Neutrality can fortify the global position of Bangladesh

Published : Tuesday, 12 September, 2023 at 12:00 AM
The Bangladeshi Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, has for years maintained an influential position in South Asian politics. In addition to bringing stability and progress to Bangladesh, her leadership has been distinguished by a remarkable dedication in upholding a neutral posture in global and regional politics navigating a course that prioritizes peace, cooperation, and prosperity. Bangladesh under her leadership has the potential to function as both a neutral territory and a mediator in the settlement of international and regional conflicts as a result of her efficient diplomatic strategy, which focuses on the country’s economic development.

It is crucial to take into account the historical setting in which Sheikh Hasina’s administration operates in order to comprehend the significance of Bangladesh’s neutral posture. Bangladesh, a country that was created in 1971 after a brutal war for independence from Pakistan, has faced its fair share of geopolitical difficulties. The nation has borders with Myanmar, a country that is now experiencing internal turmoil, and India, the most populous democracy in the world. Furthermore, Bangladesh is a focus point for regional as well as global interests due to its location in the Bay of Bengal region.

Bangladesh has strong links with China and India, two influential nations in South Asian and international politics. While China has been a substantial source of investment in infrastructure and development projects, India has been Bangladesh’s closest neighbor and a crucial economic partner. The administration of Sheikh Hasina has expertly managed these interactions to make sure that neither power sees Bangladesh as supporting the other. With this strategy, Bangladesh has preserved its sovereignty and influence in international affairs by maintaining these partnerships in balance.

In addition, the diplomatic, economic, and strategic links that bind the United States and Bangladesh together are intricately woven covering a range of topics, from security and human rights to trade and development. The complexities of US-Bangladesh relations provide an intriguing story of collaboration, sporadic conflict, and shared interests. Economic cooperation is one of the main tenets of US-Bangladesh relations. In addition, the United States has consistently given Bangladesh development funding. Moreover, Bangladesh and the US have worked together to combat terrorism, share intelligence, and maintain peace in the region.

Despite the areas of collaboration, there have been difficulties and intermittent conflicts in US-Bangladesh relations with the US voicing its worries but nevertheless cooperating with Bangladesh on a number of fronts. In reality, the US supported Pakistan in 1971 under the influence of the Cold War since Russia was on our side, but now that bipolarity is in sight and the area is important, US-Bangladesh relations have much improved. The strategic location of Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal and its close proximity to regional superpowers like China and India intensify the situation. The United States aims to balance its ties to Bangladesh and other regional players. The similar can be observed in the case of Russia too.

It is noteworthy that, under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s leadership, Bangladesh was awarded 111,000 square kilometers of exclusive economic zone waters in the Bay of Bengal in 2012. In addition, the tribunal granted Bangladesh a 12-mile territorial sea around St. Martin’s Island, rejecting Myanmar’s claim that it should be divided in half. Furthermore, in resolving a long-standing maritime border dispute between India and Bangladesh, a Hague-based international court awarded Bangladesh 19,467 square kilometers of the disputed region in the Bay of Bengal.

Bangladesh’s expansion in the Bay of Bengal has greatly increased the nation’s importance to global powers, as most of these global powers aspire to establish their control in the region. Bangladesh has been diplomatic in maintaining good relations with everyone while not allowing anyone complete power over the zone. To avert violence, the government of Bangladesh should adopt the same strategy in the future, as it would not only ensure regional stability but will also protect Bangladesh’s sovereignty.

The impartial position of Sheikh Hasina’s administration is further exemplified by its commitment to regional stability. Conflicts and tensions have long plagued the South Asian region, frequently sparked by old rivalries and territorial disputes. However, Bangladesh has contributed to regional organizations like the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) under Hasina’s leadership. Bangladesh has actively participated in various conferences in an effort to promote regional connectivity, trade, and collaboration.

International appreciation has also been shown for Sheikh Hasina’s administration’s humanitarian policies, particularly in relation to the Rohingya refugee issue. Sheikh Hasina’s administration showed its impartiality in regional politics while preserving human rights and international law by taking a strong stance on the Rohingya issue.  Despite receiving encouragement from other countries to act aggressively against Myanmar, the Bangladeshi government promoted peace and made a vital contribution to preserving regional stability.

The development of China into a major economic force has led to a shift toward bipolarity in the world. Bangladesh experienced numerous pressures from the major international players as a result of its geographical position. Sheikh Hasina, however, remained committed to the country’s development and upheld an impartial but effective position with all partners in development. Bangladesh became a development role model and received widespread acclaim under her leadership. Despite even not being a member, Bangladesh has received invitations to join various international forums.

Recently, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa invited Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to attend the 15th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg. In her capacity as a summit guest, she made a significant address. She also took part in the G20 Summit in 2023, which took place in New Delhi on September 9 and 10. Sheikh Hasina is one of the nine head of state guests that Indian Prime Minister and G20 President NarendraModihas invited. The fact that Bangladesh is the only country from South Asia to have received an invitation to the G20 Summit in 2023 is a matter of honor and prestige.

Sheikh Hasina’s participation in the G20 Summit in 2023 will have a significant impact on bilateral ties between Bangladesh and India as well as Bangladesh’s relationships with other states and non-state actors. Bangladesh has also gained a lot as the relation with the US seemed to be revitalized along with several other nations like UAE, South Korea, and KSA etc.

Many top foreign leaders also visited Bangladesh during the last decade. Very recently, the French President Emmanuel Macron visited Bangladesh on 10-11 September. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also visited Dhaka recently on 7-8 September. Many other top leaders including US senators have visited Dhaka for different purposes signifying Bangladesh’s position to the world. Most of these leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron emphasized on the sovereignty of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh, being a vastly Muslim-majority country, has also successfully upheld secular motivation and maintained communal harmony. It has been very effective in controlling terrorism and fundamentalism. Hence, Bangladesh promoted regional, may be even global, stability to the greatest extent. Moreover, Sheikh Hasina has been a key advocate of facing the climate change challenges and Bangladesh is well regarded all around the world for that. These involvements create a greater scope for Bangladesh to become a neutral zone for global strategic advocacy. We have seen few countries maintaining its neutral stance like; Turkey, Singapore etc. in performing critical role in resolving global disputes. Bangladesh can also play the same role in the future if we uphold the neutral, secular and development-oriented stance in the future also.

The G20 Summit in India this year came up with the slogan, ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’. This slogan was echoed in the neighborhood of Bangladesh. Being an active actor in the Bay of Bengal and center of focus for the global powers, that slogan can start implementing from Bangladesh by keeping its neutral position for the welfare of the whole world. This will certainly benefit the US, China, India, Russia and other Western countries if they enjoy this neutral stance of Bangladesh and act as an unconditional development partner of this South Asian nation. For that, the Bangladeshi government must keep the diplomatic strategies of Sheikh Hasina to keep Bangladesh on the roads of development, progress and honor. We hope Bangladesh will keep reaching the top at every field with its fullest capacity in the upcoming years.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Editor at Kishore Bangla

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