Back in 2008, it bothered many sensitive minds in this country when a foreign diplomat was going door to door peddling wisdom to our political leaders. If you check the television footage of their meetings with her back then, you will be reminded of kindergarten students sitting in their classroom. The fawning politicians gathered around the “honorable” guest, their faces dripping with humility and smiles. You do not have to be a wizard to guess whose wish was whose command.
What happened in Bangladesh that year also happened before elsewhere to juntas in Latin America, strongmen in Africa, rulers in Asia, and potentates in the Middle East. But there was some beauty to it, a façade of national pride, which glossed over the invisible hand of foreign influence. At least it looked as if the dictators were in control of their countries, the external interference coated with the righteous patina of the Cold War.
One example is worth mentioning. The US government had ordered its ambassadors to warn Latin leaders not to carry out assassinations. When Orlando Letelier, a Chilean socialist leader, was gunned down in Washington DC in 1976, it was found that the American ambassador in Chile had not conveyed Washington's warning to Pinochet, because he was afraid the dictator would take offence.
Why do foreign functionaries not care if we are going to take offence when they interfere in our politics? Why do they not care that it is odd when a sovereign nation must leave the reins of its politics in foreign hands? Understood, meddlesome superpowers want to push their whims down our throat. Understood, we are in the stranglehold of hegemonic forces. But where is the diplomatic finesse to plead that powerful nations not make a public spectacle of the political tutelage of weaker nations?
Who is to blame for it? No doubt foreign governments are responsible, but most of the fault lies with our own politicians. It is their ingratiating habit, self-serving motives and lack of dignity, which embolden foreign hands to put their fingers in our pie.
Foreign interference has historically figured in the domestic affairs of many countries. But it is peculiar to our politics that every political party is rumored to have a foreign connection. Foreign money and influence have systematically undermined popular will in Third World politics by manipulating elections. Many countries have hired foreign mercenaries to fight for them. The Americans are even fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq without being asked. The Russians are doing the same thing in Syria. In the 9th century, the Slavs had even invited foreigners, the Varangians from Scandinavia, to rule their country.
Adventurous men throughout history have led military conquests and risky expeditions. Explorers have discovered new destinations. Traders have chalked out routes to push their businesses. Scientists have linked places and eliminated distances. These achievements have created the global village in which we live today.
But that may be too close for comfort. The Cold War is heating up, and democracy is facing a new challenge: hackers can rig elections from thousands of miles away. In some countries, people are inured to this disappointment. The governments, which come to power, seldom are their choice.
Elections, which apparently went out of the people's hands long ago, is facing the new threat of going out of their countries. Voters will proudly vote. And, governments will be merrily made in cyberspace. Nature has cuckoos laying eggs in the nests of other birds. A similar fate awaits democracy.
The people are the next useful idiots who will live and die in surrogate democracies. They will cherish their sovereignty, not realizing it has slipped out of their hands.