AUKUS is creating more than just ripples, said Shahedul Anam Khan, former associate editor of the Daily Star, referring to the recent treaty between the US, UK and Australia. “AUKUS is the consequence of a conceived threat. China has grown in leaps and bounds and this treaty is focused on China,” he said, adding that the US and its allies would not like to see the domination of China in the region.

Bangladesh is not likely to join Quad, and though Myanmar is a part of ASEAN, it definitely won’t do anything against China’s interests
Touhid Hossain, former foreign secretary

“Quad is a quasi-military arrangement, while AUKUS is a defence treaty, the most significant treaty since NATO was signed in 1949,” he said.

Former foreign secretary Touhid Hossain said that while for long the Pacific and the Atlantic had been part of US strategic thinking, the importance of the Indian Ocean snowballed with the rise of China. Quad, he said, was more of a reaction than an independent initiative.

Turning to the stand and involvement of various concerned nations regarding AUKUS, Touhid Hossain posed the question, “Where is Asia?” He pointed out that though the treaty dealt with much of the Asian region, neither India nor Japan, or any other Asian county, was a member of AUKUS. Despite the centrality of ASEAN, the member nations of ASEAN do not all share the same interests and so were divided in their stance concerning these initiatives. The states on the South China Sea, for example, have raised a hue and cry, while others prefer to keep quiet.

The region may be in for a long stretch of strategic ambiguity
Maj. Gen. (retd) ANM Muniruzzaman, president of BIPSS

“Bangladesh is not likely to join Quad,” Touhid Hossain said, “and though Myanmar is a part of ASEAN, it definitely won’t do anything against China’s interests. “ All countries will continue to observe what shape AUKUS takes in the days to come, he added.

In his opening remarks, Maj. Gen. (retd) ANM Muniruzzaman, president of BIPSS, said that the strategic landscape is changing rapidly. However, the Asia Pacific region does not have any security architecture in place, so if the unfolding initiatives are not managed well, these could result in undesirable consequences.

He said, Quad first was formed in 2004 for the tsunami and was resurrected in 2018 with fresh impetus. Now AUKUS had emerged and was still evolving. “The region may be in for a long stretch of strategic ambiguity,” he observed.

Parvez Karim Abbasi, assistant professor of economics at East West University, touched on the geo-economic rationale of AUKUS, its effect on ASEAN, China-US relations, and how these developments will impact Bangladesh.

He said after its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the US was now out to reassert itself in the Indo-Pacific. Meanwhile, China’s geo-economic clout has increased. “While there may not be an act of war,” he said, “there is the threat of war.”

The roll out of technology was also a part of this competition with China coming up with 5G technology and even going the next step towards 6G. Bangladesh needs to observe all this with care, he said.

In his address, Zafar Sobhan, editor of the Dhaka Tribune, said the vital question was what Bangladesh’s stance should be in the changing geo-strategic environment.

After a lively question and answer session attended by senior foreign diplomats, retired civil and military bureaucrats, members of the business community and civil society, media persons and others, Zafar Sobhan was pleased to announce that this was just the beginning of a regular series of such events to be hosted in joint collaboration between BIPSS and Dhaka Tribune.

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