Bangladesh at centre of America's Indian Ocean security!

Staff Correspondent | Update:

.Bangladesh is going to be considered the most important country in America's security concerns in Asia-Pacific region, The National Interest indicates in an article.

The US international affairs magazine says with US strategy and attention increasingly shifting from the Asia-Pacific to the Indo-Pacific, the long-neglected states of South Asia and the Indian Ocean will assume greater geopolitical significance in the years ahead.

"Public polling indicates that Bangladesh’s population is one of the most pro-American in the region, and officials in Dhaka are generally enthusiastic about further strengthening ties with the United States," adds the article titled "How Bangladesh Can Improve Indian Ocean Security".

It referred to the recent Rohingya crisis affecting Bangladesh, and mentioned that Dhaka has expressed gratitude to Washington for the support it’s provided during the crisis but insists that international pressure on the Myanmar regime must continue.

The magazine focussed on the US focus on this region, in the context of Bangladesh's increasing engagement with India and China.

However, Washington looks more concerned about China's transactional and business-like relationship with Bangladesh and defence cooperation between the two countries.

"There is also some skepticism in Dhaka about the broader strategic implications of the BRI, of the pitfalls of becoming ensnared in a Chinese “debt trap,” and of the underhanded tactics employed by Chinese firms," wrote the magazine.

Naming other South Asian nations that are also neglected in Washington's Asia policy, such as Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, The National Interest called Bangladesh "the largest and arguably the most important of the group".

The article pointed out that Bangladesh is the eighth largest country in the world with 165 million people, which is equal to combined population of Britain, France and Canada. It also has the world’s fourth-largest Muslim population, behind only Indonesia, India and Pakistan, the article added.

The magazine also appreciated the current Awami League government for adopting a "zero-tolerance approach to Islamist terrorism.

"Nevertheless, a number of terrorist and extremist militant groups with transnational linkages continue to pose a threat to Bangladesh and the region," the article said emphasising the need for America's engagement counterterrorism cooperation.

Saying that America is already the top importer of Bangladeshi goods, the article also mentioned about Dhaka's interest in increasing bilateral trade, easing trade restrictions, reducing tariff and encouraging more US investment in Bangladesh.

The article predicted that with the Trump administration promoting a new free and open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy, Bangladesh will have new opportunities to diversify its sources of investment, strengthen ties with the United States, and position itself as a net contributor to security in the Indian Ocean.

"In this regard, Dhaka should consider explicitly endorsing the Trump administration’s FOIP strategy, as well as its vision for regional infrastructure. That vision emphasises transparency, responsible financing and high-quality standards — all things the BRI has been criticized for lacking," the article insisted.

It added that the Trump administration "should consider increasing the number of port calls and high-level defense exchanges with Bangladesh as well as bilateral and trilateral military exercises, potentially to include India and/or Japan."

"Bangladesh might also be considered for observer status at the annual India-US-Japan Malabar exercises."

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