Numerous important studies exist explaining why do states acquire nuclear warheads across the globe. Security, regional hegemony, power, prestige, status, technology and domestic determinisms have largely accepted by optimists and pessimists for nuclear proliferation.
For instance, the United States and the United Kingdom develop nuclear weapons for regional hegemony, former Soviet Union, France, China, Israel, South Africa, Pakistan, and North Korea have manufactured nukes for security.
However, India’s case is dissimilar with rest of all nuclear weapon states. Indian as well as non-Indian academic pundits provide different studies and explanations regarding India’s nuclear tests. Realists and neo-realists argue that India went nuclear for security and regional hegemony. While some argue that India has tested nuclear devices in summer in 1998 for prestige, power, and status factor. Interestingly, few academic think tanks have argued that India joined the nuclear club for domestic politics considerations.
My study also understands that domestic factor played an important role for Vajpayee’s government to go overtly nuclear in May 1998. Atal Bihari Vajpayee first appeared in Indian politics as a foreign minister from 1977 to 1979 in the Janata government under Morarji Desai. His tenure was short that is why Indian people hardly got inspired by him. After the Pokhran explosion in May 1974, Congress was praised by the RSS and other Hindu hardliners who worshipped nuclear energy for prestige, power, and status. However, Congress did not succeed to continue their government with the nuclear explosion. Also, Congress did not consider nukes as a tool for power, prestige, and status rather a regrettable necessity, a terrible weapon fit only for deterrence.
In 1996, Vajpayee became prime minister of India. However, he enjoyed the office only for thirteen days. Before Vajpayee’s tenure of prime ministership, Congress government under Narasimha Rao was willing to go nuclear in 1995 but due to fear of economic sanctions and the US detection of nuclear test preparations in Pokhran desert, he decided not to proceed. The opportunity was left for Vajpayee, who without losing much time ordered the nuclear scientist for the atomic bomb tests in 1996. Unfortunately, the tests were halted when it became clear that Vajpayee would not be able to win a parliamentary vote of confidence.
Vajpayee was struggling for survival in Indian politics. He had lost the opportunity in 1996 to win the confidence of Indian people. Vajpayee again became prime minister of India on 20 March 1998 after forming a great alliance of nearly twenty allied parties under National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The maximum number of ministries were under the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). The opportunity for nuclear tests which Vajpayee lost in 1996 was in his mind. After holding the office of prime ministership in 1998, het met nuclear scientists and discussed about the future of India’s nuclear programme. Subsequently, military engineers were ordered to prepare the site for testing. Interestingly, Pakistan’s Ghauri missile test on 9 April 1998 helped Vajpayee to went nuclear. However, Ghauri missile test was an excuse, Vajpayee was desperately searching for justifications to go overtly nuclear in 1996 and 1998.
Vajpayee thought that nuclear tests will provide a boost to his image and BJP will be truly declared a ‘nationalist party’. Also, Vajpayee was cautious about the 1996 fractured electoral verdict. To survive in politics, nuclear explosion was an important option. There was uproar at that time that the Vajpayee government will survive only for six months. There were numerous challenges before Vajpayee gave an order for the nuclear tests. Vajpayee was heading the cabinet with the support of allied parties, it was very difficult for him to get majority of votes for nuclear tests. It was the main reason that Vajpayee did not consult the union ministers for the actual date of nuclear tests. Brajesh Mishra and Jaswant Singh were only two ministers with whom Vajpayee had discussed the actual date of testing. L. K. Advani (Home Minister) was told about the test a day before the actual testing. Surprisingly, majority of ministers were totally unaware of the secret nuclear meetings and about the decision to blast the deserts of Pokhran once again.
On 11 May and 13 May 1998, five nuclear devices were tested in Pokhran desert of Rajasthan. After the tests, the reason for nuclear explosions were claimed mostly external threat form China and Chinese nuclear technology to Pakistan. The domestic political factor was totally eschewed to win the emotions of the Indian people.
However, numerous studies and explanations place India’s nuclear programme in the ‘domestic politics model’. The nuclear experts like Kanti Bajpai, Achin Vanaik, Praful Bidwai, Scott Sagan, Itty Abraham, George Perkovich and many others have listed India nuclear tests in domestic determinants. The nuclear weapons have served the parochial interests of at least some actors within the states. Vajpayee case fits to justify the domestic political consideration factor for nuclear testing, who had intentionally ordered nuclear tests in summer 1998 for his survival and image.
After the nuclear tests, Vajpayee was declared a national hero, ‘the right man in the wrong party’. Indian media particular television has praised Vajpayee for a daring decision which Congress failed to take in its tenure after having all the time to do so. The BJP succeed to play politics with a bomb. The election slogan of BJP Sabko dekha baar-baar, humko parkhen ek bar (You have seen every party; now test us once) justifies that BJP was going for nuclear tests which Congress failed to do.
It was Vajpayee and his decision for nuclear tests in 1998 that BJP achieved strength and popularity in India. Also, the party was succeeded in claiming itself as a ‘nationalist party’. Vajpayee who was unknown to general pubic was projected with Nehruvian figure with charming personal qualities after the nuclear explosions. The nuclear tests gave Vajpayee a warm welcome from the middle class Indian people, who perceived him as being moderate, simple, and fun-loving man.
Kanti Bajpai argued that Vajpayee became a crowd catcher in India after the nuclear tests. The Congress was blamed as a party of “pseudo-secularists’ by L.K. Advani. Sonia Gandhi was taunted as ‘foreigner’ not fit to rule India. It was over all the ‘nuclear bomb’ that gave a momentum to the BJP to attack Congress and changed the political journey of BJP in general and Vajpayee in particular in India. Interestingly, Congress took lessons of the nuclear politics from the BJP, the US-India civil nuclear deal was signed between India and the United States in 2005 under the Congress government to accelerate the nuclear weapons programme.
In better terms, when government faces troubles at home, it starts focusing on external threat to divert the attention of the general public. Karthika Sasikumar and Christopher Way argued in his piece Testing Theories of Proliferation in South Asia that for vote bank, the government with an insure hold on power may seek to rally support around nationalism by going nuclear. The BJP used the nuclear card after the nuclear tests to win the emotions of the people. Several occasions during the election rally, BJP have highlighted India’s success from “cow dung power” to “Nuclear Power”. Also, Scott Sagan argued that the nuclear weapons were perhaps relevant to the unresolved Kashmir issue to win the emotions of public in India.
Thus, it is clear that the domestic determinant plays an important role in India’s nuclear decisions. Also, it is true that both the BJP and Congress now highlight the nuclear card for winning the emotions of the public to strengthen the domestic politics for their own interests. For instance, the importance of nuclear submarines, nuclear air bombers, missile defence systems are highly debated in India. During republic days, different varieties of nuclear capable missiles and nuclear air bombers are disclosed annually to win the confidence of the public.
Regional Power politics and Pakistan foreign policy
“Under the shadow of Growing antagonism among Regional Powers, Pakistan needs to formulate pragmatic foreign policy by staying between the lines”
Islamabad is undermining its relations with all weather friends situated in Gulf region. Foreign Minister of Pakistan , Shah Mahmood Qureshi issued outrageous statement about the role of Saudi Arabia in organization of Islamic cooperation to raise the Kashmir issue in assertive way. Furthermore , he warned during an interview that if Saudi Arabia did not convene a meeting of OIC’s council of foreign ministers to discuss the abrogation of autonomous status of Kashmir by revoking article 370, Pakistan would go forward to call a meeting of those states who favors Pakistan narrative over Kashmir and this meeting might be held either within or outside of OIC forum.
These statements clearly pointed out the role of Saudi Arabia in Organization of Islamic Cooperation to support Pakistan. It is no doubt that Pakistan and Saudi have been enjoying friendly Bilateral relations and Pakistan always took side of the Arab Brothers States . The role of KSA in improving the economy of Pakistan in difficult times can not be neglected and it has been a major contributor of aids to support the shrinking economy.
In the result of outrageous behavior of Foreign ministers, KSA forced Pakistan to return the $1 billion. In the beginning of Imran’s government, Pakistan’s economy was at the brink of destruction and in this critical situation, KSA extended a $ 6.2 billions package which was comprised of $ 3 billions loans and oil in deferred payments worth of $ 3.2 billions. Now, the situation is in very trouble conditions and KSA demanding her rest of payments and frozen oil credit facility. However with the help of China, Pakistan has returned $ 1 billion to the KSA.
To normalize the tense situation, Chief Of Army Staff, Qamar Javed bajwa along Chief of Intelligence, Faiz Hameed, visited the Saudi Arabia but were not welcomed heartedly. MBS refused to meet and they just called on some official and discussed the matter. In the recent arena, the politics of Middle East region is showing dynamics. UAE and Bahrain have signed a peace agreement with the Israel and KSA aims to improve relations with the Israel. In response to this, Palestinians showed anger against the Arab states and rejected the agreements. It is very important time for Pakistan to take foreign policy decisions towards Arab states particularly Saudi Arabia.
Historically, Pakistan shares common religious ties with KSA and due to holy shrines and cities sees with eye of respect. Pakistan is sunni dominated sect states who have strong heart ties with the KSA and supports morally and military at every situation. On the hand, KSA also supported Pakistan in the wars of 1965 and 71 opposed Indian stance over the establishment of Bangladesh. As far it is concerned with the Kashmir issue, KSA supported the Pakistan at every forum in past.
In the same way, the competition between USA and China has put Pakistan into a condition where to take any side would accelerate other to take strict actions. The revisionist Turkey and Iran’s role in Muslim world is threatening the status quo KSA and its allies. The contemporary world politics is passing through a transitive phase in which new blocks are emerging.
On the dynamic stage of world politics, regional players have activated to exploit the opportunities to fulfill their national interests. To do so, they are forming new blocks particularly in the Middle East and Indo Pacific regions . It is very critical time for Pakistan to formulate a pragmatic foreign policy to deal with other important states. Pakistan is not in a position to execute independent foreign policy. Pakistan has lesser action space due to economic vulnerabilities. An imbalance in imports and exports, the perils of FATF and the strict policies of IMF bound Pakistan to not play in the world political field. Albeit, it would be possible if Pakistan tend to improve the economic conditions.
Kashmir is not a sole a reason but there are several other reasons which are potentially souring the relations . Among them, one of the intense is that Pakistan’s growing relations with the potential political Islamic states e. g Turkey, Iran and Malaysia. These states are construed as rival of Riyadh leadership in the Muslim world. The Revisionist Turkey under the leadership of the Tayyip Erdogan wants to regain its glorifying status of ottoman empire. The secular Turkey has shifted away from the secular ideology and leading towards the destination to be a theological state. Turkey has emerged as new leader of Anti – Saudi bloc and leading from the front. The historical role of Turkey and Iran in Arab springs cannot be overshadowed.
The Bilateral rations and recent agreements of Iran and China have influential implications over Pakistan via Iran’s relations with Pakistan. China has invested almost $62 billions in CPEC and wants to connect the chabhar port with Gwadar port to gain maximum economic benefits. On the other hand, Arabs state particularly KSA and UAE are playing in the hands of West specifically USA and Israel to get secure position in the Middle East to deter the new enemy Turkey and traditional rival Iran. Recently, UAE and Bahrain has acceded the Israel and signed a peace deal to start formally diplomatic relations. KSA has aims to stretch the diplomatic and economic relations with Israel. Multiple Arabs states have already recognized the Israel and the most prominent are Turkey, Egypt, Bahrain and UAE. In this Situation, Pakistan needs to clear its position towards Palestinian issue and should reconsider its policies towards Israel to find a permanent solution of Palestinian as well as Kashmir issue.
Moreover, The traditional Rival India is very active in Middle East region and playing its role to strengthen feet in the Muslim world. Various agreements in diverse sectors have been signed among India and other Arab states. KSA wants India as South Asia Strategic partner and UAE had its economic interests in almost world largest market. It is also a prominent reason due to which KSA is not openly supporting the Pakistan stance over Kashmir issue. Pakistan also sees it a future threat. Pakistan foreign policy always have been Indian centric. In this contemporary situation, Pakistan should not deteriorate its relations with all weather Arab friends but should urge them to take side of Pakistan by exploiting their weak points.
When we comes to the foreign policies of Pakistan towards a friends whose friendships is sweeter than honey and higher than Himalayas, it is very evident that Pakistan always show a soft image. But, in multi polar world, China and USA has undergone into a phase where they are taking steps to harm the economy of each other. Undoubtedly, China has surpassed the USA in economic growth rate but it has to complete billions dollars project yet. In the same way, Pakistan also enjoys good relations With USA to get financial assistance. In the age of New cold war, Pakistan would have to opt a middle ground to take benefits of both aid and economic activities. If Pakistan takes one of side then it would put herself into troubles because still international organizations are under the influence of USA and deeply depends upon the morally, militarily and economic support of China.
It can be analyzed that it is not only Kashmir but there are also multiple factors which are intensifying the situations for Pakistan . It is stated that there is no free lunch in international rations. As in the same way, KSA and UAE have their own preferences and interests in arena. Their foreign policy does not allow them to be influenced by someone else. It is very significant time for Pakistan in which important decisions have to be made by the officials but one thing should be keep in mind that we should not make it either us or without us situation but exploit the opportunities. To increase the number gains and popular support at domestic level, such kind of outrageous statements should not be released until you don’t have strong relative power. Economy plays a very significant role in the states future. Pakistan is economically a vulnerable state and it does not allow it to take independent decisions. Saudi Arabia is the main exporter of Oil to the Pakistan, thousands workers work in Saudi, holy land and always support Pakistan in the difficult time all these factors should be keep in mind to take any decisions.
If Pakistan aligns with Turkey , Iran and Malaysia block thenit will have to face west and other benefactors resistance. China is also interested in developing good relations with Saudi because they are oil scarce and assisting them in technical developments. Turkey and Iran are not in a position that they would come to rescue the Pakistan. If Pakistan openly opposes the west block then it would have to face repercussions. The international organization like FATF, IMF and united nations considerably led by the United sates and they have already trapped Pakistan in this web.
To face the future challenges in Bilateral relations, Pakistan must secure normalcy in its Bilateral ties with Saudi Arabia to renew the oil facility agreement. On the other hand, it should not relinquish a leading role in a separate Saudi-rivalry block and should prioritize the Kashmir issues. Albeit, it is evident that Turkey can only offers Pakistan clout but not cash. The Iran cannot replace the Saudi Arabia in oil exports to the Pakistan due to under pressure of imposed international sanctions.
Pakistan should reconsider its policies towards Middle East Region. Pakistan should not let anyone to interfere in the matters but it is need of hours to strengthen the economic conditions by maintain a balanced foreign policy towards benefactors .
Pakistan can maximize the benefits of CPEC by involving China experts
Mr. Yao Jing, who has been to Pakistan three times at various diplomatic postings – very junior, mid-career, and senior-most position as Ambassador, a perfect expert on Pakistan. He was in touch with Pakistan for almost 25 years, and have deep interaction with various segments of the society, seen several Governments and virtually all political and regional leaders in Pakistan. He has also served in India and Afghanistan and understands well Pak-India, Pak-Afghan relations in a comprehensive manner. Being an Ambassador, he had interaction with the highest level official, military and civil bureaucracy, and leadership. His understanding of Pakistan is unmatched. At the end of his tenure as Ambassador to Pakistan, before departing, in one of his farewell, he expressed that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would be better served if Pakistan would have appointed officials who are experts on the functioning of the Chinese government and its market. He was happy at the progress that had been made between the two countries, and that CPEC was on the right track. Pakistan can maximize the benefits of CPEC by involving China experts.
There exist around 20,000 China-graduates in Pakistan in various fields and various age groups, with various lengths of experience to fresh graduates. The first badge of Pakistani students traveled to China for higher education in 1977-78. Initially, there were very few students, but a sharp increase was witnessed since year-2000 and onward. Currently, there are around 30,000 Pakistani students studying in China, almost all majors field of emerging specializations, in leading Chinese Universities. They are at various levels – Undergrads, Masters, PhDs, and Post.Docs, etc.
A vast pool of around 20,000 China-graduates in Engineering, Agriculture, Health Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Economics, Management Sciences, Social and Natural Sciences are available in Pakistan readily.
China graduates are the human resource required for CPEC, as they understand China in addition to their professional qualification. While studying in China, they interact with the Chinese teachers, students, and society and learns Chinese culture, Traditions, History, Philosophy, Thinking, Ethics, Values, and Psyche, Politics, Governance, etc. Based on their understandings of Chinese systems, they can negotiate with Chinese and work with them in harmony and successfully. The involvement of China-Graduates in the CPEC is key to success and may maximize benefits for Pakistan.
Chinese Ambassador further said,“CPEC is now well connected, much to the satisfaction of both sides,” furthermore. “The biggest concern, if there is one, is that Pakistani officials lack expertise on China, and do not know how the Chinese government works, and also how Chinese companies operate.” Due to a lack of understanding, some time faces misunderstandings and misinterpretations.“In China, for example, we have some experts that advise us on Pakistan’s governance model. There is a lot more to be done for Pakistani authorities to learn the functioning of Chinese markets and governance model,” he added. While considering CPEC as Oxygen to Pakistan’s economy and catalyst for economic take-off the country, there is no single interpreter of the Chinese language in the Government of Pakistan. In the private sector, there are few Chinese language experts, with 50% interpretation capability only. Communication and understanding may be a hurdle, which can be resolved by involving China-graduates simply. Pakistan needs to change its mindset from the Western approach toward understanding China, which may benefit in the smooth execution of CPEC.
Currently, those who are handing CPEC has little knowledge about China and sometimes face an embarrassing situation. It is not an individual’s fault, but if China experts are given this task, they can perform much better. CPEC is handled by Western-educated or trained personnel, having little or no understandings of China can not achieve the desired results or optimal outcomes. Often, they compare China with the Western World, which is the wrong approach and may lead to a total disaster sometimes. China is a unique civilization, and having its own traditions and values, much different from the West. It will be highly productive, if the Government of Pakistan, utilize the China-graduates and China-trained human resource, to maximize the outcomes of CPEC.
Ambassador Yao Jing is a sincere friend of Pakistan; his advice carries high-value and may be taken seriously. Especially while we are entering into the Second-Phase of CPEC, where the private sector may be involved in Industrialization, Agricultural Sector, and Services Sector, China experts can play an instrumental role and maximize benefits for Pakistan.
Interpreting Sheikh Hasina’s Foreign Policy
September 28, 2020 marks the 74th birthday of Sheikh Hasina, the Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh. On the occasion of her birthday, it becomes important to examine the foreign policy of Sheikh Hasina and the policy imperatives for Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina brought dynamism in Bangladesh foreign policy. In fact, the peace-centric foreign policy of Hasina becomes pertinent for world peace, stability, and prosperity. To make Bangladesh a developed country by 2041, the constructive, cooperative and peace-centric foreign policy of Hasina can play leading role. Thus, in this birthday, this article attempts to analyse Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy for a peaceful and better world.
Sheikh Hasina came to power in 2009, and took oath for the third time as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh in 2019. This long period provided political stability in Bangladesh except some incidences of political violence at the beginning of 2014. This has also helped Bangladesh to maintain a consistency in foreign policy pattern/priorities. It is argued that political leaders play important role in the field of international relations and foreign policy formulations and executions. The personal characteristics of the leader, i.e. beliefs, motives, decision style, and interpersonal style become critical in understanding the foreign policy behavior of a state (Hermann 2011).
In fact, in the context of Bangladesh where the Prime Minister play vital role in the foreign policy formulations, the beliefs, ideologies, personal characteristics, norms, values, and the bold and visionary leadership of Sheikh Hasina play crucial role in the formulation and execution of an independent foreign policy of Bangladesh based on norms, values and enlightened interest. One can identify the following key parameters of Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy.
First, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh, laid down the foreign policy principle of Bangladesh, i.e. ‘Friendship to all and malice to none’. This policy helped Bangladesh to achieve Bangladesh’s recognition from states around the world and building cooperative partnership. However, except Awami League, this policy is not followed by other political parties in Bangladesh. After coming to power for the second time in 2009, Sheikh Hasina made a strategic shift in the foreign policy formulations of Bangladesh prioritising both India and China in the development trajectory of Bangladesh. Hasina government strongly followed the foreign policy principle, i.e. ‘Friendship to all and malice to none’ in the case of Bangladesh’s relations with both India and China. In fact, Bangladesh has been able to maintain the good relations with all countries including India and China due to the ‘friendship to all, malice to none’ foreign policy principle of Sheikh Hasina. According to Sheikh Hasina, ‘[W]hat’s the problem with it (maintaining ties with both China and India)? We have ties with all our neighbours. Bangladesh has no animosity with anyone because we are following the lesson taught by the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’ (bdnews24.com, July 4, 2019).If the world would follow such peace-centric foreign policy of Sheikh Hasina, the world would be a better place to live in, one can argue.
Second,Sheikh Hasina follows a peace-centric foreign policy. As the earlier section notes, the foreign policy dictum developed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is strongly followed by Sheikh Hasina. For instance, while the major powers in the region and beyond closed their doors to the Rohingya refugees, Bangladesh opened the door for them. As a result, more than 1.1 million Rohingyas received shelter in Bangladesh. Bangladesh with limited resources is providing food, shelter, medicare and other facilities/services to this huge number of Rohingya refugees since 2017. To resolve the crisis, Bangladesh strongly believes in peaceful resolution through mutual understanding and dialogue.
Third,under the Sheikh Hasina government, Bangladesh prioritises economy over security or strategic issues in its foreign policy formulations. At Bangladeshi envoys conference, held in July 2019 at London, Sheikh Hasina has asked Bangladeshi envoys based in European countries to pursue economy diplomacy as top most priority to sustain the ongoing development in Bangladesh. At the World Economic Forum Economic Summit in New Delhi in October 2019, Sheikh Hasina presented Bangladesh as the economic hub in the sub-region and thus asked the global investors to invest in Bangladesh. Under the leadership of Hasina, Bangladesh is setting up 100 special economic zones, with one-stop service across the country to attract foreign direct investments.
The agreements on economic cooperation between Bangladesh and different countries shows the importance Bangladesh attaches to economic diplomacy in its foreign policy formulations and executions. Due to the prioritisation of economy diplomacy, the GDP of Bangladesh has grown from US$102 billion in 2009 to US$302 billion in 2019 (Hasina 2019). In addition, foreign direct investment has also increased from US$ 700 million in 2009 to US$ 3613 million in 2018 (Table 1). In 2018, Bangladesh was the second recipient of FDI in South Asia. In addition, Table 2 demonstrates that the volume of trade has increased between 2009 and 2018 which underscores the priority of economic diplomacy in the foreign policy formulations of Bangladesh under Hasina regime. According to UNCTAD, there is 9.5 per cent merchandise exports growth rate in 2018. Among the export products, 95 per cent covers manufactured goods. According to the UNCTAD statistics, among the top five export destinations of Bangladesh in 2018 included USA (US$ 5672 million), Germany (US$ 5626 million), United Kingdom (US$ 3460 million), Spain (US$ 2709 million), and France (US$ 2288 million).
Table 1: Foreign direct investment flow in Bangladesh (Millions of dollars)
Source: UNCTAD (2015: A5; 2019:214).
Table 2: International merchandise trade: Total merchandise trade (millions of US$)
|Merchandise balance||-4 592||-8 627||-9 669||-21243|
Source: UNCTADstat (https://unctadstat.unctad.org/CountryProfile/GeneralProfile/en-GB/050/index.html).
Fourth, after came to power in 2009, Sheikh Hasina resolved the long-standing maritime boundary delimitation dispute with India and Myanmar peacefully through the help of international regimes. Bangladesh now has sovereign rights on all living, and non-living resources of over 200 nautical miles of Exclusive Economic Zone and up to 354 nautical miles of the continental shelf of the country. Thus, blue economy has become a key area of Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy. Though India and China are rivals in many aspects, Bangladesh has signed Blue Economy agreement with both of them.
Fifth, resolving Rohingya crsis through internationalisation of the issue became a key foreign policy priority for Sheikh Hasina government. Thus, at bilateral, regional and international forums, Bangladesh advocated Rohingya issues strongly.
Sixth, under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh strongly advocates rules-based international order. Thus, Bangladesh promotes the agency of rules-based international order, i.e. regional and international institutions. The country respects the norms of the international institutions like the United Nations. In fact, the constitution of the United Nations is also reflected in the drafting of foreign policy principles of Bangladesh.
Seventh, conventionally, Bangladesh does not participate in power politics whether at regional or international level. Instead, regional and international cooperation based on rules and norms has been the guiding principles of Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy. In fact, cooperation and partnership at bilateral, regional, and global level are key defining features of Bangladesh foreign policy under Sheikh Hasina regime. Bangladesh is a strong advocate of regional and international cooperation. For instance, Bangladesh strongly supports South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multisectoral and Technical Cooperation (BIMSTEC), Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor, Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the United Nations. The country strongly promotes sub-regional cooperation. The country has already allowed India to use its land, water, and ports to access its Northeastern states. For instance, Bangladesh has asked Nepal and Bhutan to use its Saidpur airport, and Chittagong and Mongla ports which demonstrates the importance of constructive engagement with the neighbours and beyond.
Finally,South-South Cooperation is another defining feature of Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy. Bangladesh sees South-South Cooperation as an effective mechanism for development cooperation among the Southern countries. For instance, Bangladesh has included South-South Cooperation in its National Policy for Development Cooperation. Bangladesh has been awarded ‘South-South Award’ in 2013 to make a remarkable progress in the poverty alleviation. In addition, in September 2018, Bangladesh has received a special award in Bangkok from the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and UNESCAP in recognition of its outstanding contributions to South-South Cooperation.
This article also focuses on some policy imperatives. First, the above identified eight defining features of Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy need to be promoted in the days to come especially economic diplomacy. Second, the dearth of scholarship on Bangladesh foreign policy studies implies that it becomes important to promote foreign policy studies in the country. In this regard, the role of the state, and scholars becomes important. Bangladesh is a rising power which requires both knowledge production and dissemination. Consequently, Sheikh Hasina government needs to promote foreign policy scholarship both in the country and beyond.
Third, it becomes also important to promote the soft power diplomacy of Bangladesh. In this context, nation branding (a peaceful country, an emerging economic power, a strong promoter of regional and international cooperation) to the world community becomes crucial. Bangladesh’s contributions to the world peace and stability needs to be highlighted by writing op-eds, making presentations, publishing research articles and so forth by both the policy and academic community.
Fourth, internationalising the Rohingya issue will be another key issue area of Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy in the days to come. In this context, the role of active diplomacy at both Track I and Track II level becomes crucial. There are more than 10, 000 University teachers in Bangladesh who can write a piece on the Rohingya issue and publish it at regional and international media. This will be imperative to internationalise the issue and thus resolve the crisis.
Fifth, deepening economic cooperation, attracting foreign direct investment, promoting trade and commerce, sustaining the development partnership with major and emerging powers will become serious challenge for Sheikh Hasina government in the post-COVID-19 era. Thus, it becomes important to rethink Bangladesh foreign policy and diplomacy based on economic diplomacy in the post-COVID-19 era.
To conclude, in this troubled world where narrowly defined interest defines the foreign policy actions of states, arms races, and competition for influence, power and position becomes rampant, the foreign policy of Sheikh Hasina based on peace, friendship, and cooperation becomes important for the welfare and benefits of the people in the world. The foreign policy of Bangladesh under the Sheikh Hasina regime is improving Bangladesh’s relations with the major development partners of the country including with both India and China especially in the areas of economic and development partnership which has resulted in economic growth and socio-economic development in the country. And this has impacted the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of people in the country. Thus, the continuation of Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy becomes important for Bangladesh and the beyond. This article concludes that there is no alternative to Sheikh Hasina and her peace-centric foreign policy for the 170 million people in Bangladesh and beyond.
In this great day, I wish, Happy Birthday to our Honourable Prime Minister. Long live Bangladesh, long live the Honourable Prime Minister.
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