Presiding over the roundtable, BIPSS president AHM Muniruzzaman pointed to four key areas of global trends in 2020. These pertained to strategic changes, security, economy and changes technology.

He said, “The rise of China and India are major drivers of change. Also, Russia and China have converged as never before.”

He also felt that a sharp watch should be kept in the Middle East in terms of stability as a hybrid nature of security and insecurity was emerging. He said the world should be prepared for new forms of terrorism after post-Daesh and ISIS.

Climate emergency was another global challenge and Bangladesh was a frontline state in this connection. Climate emergency could escalate into a resources conflict.

We are in the middle of a potential pandemic and most countries, including Bangladesh, are ill prepared
AHM Muniruzzaman

Referring to the emergence of the coronavirus, he said, “We are in the middle of a potential pandemic and most countries, including Bangladesh, are ill prepared.” He referred to the recent locust invasion in Africa and said this could have an impact on global food security.

“Insecurity anywhere is insecurity everywhere,” he warned, in reference to the global context.

“The readymade garment industry in Bangladesh under stress. It has around 20 days stock of fabric.” he said, referring to the economic impact of coronavirus. A similar situation prevails in international supply chain management. There is a growing need for renegotiation of trade pacts and deals. Bangladesh must be careful and look into its post-Brexit agreements with the UK. Bangladesh has a lot of areas to tread carefully, he said.

AHM Muniruzzman brought up the issue of the fourth industrial revolution where AI and robotics will replace cheap labour. Bangladesh’s labour will no longer be in demand. “We need to reevaluate the way we learn, the way we educate. All will be governed by data and big data,” he said.

Parvez Karim Abbasi, assistant professor of economics at East West University, also took up the coronavirus issue and its possible economic impact. He said its impact on China and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will have spillover effects on the rest of the globe.

“It is to be seen how the US will respond,” he said, raising the question as to whether the US would try to exploit the situation. “China is Africa’s largest trade partner at the moment, but the US is its largest aid provider,” he said, seeing potential rivalry gearing up in the area.

The US economy could also be hit hard as well as that of other countries, he said. “If the US economy tanks or shows vulnerability, if Middle East economy contracts, this will affect the rest of the world. This will also have ramifications for Bangladesh’s economy,” he added.

Md Ruhul Amin, Chairman of the international relations department at Dhaka University, said, “We are stepping into the gateway of international challenges. The road to peace is torturous but prospects of peace not bleak.”

We are stepping into the gateway of international challenges. The road to peace is torturous but prospects of peace not bleak.
Md Ruhul Amin

However, he saw danger in the rise of populism and populist leaders as nationalistic rhetoric lead to attacks on minorities, more polarisation rather than homogenisation. “It also gives rise to Islamophobia, he said, pointing to the spate of hate crimes in the west.

Shahedul Anam Khan, former associate editor of the Daily Star, said that change is the only constant in this world, asking, “Did anyone imagine the consequences of a virus that probably can impact world economy? Certain things can’t be predicted, just like the coronavirus.”

He said that one of the global trends of 2020 was the emergence of Asia, led by India and China. This is likely to lead to US-China rivalry and conflict. “China had no aspirations or ability 30 years ago. Now they have the aspirations and are developing the ability,” he said, pointing to changed equations in global politics.

Parvez Ahmed, managing director of CompTech Network System said that developing countries were not prepared to face the challenges ahead, including that of AI and fast developing technology.

The roundtable ended with a question and answer session.

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