldiers and employs global terrorist organisations such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) in its war against the Yemenis.
The Bangladesh government must set the records straight to ensure Bangladesh’s national interests are protected above all else. It must also remain clear of any activities that are contrary to the principles of international law, peace and stability.