Bangladesh announces its Indo-Pacific outlook

Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen (C) speaks at a press conference at the foreign ministry in Dhaka on 24 April 2023 while state minister for foreign affairs Md Shahriar Alam (L) and foreign ministry’s Director General (Public Diplomacy), Public Diplomacy Wing and spokesperson Seheli Sabrin are also seen.
Prothom Alo

Dhaka on Monday announced an Indo-Pacific outlook ending the curiosity of a number of countries on its position over the growing geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific region.

The 15-point outlook emphasised security as a prerequisite for economic prosperity and clarified that Dhaka leaning towards no side in the growing geopolitical competition between China and the United States centering the region.

Bangladesh announced its Indo-Pacific outlook that emphasised a free, open, peaceful, secure, and inclusive Indo- Pacific for the shared prosperity for all, a day before prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Japan begins Tiesday.

State minister for foreign affairs Md Shahriar Alam unveiled the final outlook in presence of foreign minister AK Abdul Momen at a press conference at the foreign ministry in Dhaka.

The US announced its Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) centring the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean in 2017 with Japan, India and Australia joining this strategic initiative. On the other hand, Beijing sees the US Indo-Pacific strategy as a move to counter the progress of China. Washington has being calling Dhaka to join in its Indo-Pacific strategy since 2018.

In the meantime, Japan, South Korea, Australia, ASEAN countries clarified their position on the Indo-Pacific region. European Union, UK, France, Germany and Canada announced there Indo-Pacific strategy recently.

According to foreign affairs analysts, Bangladesh announcing its Indo-Pacific outlook day before its prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Japan carries a great deal of significance. Dhaka joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative after signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Beijing in 2016. This time, Dhaka will give a message during Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Tokyo that the country has clarified its position on the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS).

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State minister Shahriar Alam said in the press conference that “Being a littoral State of the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh considers the stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific to be a crucial factor in realizing her “Vision 2041’, i.e. building a modern, knowledge-based developed country by 2041. The Indo-Pacific area’s collective share in global GDP, preponderance in international trade, enhanced climate action and growing technological dynamism can be key determinants for ensuring Bangladesh’s long-term resilience and prosperity. Bangladesh, therefore, envisions a free, open, peaceful, secure, and inclusive Indo- Pacific for the shared prosperity for all.”

State minister for foreign affairs Md Shahriar Alam unveils a 15-point Indo-Pacific Outlook in presence of foreign minister AK Abdul Momen at a press conference at the foreign ministry in Dhaka on 24 April 2023.
Prothom Alo

Shahriar Alam further said Bangladesh followed four guiding principles to finalise the outlook, with the first one being the foreign policy dictum of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman -- Friendship towards all, malice toward none.

The second principle reads, “constitutional mandate on the conduct of international relations based on the principles of respect for national sovereignty and equality, political independence, non-interference in internal affairs, peaceful settlement of international disputes, as well as respect for international law and the principles enunciated in the United Nations Charter, and striving for renunciation of the use of force in international relations and for general and complete disarmament.”

While the third principle is an adherence to the relevant UN treaties and international conventions, as applicable, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and the fourth one is constructive regional and international cooperation for sustainable development, international peace and security, humanitarian action, and fundamental rights and freedoms.

Consistent with these four principles, the objective that will guide Bangladesh’s Indo-Pacific outlook and engagements includes “Strengthen mutual trust and respect, forge partnerships and cooperation, and promote dialogue and understanding with the aim of ensuring peace, prosperity, security and stability for all in the Indo-Pacific.”

It also aims to “strengthen existing mechanisms on maritime safety and security in the Indo-Pacific, including response to emergencies at sea and conduct of search & rescue, and uphold the exercise of freedom of navigation & over-flight, in accordance with international law and relevant international conventions, including UNCLOS, 1982.”

The outlook aims to “maintain meaningful and value-driven contribution to international non-proliferation, peacekeeping, peace building and counter-terrorism efforts, including with partners in the Indo-Pacific, and support regional and international efforts towards combating transnational organized crimes in the Indo-Pacific through both normative and practical actions.”

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It targets to “expand global lead on the flagship agenda of a ‘culture of peace’, enhance focus on the ‘women, peace and security’ agenda, promote interfaith harmony and work towards building peaceful, just and inclusive societies in the Indo-Pacific.”

It will “promote open, transparent, rules-based multilateral systems that enable equitable and sustainable development in the Indo-Pacific and beyond through inclusive economic growth, right to development and shared prosperity for all.”

The outlook will “Enhance physical, institutional, energy, digital and human connectivity, facilitate movement of goods, services, capital, and people in a systematic manner, and promote technology transfer, access to innovations and responsible behavior in open and secure cyberspace and outer space."

It targets to “leverage the domestic agriculture, manufacturing and services sectors towards building resilient regional and global value chains to better manage future crisis and disruptions and to promote unimpeded and free flow of commerce in the Indo-Pacific” and “Promote conservation, sustainable use and management of oceans, seas, and marine resources in the Indo-Pacific in pursuance of SDG-14 and other relevant internationally agreed development commitments.”

Bangladesh also wants to “engage proactively in promoting food security, water solidarity, and disaster risk reduction in the Indo-Pacific, including through disseminating home-grown good practices,” and “continue tangible work towards addressing the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, marine pollution, and other significant and harmful impacts on the environment in line with relevant international conventions and commitments.”

Dhaka also aims to “foster cooperation among Indo-Pacific countries to ensure energy security for all, including through investment and technology transfer on renewable energy,” and “work towards developing coordinated response to future pandemics and ensuring health security, including through access for all to global public goods like vaccines, diagnostics and other treatments.”

The 15-point outlook includes “collaboration with sub-regional partners and relevant organizations towards bolstering regional cooperation and enhancing mutually beneficial complementarities,” as well as to “strengthen collaboration and cooperation in science, technology, research and innovation for shared benefits of all, in keeping with the vision of 'Smart Bangladesh'”