Bangladesh shifts position, calls Ukraine war a ‘violation of international law’
Formerly noncommittal Bangladesh has proclaimed the Ukraine war violates international law and the United Nations charter.
The South Asian nation revised its position in a joint statement with Japan issued during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Tokyo in late April 2023. (Pictured: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shake hands after signing the joint statement.)
“The two prime ministers affirmed that the war in Ukraine constitutes a violation of international law, in particular of the U.N. Charter, and is a serious threat to the international order based on the rule of law, with ramifications well beyond Europe, including in the Indo-Pacific,” the statement said.
“They reiterated the call for a peace process through dialogue and diplomacy with respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders and in accordance with the principles of the U.N. Charter.”
As recently as February, Bangladesh abstained from voting on a U.N. General Assembly resolution calling on Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine.
Bangladesh abstained during voting on a similar resolution in March 2022.
During her trip to Tokyo, Hasina hoped to build defense cooperation with Japan, which is expanding regional partnerships to counter Beijing’s influence.
The joint statement indicates that “we are entering a new territory of foreign relations,” said Humayun Kabir, a former Bangladeshi envoy to the United States.
“Now we see a careful change of Bangladesh’s position on the Ukraine war in the joint statement. … As Bangladesh wants to woo Japanese investment and improve bilateral relations, she needs to align with Japanese positions to the maximum extent.”
Imtiaz Ahmed, an international relations expert at Dhaka University, said Bangladesh for the first time had altered its position on the Ukraine war.
In December 2022, Bangladesh blocked a Russian ship from entering a local port due to U.S. sanctions on the vessel linked to Moscow’s war in Ukraine. A month later, Bangladesh banned the entry of nearly 70 U.S.-sanctioned Russian ships, drawing complaints from Moscow.
“Maybe Bangladesh can no longer overlook the issue of the Ukraine war,” Ahmed said. “That’s because the war has disrupted the global supply chain. Economically, Bangladesh has been seriously affected.”
Ahmed and Kabir noted that the joint statement’s mention of the East and South China seas also represented a departure for Dhaka. Tokyo has territorial disputes with Beijing over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, while several Southeast Asian nations have conflicting claims with Beijing in the South China Sea.
“For the first time, Bangladesh has taken a position on this issue,” Kabir said. “This position is actually Japan’s.”
IMAGE CREDIT: REUTERS