How Bangladesh has tactfully approached both India and China

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION
New Delhi, India Published: Oct 14, 2020, 09:28 PM(IST)

File Photo. Photograph:( AFP )

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Sheikh Hasina has managed to walk the diplomatic tightrope quite successfully by carefully striking a balanced partnership with both the countries

Despite being in the middle of rising Indian and Chinese competition for South Asian influence, Bangladesh has tactfully approached both the regional powers.

On one hand, Bangladesh enjoys robust strategic ties with India, witnessed in just- completed joint naval exercises with India where the two sides held surface warfare drills in the Bay of Bengal.  

Also read: India, Bangladesh conduct naval exercise in Bay of Bengal

On the other, China is bankrolling billions of dollars worth of needed infrastructure projects in Bangladesh, checkbook diplomacy that has helped to pull the two sides closer together than perhaps ever in their modern history.

Here is the strategy adopted by Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina:

When Sheikh Hasina was elected as the prime minister of the country for the fourth time, a major diplomatic challenge was staring at her.

Even when she was forced to pick a side, she chose both India and China.

Sheikh Hasina has managed to walk the diplomatic tightrope quite successfully by carefully striking a balanced partnership with both the countries.

Bangladesh is almost completely surrounded by India with a 4,096-kilometer shared border. Robust and cordial ties with India are thus critical for Bangladesh’s economic development and national security.

Most crucially, Bangladesh’s water supply is dependent on rivers that flow into the country from neighbouring India.

Being a developing country, Bangladesh deepened its ties with China to bankroll its key infrastructural projects. 

Unlike Pakistan and Sri Lanka has retained some autonomy because it is not buried under Chinese debt.

Bangladesh has adopted a cautious infrastructure development strategy, which involves drawing on the financial support and technical expertise of a number of countries in order to avoid becoming over-dependent on any single nation.

According to the ministry of finance, the external debt of Bangladesh stood at a little more than 33 billion dollars in 2018.

While the total foreign debt is less than 14 percent of the GDP of Bangladesh. Chinese loans account for just six percent of the total debt.

Dhaka's recent decision to bury the Sonadia deep-sea port project shows it is being selective in granting projects to China.

When concerns grew over rising Chinese influence, Dhaka assured New Delhi that it remains committed to strong ties with India.

During the visit of India's foreign secretary to Dhaka in August, Bangladesh and India discussed a two year long road map to improve their relationship. Both sides also agreed to open a travel bubble.


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