Published:  12:13 AM, 25 October 2020

Peace and development in the Indo-Pacific region- I

Peace and development in the Indo-Pacific region- I
Dialogues over the Indo-Pacific were initiated in 2007 considering the importance of this region. We know more than 60 percent of waterways transportation is being done through the Indo-Pacific. There are 24 countries in this region and leading countries USA, India Japan and Australia formed the QUAD. Recently, the ministerial level of meetings has been held in Tokyo. There is a hectic political and diplomatic move in the region, especially in South Asia.

US deputy secretary of state Stephen Biegun had visited Delhi and then arrived in Dhaka. There are discussions and analysis regarding the QUAD and IPS in the Indo-Pacific region. Also, it has come up in the discussion that Chinese OBRI programs and Japan's BIG-B, India's bilateral and multilateral cooperation is going on. Let us describe the development of different initiatives.

After coming to power in 2009 PM Sheikh Hasina is continuing three consecutive terms. In this period trial of Bangabandhu and families' killing have been completed and execution is being done. Trial and execution of war criminals are going on; there are significant developments in all sectors of the country. Cooperation with the countries of the world has been developed. We know Indian PM Manmohan Singh visited Bangladesh in 2012 and PM Narendra Modi visited in 2015 and after that, there are remarkable developments in cooperation and connectivity.

Projects of 6 billion Dollars including big electricity generations project are progressive. Land Boundary Agreement has been implemented. A maritime boundary is also demarcated on the judgment. We know that BNP- Jamaat has done destructive activities in the name of the blockade in 2013 and 2014. At that time, AL and democratic forces especially security forces resisted those destructive activities obstacles and took action. At that time, India came forward and supported the Bangladesh government openly to continue the constitutional process and to complete the election.

Bangabandhu's daughter Sheikh Hasina has overcome the situation by bold and dynamic leadership. It has been proved that at the time of crisis, India can play a great role and other democratic forces of the world being associated with India only can play a better role in that conjunction. It may be remembered that Bangabandhu had given directives in all sectors including defense. He started the restructuring of the defense and India helped in the development process of the armed forces. But in 1975, the anti-democratic and anti-liberation forces created obstacles in the process of development by collaborating with anti-liberation foreign powers. Anti liberation foreign country China got involved in the process. Our armed forces are working with a reputation in the national crisis as well as in the peacekeeping force of the international arena.

The year 2014 is sure to be remembered by the people of Bangladesh and Japan to step into a new dimension of the bilateral relationship with a clear vision of economic cooperation.

During their summit talk in Tokyo in May 2014, H.E. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, and H.E. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of the People's Republic of Bangladesh agreed to further strengthen bilateral cooperation through the "Japan-Bangladesh Comprehensive Partnership." On this occasion, Prime Minister Abe announced to provide 600 billion Yen (approximately US$6 billion), mainly in ODA loans, in 4 to 5 years.

Following the first summit, Prime Minister Abe visited Bangladesh in September 2014, and the two Prime Ministers welcomed that the two countries shared a view on the direction of economic cooperation to be pursued under the initiative of "the Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt," or BIG-B.

Bangladesh is located with embracing the Bay of Bengal from the sea point of view, and in-between South Asia and South-East Asia from the land point. Under the current global economic power shift toward the Indo-Pacific Ocean region, this geographical advantage will provide a unique opportunity for the country to play an important role in regional as well as inter-regional matters. This also suggests Bangladesh's renewed focus on the "Look East" policy exploits the vibrant economic growth from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean.

Biegun has told the Indian government that Washington will be consulting it more on its neighboring countries, as he takes a key step towards resetting ties with Bangladesh at a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Biegun will be the first high-ranking US official in at least a decade to visit Dhaka. According to people familiar with the matter, Biegun, in his discussions with India's foreign secretary Harsh Shringla, went over ways to strengthen the QUAD security dialogue and sought India's inputs on its neighborhood.

They discussed bilateral cooperation on trade, including the development of common standards, a framework for investments, and building supply chains; apart from steps to help the Indian subcontinent respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, and plans to distribute a vaccine when it is ready.

The people cited above said that Shringla also briefed his US counterpart on Bangladesh, and told him about the need for Washington to engage with Bangladesh, which is rising economically under the leadership of PM Sheikh Hasina.

India's foreign secretary Harsh Vardan Shringla visited Dhaka on 18-19th august and met with PM Sheikh Hasina to convey the message of PM Narendra Modi. He discussed about Covit 19, vaccine and cooperation and probably also conveyed the opinion of India regarding the Indo-Pacific issue.
Former US secretaries of state John Kerry and Hilary Clinton had shown their intention to visit Dhaka but did not make the trip. For a long, India has encouraged the US to engage with Bangladesh under the leadership of Hasina, saying the country has taken a sharp turn away from the reactionary approach under Khaleda Zia of BNP-Jamaat.

Experts point out that the unstated backdrop to this is also that China has made big inroads into Bangladesh under the BRI, with the latter buying more than 80% of its military hardware from Beijing, including artillery guns and ammunition. While India had offered $500 million as a credit to Dhaka to buy military hardware during the then defense minister Manohar Parrikar's visit in 2018, the defense cooperation between the two neighbors is progressing. It may be remembered during Bangabandhu's time Bangladesh and India had cooperation in all sectors including defense by 25 years friendship treaty.

After the assassination of Bangabandhu, the then ruling government started and enhanced cooperation with the anti-foreign powers during the liberation war including China. Now steps have been taken to enhance cooperation in all sectors with our close tested friend India including in military sectors of the highest level.

Those who are now propagating, telling and advocating for interaction with all democratic and anti-democratic foreign forces and keep them on the same footing, are against the interest of Bangladesh, which moving forward in the path of development and democracy.

We know that our foreign currency reserves nearly 40 billion dollars. It has come from export earnings mainly garments and remittances of Bangladesh repatriates in abroad nearly eight million. Exports earnings depend on European and American markets and incomes from repatriate's earnings are dependent on Gulf countries, Europe, USA, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore and others. These are politically and economically connected with democratic countries of the world.

It is reported recently that the leading five countries which have the highest foreign currency reserve are Switzerland, China, Germany, Russia and India. It is also reported that in 2050 five economically leading countries based on GDP will be India, China, the USA, Japan and Germany. So countries of the world will be influenced by democratic countries related to the QUAD economically, politically and in terms of security.

It may be remembered that during the liberation war forces of democratic countries supported our rights because of the democratic value.

Due to the expansionism and actions of China in Ladakh, Taiwan, South China Sea, or Senkaku Islands, it was assessed to understand aggressive China and the QUAD partners chose to hold a physical meeting in Tokyo. It is quite evident that the dialogue is there to stay with all the four democracies quite comfortable with each other. If Ladakh's military standoff is a threat to India, the Chinese aggression on Taiwan are a matter of serious concern to both Japan and the US with Australian at the receiving end on trade issue with Beijing.

    (To be continued…)

The writer is an academic, former ambassador, leader-student action committee 71, and freedom fighter.

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