Home Contact Us  

South Asia - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4512, 16 June 2014

Dhaka Discourse

Bangladesh: A New Thrust Towards East Asia
Delwar Hossain
Professor, Department of International Relations, Dhaka University

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina’s back-to-back visits to Japan and China provide a diplomatic bonanza to the government bedeviled by legitimacy crisis at home and abroad following the 5 January general elections this year. Hasina took the opportunity to silence her critics by making substantive gains in bilateral relations with the two East Asian countries. Japan is generally known as a committed development partner of South Asian countries – as reflected in volumes of official development assistance (ODA) pumped into the region every year. Japanese investment and bilateral trade volume between Tokyo and Dhaka have been seen a rise, especially over the past decade. Japan has remained the largest bilateral donor to Bangladesh for the past fifteen years. Both countries have developed a strong development partnership with growing activity by Japanese investors in Bangladesh.

The 21 point Japan-Bangladesh Comprehensive Partnership signed by the respective prime ministers during Hasina’s May 2014 visit is a demonstration of strong commitment to engage Japan more substantively in Bangladesh’s development process. In the past seven years, the number of Japanese companies operating in Bangladesh has nearly tripled – from 61 in 2007 to 176 in 2013; and the total grants and aid from Japan stood at $11 billion in 2013. Japan’s strategic intention was to combine two oceanic regions – the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean – for what the Japanese ambassador in Dhaka called a larger space for Japan’s economic activities.

He added that it looks like a “butterfly” in which Bangladesh and Myanmar occupies the “lynchpin position” to connect these oceanic regions. Apart from appreciating the strategic importance of Bangladesh, Tokyo would also be happy to receive Dhaka’s support in its bid for a permanent seat at the UNSC – and also to the issue of the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea. Recently, the Bangladeshi government recognised a number of foreign friends, including a few Japanese, for their contribution during the Bangldesh Liberation War.

As a result, the prime minister’s Japan visit has contributed to an agreement on a range of specific projects vis-à-vis, inter alia, the construction of Ganges Barrage, a multi-modal tunnel under Jamuna River, a dedicated Railway Bridge over Jamuna River, a multi-modal Dhaka Eastern Bypass, and the ecological restoration of four rivers around Dhaka. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Japan External Trade Organization and the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority that reserves important facilities in 5 EPZs in Bangladesh for Japanese investors. Japan has also committed its support for capacity building in nuclear safety and security. In an unprecedented gesture, Japan committed an ODA of $6 billion over the next five years that is crucial for infrastructure development in Bangladesh.

In a rare show of diplomatic moves, Hasina made a six-day official visit to China in early June with a 70-member business delegation immediately after she visited Japan. With these back to back visits, Hasina scored high points in diplomatic maneuvering both for her new government and the state. The much discussed China visit resulted in five deals, including Chinese assistance in the construction of a power plant in Patuakhali and building a multi-lane road tunnel under the Karnaphuli River. Chinese President Xi Jinping described Bangladesh as an important country along the maritime Silk Road project that he has been championing, and which envisages enhancing connectivities, building ports and free trade zones, and boosting trade with littoral countries in the Indian Ocean region and in Southeast Asia. China made it clear that it attaches great importance to the Beijing-Dhaka relationship and regards Bangladesh as an important development partner and cooperative partner in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region.

Bangladesh is an important country along the Maritime Silk Road for China, and Beijing welcomes Dhaka’s participation in the development of the cooperation initiatives of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. The issue of constructing the Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor also garnered the interest of both leaders as part of efforts towards enhancing connectivity between China and eastern South Asia. However, the absence of any deal on construction of the Sonadia deep sea port was conspicuous. The diplomatic circles in both countries had widely expected a deal on this mega project. As revealed by Bangladesh’s State Minister of Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam, “Bangladesh has decided to take time to pick the best offer over the construction of a deep seaport at Sonadia in Cox’s Bazar as a number of countries have shown interest in the lucrative mega project.”

High level visits often turn out ceremonial and declaratory in substance. But these two visits of Bangladesh’s prime minister have been a diplomatic breakthrough for Dhaka in cementing its foreign policy thrust towards the east. The diplomatic overtures by Japan and China have emboldened the Hasina government in Bangladesh to strengthen her position domestically and internationally. Although Japan and China are traditional friends of Bangladesh, there has always been a gap in their economic engagement, particularly in the context of Bangladesh’s growing economic and social performance. The outcomes of the recent visits might lead to reduction in the gap, especially amid the new matrix of external roles in Dhaka’s domestic politics. 

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee

Related Articles
Dibya Shikha,
"Bangladesh-China: Respective Objectives and Strategies," 30 May 2014
Delwar Hossain,
"East Meets West: Bangladesh and the BIMSTEC Summit," 17 March 2014

Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
India-Bangladesh Post Assembly Elections in West Bengal and Assam

IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015

18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh

Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics

Bangladesh: Diplomatic Manoeuvres at the UNGA

Abe’s Successful Visit to Dhaka: Two Political Challenges

Girl Summit Diplomacy and Bangladesh-UK Relations

India-Bangladesh: After Sushma Swaraj's Visit

Bangladesh-US: Towards New Engagements?

India-Bangladesh: Enhancing Ties through a ‘Power Corridor’

East Meets West: Bangladesh and the BIMSTEC Summit

Bangladesh: Domestic Politics and External Actors

Bangladesh Post Elections 2014: Redefining Domestic Politics?

The FSI Report: Is Bangladesh a Failing State?

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.