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South Asia

Afghanistan from Obama to Trump

Ajmal Sohail

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It is although conspicuous, (that) there is no crystal clear difference between, the Obama and Trump strategies in Afghanistan. The strategies based on, to dismantle the momentum of the Al-Qaida and its affiliates and to attain the strategic interests of the America worldwide.  What differ, are the approaches of Obama and Trump in relation to Afghanistan. Thus, it makes sense to briefly touch the issues, pertaining both Obama and Trump approaches for Afghanistan.

Obama’s approach

In the event of, announcing his strategy for Afghanistan, in March 2009 Obama said, “so I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That is the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just. And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same: we will defeat you”.

Obama added the US required a “stronger, smarter and comprehensive strategy,” but said that it would not “blindly stay the course” if the new strategy did not succeed.

The key to the new strategy was to build up the Afghan army and police force. He announced an extra 4,000 US troops to help with training, with the intention of doubling the Afghan force (the Afghan troops number in 2009 was around 65.000). He said this might have to be increased again as power was transferred to Afghanistan. This was a relatively cheap option for the US as the pay of each Afghan soldier is quite small. This will be accompanied by a “surge” in US civilians to Afghanistan, doubling numbers to 900, to help rebuild the country’s infrastructure.

Obama in February 2009 also ordered 17,500 US combat troops to Afghanistan to reinforce the 38,000 already there. But US military commanders were concerned that those would not be enough, anticipating a big Taliban push ahead of the country’s August election.

To achieve its goals, the US must recognize the “fundamental connection between the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Obama said.

In addition to the renewed focus on Afghanistan, the Obama administration was to step up pressure on Pakistan to tackle the al-Qaida and Taliban safe havens in the tribal areas along its border with Afghanistan.

Obama said that the days of the US giving Pakistan a blank check were over. He said he would ask Congress to increase aid to Pakistan but in return he expected Pakistan to tackle the safe havens.

“Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out al-Qaida and the violent extremists within its borders. And we will insist that action be taken – one way or another – when we have intelligence about high-level terrorist targets,” he said.

The last element of the policy was to try to engage Afghanistan’s regional neighbors, including Russia and Iran, in helping to pacify Afghanistan.

Obama endeavored a lot, to convince Pakistan to abandon Haqani-network, Taliban and Al-Qaida. He sent a couple of times, his foreign secretary Hilary Clinton to Islamabad, in order to change the mindset of the military establishment of the country. During her speech in Islamabad the former foreign secretary said “it is the time that Pakistan to act in days and weeks not months and years”.  But no green lights were observed from Pakistan; on the contrary Islamabad perused its deadliest strategy in Afghanistan.  In total of eight years of his two terms, Obama failed to make Pakistan rally, its obligations in order to bring peace and stability to the war torn Afghanistan.

Albeit, he was unable to push Pakistan to comply with American strategy for Afghanistan, he continued Washington’s military aid to the country, which Pakistan used to finance the big bullies in Afghanistan.

Secondly, Obama’s strategy was based on counter terrorism approach, mostly resembles traditional counter terrorism doctrines. Counter Terrorism strategies, are used to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat organizations that employ terrorism by military and security means. These strategies include drone strikes, special-forces operations, and increased policing and intelligence operations. His strategy did not focused on insurgencies and their outside sanctuaries mainly in Pakistan. Furthermore, his negligence to deal with countries, which sponsored, harbored, trained and armed the deadliest cells in Afghanistan. In addition, he fell short to assemble efforts with India, despite Zalmay Khalilzad the former United States ambassador to Kabul attempted to sideline Pakistan.

At some stage in his tenure US forces contested its offensives on Taliban/insurgency with what Obama called on special operation troops, known as ‘surge’. Many US Non-Official Cover (NOCs) or espionage activities decreased. Furthermore the CIA and US intelligence community reduced their Afghan ‘Snitches’ and minimized their operations all over Afghanistan. This called for lessening of CIA Official Cover Spies (OCS). Moreover, the Pentagon and US intelligence community minimized the area of their maneuver in Afghanistan. They only focus on Drone operations and Global Hawks. In other words, technological warfare is used to manage the bustles of Taliban.

Finally, the fixing and specifying date to draw down US combat forces was an unforgivable failure, which the insurgences took advantage, to expand their territories from 20 % to 55% in the country and round up almost all provinces even the capital Kabul itself.

Trump’s initiative

In a nationally televised prime-time speech to troops at Fort Myer, Va., Trump said there would be no “blank check” for the American engagement in Afghanistan. But in announcing his plan, Trump deepened American involvement in a military mission that has bedeviled his predecessors and that he once called futile.

“My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts,” Trump said. “But all my life, I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.”

After what he described as a lengthy and exhaustive deliberation culminating in a meeting with his war cabinet at Camp David, Trump said that he had been convinced that “a hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists, including ISIS and Al Qaeda.” Speaking to a military audience at a base outside Washington, Trump declared, “In the end, we will win.”

He portrayed the strategy as a stark break with the Obama administration, arguing that while his predecessor set artificial timetables for American involvement in Afghanistan, his strategy would be a comprehensive, conditions-based regional approach that would aim for a political solution there.

Part of the plan is to deploy more American troops to Afghanistan to continue to train Afghan forces there, with the goal of convincing the Taliban — which has recently gained substantial ground in the war — that they could not win on the battlefield.

Trump said that the United States would put significant new pressure on Pakistan to crack down on the terrorist sanctuaries that line its border with Afghanistan. His comments opened a turbulent new chapter in relations with Pakistan, which has veered since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks from being an ally in the fight against terrorism to a haven in which Osama bin Laden hid out until he was killed in 2011.

The president heaped contempt on his predecessor’s strategy, promising that he would avoid President Barack Obama’s mistakes.

But in substance, Trump’s strategy was not all that different from Obama’s, relying on a mix of conventional military force and diplomatic pressure on Pakistan. However officials conceded that there is to be no major change in the mix of American forces operating in Afghanistan, and that the priorities would remain training Afghan forces and conducting counterterrorism operations.

“We are not nation-building again,” Trump said. “We are killing terrorists.”

Whatever the echoes, Trump projected a far more bellicose tone than Obama. He promised that he would loosen restrictions on American soldiers to enable them to hunt down terrorists, which he labeled “thugs and criminals and predators, and — that’s right — losers.”

“The killers need to know they have nowhere to hide, that no place is beyond the reach of American might and American arms,” the president said. “Retribution will be fast and powerful.”

Trump’s reference to a strategic partnership with India also has implications for Pakistan, which has a deeply antagonistic relationship with its neighbor. He said he would include new steps to pressure neighboring Pakistan to shut down the sanctuaries there for the Taliban and other militants. However officials conceded that there is to be no major change in the mix of American forces operating in Afghanistan, and that the priorities would remain training Afghan forces and conducting counterterrorism operations.

But in my eyes, the Trump’s initiative has a significant difference with that of his predecessor; he almost shifted from traditional counter terrorism approach to counter insurgency, which is a major step to break the stalemate in Afghanistan. In relation with his regional policy, he made noteworthy developments his administration works now closely with New Delhi. He has put off a 900 million military aid to Pakistan meanwhile issuing visa ban on some elements within the Pakistani Government.

Moreover, he sanctioned about 6 Pakistani companies. He included Pakistan in the gray list of FATF or countries not doing enough to dump terrorism on their soil. Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is the global watchdog on money laundering and terrorism financing. By taking all said measures, Pakistan has yet to change its policy towards Afghanistan. There are more options on the table; United States can cut economic aid to Pakistan, America can label Pakistan a Terror-sponsoring state.

Conversely, it will be extremely tough for the US to get the UN behind such a move, the Trump administration can still unilaterally designate Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism. One important point regarding Trump in Afghanistan even though, he faces a lot of critics worldwide but he is a hero in the country. Some new born Kids named after him, even a group of people in Logar province of the country esteem him with a golden medal. Being blunt Trump in comparison to his predecessor, he is really very popular in Afghanistan.

The way towards stability

Seeing that, the precarious security situation in Afghanistan is likely to become an even greater threat as Afghanistan remains relevant following ISIS losses in Iraq and Syria. In order to triumph over terror, America will need to overcome challenges and transition from its current counterterrorism efforts to a full-fledged counterinsurgency campaign.

Adopting Counter Insurgency strategies is necessary when a state realizes that a military response alone will not constitute a workable solution to a violent conflict. Counter Insurgency, is an all-encompassing political, military, and civilian solution to challenge irregular insurgent warfare. Counter Terrorism strategies are not abandoned but are implemented within a Counter Insurgency approach where the counterinsurgent (the government) also pursues support and legitimacy from the local population by promoting good governance and providing continued security after government forces have expelled the insurgent group. This population-centric strategy involves denying the insurgency its civilian-support networks, external support, and outside sanctuary, while simultaneously improving political participation and economic opportunities for civilians.

The Counter Terrorism measures used so far have been only semi-effective, and have fallen short of destroying the terrorist organizations or acquiring the Afghan population’s support for the government. Civilians have been caught in the crossfire during operations, straining state relations with the tribes, and offensive tactics alone have not deterred local youth from joining jihadist groups that offer better economic opportunities. Militant interpretations of Islam sometimes won “the battle for hearts and minds” and tempted the young local population to join jihadist groups. According to unofficial estimates, America has lost around 3000 security personnel since 2001 till this stage of the conflict, with many civilian casualties that are under-reported. These losses are unsustainable and hasten the transition towards a Counter Insurgency campaign.

America should set the groundwork to move towards a Counter Insurgency campaign on military, economic, and political fronts.  United States should begin involving local tribes in fighting terrorism, by gathering intelligence and other military activities. In the non-military fronts, first, America should promote a moderate form of Islam among the youth of Afghanistan by using the Afghan state religious apparatuses and international Islamic tools. America should take additional measures to stifle extremism by establishing American-Afghan Council to Confront Terrorism and Extremism. The council would help build a Counter Insurgency policy through strategizing, mobilizing resources, amending existing legislation, and increasing economic opportunities in areas with high levels of extremism.

America should detail long-term plans for development of Afghanistan with goals of increasing investments and focusing on population-centric projects. A first step would be to provide compensation for damages from military operations. The military should also aim to win greater support and legitimacy by sending reconstruction missions to the conflict-ridden areas.

America should head in the right direction towards a Counter Insurgency campaign, by overcoming various challenges to solidify its strategies. Washington must better formulate a Counter Insurgency doctrine that will enable a transition from Counter Terrorism to a full-fledged, integrated, and effective Counter Insurgency operation.  America should lead a determined and powerful fight against terrorist strongholds; while at the same time avoid harming uninvolved civilians. If the latter is not prioritized, the military may alienate the local population and damage Trump’s administration image in the international arena. To this end, the adoption of appropriate methods of combat that minimize collateral damages—including the use of accurate weapons that will target only the terrorists—is required. In addition, while integrating local tribes in fighting terrorists, America must pay close attention not to hurt the Afghan sovereignty and governance.

On the economic level, America should carefully plan its investments to ensure that improving the welfare of the Afghan population. Additionally, America must balance its efforts between addressing short-term economic distress and the promotion of long-term economic goals.

On the political level, America should adopt a “carrots and sticks” policy towards the civil-population of Afghanistan. The use of authoritarian practices, such as emergency laws, must be well measured in order to avoid alienating local tribes from the Kabul regime.

Finally, the international community should have a vital interest in supporting the Trump administration in shifting from Counter Terrorism to Counter Insurgency, by providing military assistance and targeted economic aid, while encouraging good governance and political participation of the Afghan population. The eradication of the insurgency in Afghanistan will be a desirable achievement not only for the 33 million inhabitants of Afghanistan but also for the global war on terror.

Ajmal Sohail is Co-founder and Co-president of Counter Narco-terrorism Alliance Germany and he is National Security and counter terrorism analyst. He is active member of Christian Democratic Union (CDU)as well.

South Asia

Pakistan can maximize the benefits of CPEC by involving China experts

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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.

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South Asia

Interpreting Sheikh Hasina’s Foreign Policy

Shariful Islam

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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)

Year2009201020112012201320142015201620172018
Value70091311361293159915512235233321523613

Source: UNCTAD (2015: A5; 2019:214).

Table 2: International merchandise trade: Total merchandise trade (millions of US$)

Sector2005201020152018
Merchandise exports9297191943237939252
Merchandise imports13889278214204760495
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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South Asia

Russia expanding influence in India and Sri Lanka

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Authors: Srimal Fernando and Vedangshi Roy Choudhuri*

In the post-World War II era the diplomatic influence of former Soviet Union on newly  Independent India and its southern neighbour, Sri Lanka redefined a new foreign policy order based on Non Aligned principles. The changes  following the cold war marked the beginning of a new era of  diplomacy  between   Moscow with  New Delhi and Colombo

  Russia is a global superpower and a permanent member of the United Nations which paves a path to withhold a  significant influence on the global south. India is a  rising regional power being a  UN Security Council member and its southern neighbour Sri Lanka is geostrategically positioned in the Indian ocean which results in being vital nations for  Modern-day Russia’s Foreign policymaking. This Trilateral diplomacy needs greater assessment to reframe a new foreign policy doctrine to enhance economic diplomacy and for greater defence cooperation.

 Soviet  Union (USSR) and India

The USSR diplomatic collaboration helped  India on achieving its self-sufficiency in food production and to become an industrialised nation. The same period saw specific defence cooperation between  New Delhi and Moscow due to the changing security dynamics in the global security arena. In mid-1991, India accelerated the process of liberalizing the economy by removing controls as it was trying to adjust to the post-Soviet reality. The first phase of the post cold war diplomacy was marked by a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, and after a year they lined it up with a Military-Technical Cooperation agreement.

Russia – India

Historically India and Russia have had stable and cordial political relations and elevated the diplomacy to a ”Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership”. The Bilateral relationship between the two nations is robust, with a wide agenda for cooperation. There are regular excessive-degree visits between the two nations. Moreover, for  Russia, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) continues to be an instrument for establishing better relations with India and with other South Asian neighbours

On an international level, Russia, and India are the predominant members of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) organization of rising powers set to reshape the world economy. At present, India and Russia continue to share a common strategic rationale for their relationship: aside from bilateral collaborations, the two are members of various multilateral associations including BRICS, RIC, G20, East Asia Summit and SCO—where roads for cooperation on issues of common significance exist.

Trade Relations

 The agreement on trade and economic and scientific-technological cooperation until 2010 was signed in New Delhi in December 1998 which sought to boost bilateral trade and economic interaction in a qualitative sense between the two nations. Hence Economic interaction and trade are key focus points. On the trade front, India and Russia have called for enhancing and developing economic ties in priority areas to meet the bilateral trade target of $30 billion by 2025. Eurasian Economic Union (EEU)–India trade pact is a proposed platform which is to be used by the two countries to have a free flow of trade and eliminate trade barriers as currently, they have no bilateral free trade deals in place.

 Defence Cooperation

 In the post-cold war era, the diplomatic process of one of the most critical factors of the Indo-Russian strategic partnership is defence. The 1994 Moscow Declaration is a charter for Russian–Indian cooperation in their national and international security. However, Since the early 1960s, India purchased over 40 billion dollars’ worth of defence equipment from Moscow. The key partnership among India and Russia was marked in the year 2000 and the two nations plan to extend their strategic partnership, particularly in the areas of defence, nuclear energy and trade and investment.

The 2001 long-term Russian  Naval Doctrine goals in the Indian Ocean was to pursue a deliberate strategy of turning the Indian Ocean into a zone of peace, stability and neighbourly relations ensuring periodic Russian naval presence in the Indian Ocean.

Over time India has developed the  BrahMos Missile System, Joint development of the 5th generation Fighter aircraft and the Multi transport aircraft, in addition to the licensed manufacturing of SU-30 aircraft and T-90 tanks. Lately, the plan is to assemble about 400 Kamov Ka-226 T twin-engined Russian helicopters in India.

 Soviet. Union (USSR) –  Sri Lanka

The predominant step towards the beginning of complete bilateral ties between the Soviet Union and Ceylon was in 1956 under the patronage of Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. Later, in the mid-Sixties when Sirimavo Bandaranaike won the elections and became Prime Minister, many believed that the new government would share a socialist ideology. however, the world’s first woman premier’s foreign policy was guided by the ideas of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Russia and Sri Lanka have crafted a grand approach based on the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) ideas and old Soviet connections. As a result, looking back, one can declare the entire diplomatic process to be noticeably exceptional.

 In the course of this period, the Soviet Union was instrumental in reworking the agriculture-based economy into a competitive manufacturing country through her technical cooperation. Setting up Ceylon steel, Tyre and Sugar companies with the aid of the USSR created employment opportunities that significantly advanced manufacturing efficiency.

Russia- Sri Lanka

Comparing then and now, steps must be taken to make sure the free flow of foreign policy ideas to reshape external policy outreach. For a small country like Sri Lanka, it is vital to outline a new balance between external outreach and internal stability. For instance, tapping into Russian billionaires would possibly help Sri Lanka to draw foreign direct investment (FDI) opportunities. For Russia, the geographical position of Sri Lanka is a bonus for gaining access to the 1.3 billion Indian consumer market through the Indo-Lanka free trade agreement (ISFTA).

After the fall of the Soviet Union, these bilateral ties were tested, but Russia kept a close watch on the South Asian island nation until they had been revived to their old glory. In the past fifteen years, Russia has been even more steady in its foreign policy towards Sri Lanka than earlier.

Six decades of international relations among Russia and Sri Lanka have yielded strong accomplishments in retaining the long-standing partnership. it is determined that Russia’s foreign policy approach regarding Sri Lanka has played a firm role in turning a new chapter in each other’s diplomatic practices. Presently, evidence of this is substantial in the closeness between Moscow and Colombo. In most recent instances, the time-tested, deep-rooted friendship got stronger when Russian President Putin stated “Moscow remains a reliable partner of Sri Lanka” following the Easter Sunday bombings.

Conclusion

Lately, South Asia is perhaps one of the most challenging regions for Russia from the point of view of not only security in its traditional meaning but also of Russia’s prospects of emerging as an economic power. Russia attempts to pave a path between the developed  Russian constructive multilateral relations with the countries of South Asia and the further manifestation of its soft diplomacy in the region have opened the gates to its substantial regional influence.

*Vedangshi Roy Choudhuri is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts (BA hons.) in Journalism and Mass Communication at the Jindal School of Journalism & Communication (JSJC). She mainly focuses on Indo-China global media relations. She was also a recipient of the ICASQCC Gold Medal in Mauritius. Roy is member of the SGRC at Jindal Global University and a social activist in Chennai.

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