Bangladesh spells out Indo-Pacific priorities

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Bangladesh will work with all the stakeholders for peacekeeping, peace building and counter-terrorism initiatives in the Indo-Pacific region, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said. In an important policy announcement ahead of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Japan, U.S. and the U.K., Dhaka came out in support of “rules-based international order” and “free and uninterrupted movement and trade”

Bangladesh will aim for “inclusive development by strengthening free, transparent and rules-based international order,” the Ministry has said.

The announcement on Dhaka’s Indo-Pacific priorities was made for the first time on Monday in a document titled “ Bangladesher Indo-Pacific Ruprekha” (Indo-Pacific priorities of Bangladesh). Significantly, the document was released during a press conference that was held to announce Ms. Hasina’s visit to Japan, U.S. and the United Kingdom that will begin on Tuesday.

Meaningful contributions

“Along with the stakeholders concerned of the Indo-Pacific region, Bangladesh plans to make meaningful contributions to international disarmament, peacekeeping, peace building and counter-terror programmes and uphold the international values,” the statement declared in a Bengali text. Bangladesh will also pursue the agenda of “women, peace and security” in the Indo-Pacific, the document stated.

Spelling out the country’s priorities, the document declared that Bangladesh supports “existing structure of maritime security and wants to strengthen it”. It further said that It supports “unobstructed oceanic movement” . As part of its strategy, Bangladesh will support upholding of national sovereignty and oppose interference in the internal affairs of members of the region.

“To ensure uninterrupted and free flow of trade despite future crisis and emergencies, Bangladesh will strengthen regional and global value chain and will direct its agriculture, industry and services sector to that direction,” the statement stated. The document also mentioned “responsible behaviour in cyber and outer space”. Bangladesh has not joined any regional initiative in the Indo-Pacific arena and its representatives had earlier stated that Dhaka was not planning to participate in regional initiatives. Monday’s announcement is the first time that Bangladesh has spelt out its clear goals on the Indo-Pacific region and has adopted several conceptual parameters that are part of the thinking championed by India, U.S., Japan and Australia. The use of terms like “Indo-Pacific” as opposed to “Asia-Pacific” that are favoured by Beijing and Moscow indicates Sheikh Hasina is trying to send a message to the leading western powers in the Indo-Pacific region. The document also announced that Bangladesh  will uphold the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that establishes rights and responsibilities of the UN member states while using the oceans of the world.

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