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Middle Power Conundrum: The Case of a Rising Vietnam

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The Indo-Pacific is a dynamic concept that has come into the picture of great power politics. In the last two decades, an Indo-Pacific identity is increasingly becoming synonymous to a single maritime construct. Countries in the region are driven by geo-economic and geo-political interests with a constant presence of external payers. Due to its strategic relevance, China is pushing forwards its expansionist agenda by striking a historical chord and threatening interests of smaller states in the region. Vietnam has been one of the victims as well as the one to stand up against China’s advances.

According to realist theory in international relations scholarship, a country can be categorized as a middle power depending upon a state’s military strength, economic capabilities, and geostrategic position. Due to the power gap, diplomacy as a foreign policy tool is used often to participate in international politics and exert influence among regional players. Vietnam has taken charge of ASEAN Chairmanship three times since its entry and been part of significant regional building mechanisms to strengthen its commitment towards three pillars of ASEAN community. Its strategic location, growing economic and military strength makes Vietnam an important player in the region. This article makes a case for Vietnam as a rising middle power in the region that has the potential to play a prominent role in Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of its growing economy, interpersonal relations, leadership role in ASEAN and regional security order amidst escalating Chinese threat.

Leading the ASEAN Economy

In the aftermath of Doi Moi reforms, Vietnam focused on the development of a multi-sector economy. In 1989, it exported rice for the first time and today is the 4th largest rice exporter in the world. In the aftermath of Asian financial crisis in 1997-98, the country registered a strong 8.5% GDP growth rate. In 2008 it was removed from the world’s least developed countries (LDCs) and since then has been registering a consistent growth rate above 5%.

The period between 2000-2019 has seen consistent 5.5% plus growth with 6.5-7% growth in the last five years. Among ASEAN states, Vietnam had the fourth highest annual average growth rate in the 21st century, above ASEAN’s average 5.3%. In 2019, Vietnam had the second highest GDP growth rate i.e. 7% among the ten states closely following Cambodia’s 7.1%.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the world economy and shattered growth targets for the year 2020. According to recent estimates by Asian Development Bank for the year 2020, the growth projections remain at a negative 3.8% for Southeast Asia and it is preparing for an L-shaped recovery. Meanwhile, Vietnam is among the only three countries in the region to have a positive growth rate of 1.8% along with Myanmar and Brunei. In fact, Vietnam will be one of the few countries in developing economies of Asia to have a positive GDP growth rate amidst the ongoing crisis. Hanoi is targeting a growth rate of 6.5% this year.

International trade and investment has become a key factor in the region’s economic integration. According to ASEAN Key Figures 2020, intra-ASEAN trade holds the largest share in total ASEAN trade at 22.5%. In 2019, Vietnam was the third largest exporter (17.3%) and importer (17%) in the region. Over the last decade, the country has become one of the manufacturing hubs in the region with its labour and industrial policies. Vietnam is ranked 3rd in shares of manufacturing products to total exports (%) by ASEAN Member States, growing from 46.8% in 2006 to 86.4% in 2019. It also holds the largest manufacturing shares in imports of goods in 2019 at 84%. In context of FDI inflow in 2019, Vietnam is the third largest recipient among ASEAN states amounting approx. US$16.12 billion.

Political Integration and ASEAN Leadership

Post 1995, Vietnam witnessed major landmarks in international integration. First, it signed an FTA with the US in 2001 and later associated with all 12 FTAs that Vietnamese exporters can take advantage of including ASEAN plus FTAs. Second, it joined the WTO in 2007 that enhanced the country’s economic interests making it a significant player in the global economy. The pre and post 2007 share of exports of goods and services to GDP was 67% and 106% respectively. Third, it was elected as a non-permanent member in UNSC for the term 2008-09 and acted as the council’s President during the term.

Vietnam has improved its bilateral ties with countries beyond ASEAN. In February 2020, Vietnam sealed the deal with Europe on the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EUVFTA). The agreement is said to bring a significant impact on exporting firms, foreign investors, and consumers in Vietnam. It has strived forward to foster ties with Japan, India and Australia along with close ties with US, all four associated with the QUAD bloc. In 2018, it signed a new strategic partnership with Australia and with India the country shares a comprehensive strategic partnership. Both the countries have had joint naval exercises as well. With Japan they share strategic links in the last five years. It was the destination for Japanese PM Suga’s maiden foreign visit as was the case with his predecessor Shinzo Abe. In the role of ASEAN chair, the country stands ready to be the effective bridge to connect the ASEAN with countries such as the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Albania.

One important aspect of Vietnam’s political rise is its balancing act against China and the USA. Both have historical associations with Vietnam that brought ill-will to the country and both are the two most important international partners in present times. The US is Vietnam’s largest export market with a share of 23% followed by China at 15.6%. In terms of imports, Vietnam is heavily dependent on China with a share of 29% whereas the US is far below the list with a mere 5.6%. By numbers, China remains the largest trading partner with an annual trade of US$116 billion between the two countries in 2019 followed by the US at US$75.3 billion. While Vietnam maintains a trade surplus with US, there exists a trade deficit with China.

In the on-going tussle in world politics between existing superpower USA and a rising revisionist power China, ASEAN states have had a varied response. Cambodia and Laos are close allies of China while Singapore and Indonesia maintain proximity to the US. The diametrically opposite stance has invited trouble in the ASEAN bloc as Singapore and Cambodia recently exchanged a round of accusations against each other. Vietnam has adopted a different approach and is upholding the principle of ASEAN neutrality. Many IR scholars argue that Vietnam is exercising hedging against China with USA, a practice of mixing both cooperation and distance. Goh defines Vietnam’s hedging strategy as a form of “triangular politics” between Vietnam, China and the United States.

Vietnam’s political integration is incomplete without mentioning the role it plays in ASEAN.

ASEAN is home to about 650 million people, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of more than US$3.2 trillion and trade value exceeding $2.8 trillion. Vietnam has the third largest population, fourth largest area among ASEAN countries and an important geographic and economic position in Southeast Asia. Prior to joining ASEAN, Vietnam had a rather negative perception of the group in the late 1970’s for its indifference towards individual member states political structures and independent foreign policies. Vietnam’s entry into the ASEAN had two direct implications. First, it became the first country from the Indochina region to be a member of ASEAN and paved the way for Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar taking the organization to its present strength of ten. Second, ASEAN became the de facto player to uphold peace and stability in a region that has had a bloody Cold War history.

In 1998, Vietnam hosted the 6th ASEAN summit for the first time in the backdrop of Asian financial crisis that had devastated Southeast Asian economies. Under Vietnam’s chairmanship, the Hanoi Action Plan was adopted to enforce ASEAN Vision 2020. In 2010, Vietnam became the Chair for the second time of the 16th Summit. The year was difficult in particular due to aftershocks of 2008-09 global financial crises. It played a pivotal role in the roadmap for building the ASEAN Community 2015. Vietnam is credited with drawing consensus on entry of the US and Russia in the East Asia Summit, expanding the ASEAN plus Three (APT) institution into ASEAN + 8. The first ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM+) was inaugurated under Hanoi’s chairmanship strengthening defence and security cooperation between ASEAN and its eight dialogue partners. It was also the year when ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC). It was an important step towards “development of policies, programmes, and innovative strategies to promote and protect the rights of women and children to complement the building of the ASEAN Community”. It was also involved in building the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.

2020 marked an important milestone when Vietnam assumed the rotating Chair of ASEAN for the third time. July 28th marked Vietnam’s 25 years of ASEAN membership. On the occasion Ambassador Tran Duc Binh, Head of Vietnam’s delegation to ASEAN said, “Vietnam is one of the countries recording highest results in implementing the master plan on building the ASEAN Community. Vietnam has worked to strengthen unity and solidarity in ASEAN and elevate ASEAN’s central role in maintaining regional cooperation, peace, and stability.”

2020 has been an extraordinary year for countries around the world. In the wake of the pandemic, Vietnam has played a significant role in virtual diplomacy and formulated a COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund, a Regional Reserve for Medical Supplies, a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on Public Health Emergencies, and a Post-COVID-19 Recovery Plan. At a domestic level, it is one of the very few countries to successfully curb the spread of the virus. Vietnam recorded its first COVID-19 death as late as 31st July 2020, and till now (April 2021) has registered 2,833 cases and 35 deaths, one of the lowest in the world. The most notable achievement this year has been the signing of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the 15-member free trade agreement making it the largest regional trading bloc in the world. Vietnam also holds the responsibility of non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the 2020-2021 term elected by 192/193 votes. President and Party Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong said that the election is an “important recognition” of Vietnam’s roles and contributions to global and regional affairs, showing its increased position and credibility.

In the Asia Power Index 2020 conducted by Lowy Institute, Vietnam ranks 12th out of 26 countries of Asia-Pacific and 5th among ASEAN countries. While Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia stand ahead in the power index, all of them have observed a negative trend and lost out points except Thailand that remained unchanged as compared to last edition. Vietnam is the only country among ASEAN states to observe a positive trend and gained 1.3 points since last year. One of the indicators is Diplomatic influence that measures the ‘extent and standing of a state’s or territories foreign relations’ and Vietnam has gained the maximum points (+6) out of all countries. Its performance in other indicators is mentioned below.

Vietnam also holds a positive score in the power gap category that indicates that the country exerts more influence in the region than expected given its available resources.

Table 1: Vietnam’s Performance in Asia Power Index 2020

Defence Networks+5.4
Economic Capability+1.9
Cultural Influence+0.4
Future Resources+0.3
Resilience-0.2
Military Capability-0.4
Economic Relationships-1.2

Source: Asia Power Index 2020

On the Security Front

Vietnam’s policy with respect to security in the region assesses the global situation which has been rapidly evolving into a multipolar order. South China Sea or what is called East Sea in Vietnam has been a long-standing issue in maritime security and the larger Indo-Pacific space. The dispute goes back to China’s claim to the entire South China Sea on the basis of its historic nine-dash line that predates the emergence of post-colonial sovereign states of Asia. The claims evolved into aggressive actions by the Chinese through buildup of artificial islands and growing military infrastructure that threatens the sovereignty of littoral states. Due to the geo-economic importance of the sea, China has begun to endanger commercial operations of smaller states in their respective economic zones mainly Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei, reaching as far as Indonesia’s Natuna Sea. Large hydrocarbon reserves have been found in regions like Vanguard Bank and The Ca Voi Xanh (Blue Whale) gas field that lie just 50 miles off Vietnamese coast. Vietnamese fishing industry is also threatened due to Chinese coast guard presence that has previously unilaterally banned fishing activity in the region. In 2014, a Vietnamese fishing vessel 90152 was sunk by Chinese maritime surveillance vessel that sparked national outrage in the country and led to anti-China riots. In April this year, a Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dishi 8 encroached Vietnam’s resource-rich territorial waters near Paracel Islands, called Hoang Sa in Vietnam.

Vietnam has grown militarily, its defense spending increasing from 2.23 percent of GDP in 2010 to 2.36 percent in 2018and engaged with countries including Russia, USA, India, Australia and Japan strategically. On both the national level as well as the regional level, it has reiterated the commitment towards 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) for any territorial rights claimed by any country in South China Sea. Vietnam helped build the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea in 2002 and negotiations are on between ASEAN and China over an upgraded Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. Cooperation with external players mainly the US for security reasons is one approach taken by the country. Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh said during ASEAN-US virtual summit, “We welcome the U.S.’s constructive and responsive contributions to Asean’s efforts to maintain the peace, stability and developments in the South China Sea.”On November 25, 2019, Vietnam released a new Defense White Paper, reiterating the “Three No’s” defense policy – no alliances, no foreign bases and no aligning with a second country against a third. However, its participation within the ‘QUAD Plus’ framework that is an extension of QUAD along with with New Zealand, Vietnam and South Korea is seen by some as an alliance against rising China. Vietnam’s strategic position for the QUAD and reiteration of free and open, rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific is the current approach to set a status quo in the South China Sea for its resource interests. The 2018 inauguration of Paracel Islands Museum in Da Nangand the indication to take the legal route through legal arbitration, similar to the case won by Philippines in 2016 is how Vietnam is standing up for bullying behaviour against smaller states in the region. 

Conclusion

In Vietnamese there is an old saying: ‘A single tree cannot make a forest’. Since the 21st century, Vietnam’s economic and political rise has been complementary to the rise of ASEAN. Foreign direct investment (FDI) and exports played an increasingly important role in Vietnam’s economic success while significant political presence in international politics is the world’s acknowledgment of its leadership role in the ASEAN and demonstration of its importance in the Indo-Pacific region.Lack of a united ASEAN front to the South China Sea issue remains one of the biggest challenges for the country. As a non-permanent member, Vietnam needs to work as a bridge between the ASEAN and UN. For a dynamic regional institution and the emerging maritime-geopolitical construct of Indo-Pacific, Vietnam needs to leverage its position and role to realize ‘peace and stability of the region’ in its truest sense.

Apoorva is a graduate in political science from Delhi University and is currently pursuing Masters in International Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

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Southeast Asia

Transforming Social Protection Delivery in the Philippines through PhilSys

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Social protection helps the poor and vulnerable in a country, especially in times of crises and shocks that may threaten the well-being of families. When COVID-19 hit and quarantines began, the Philippines needed a massive expansion of social protection coverage to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic. Countries that already had good and inclusive digital infrastructure (including internet connectivity, digital identification, digital payments and integrated data ecosystems) were better equipped to quickly adapt their social protection programs to meet urgent needs. They also fared better in maintaining continuity of services when in-person interactions could be moved online.

For the Philippines, it presented a challenge, and strain was felt in the delivery of social assistance under the Bayanihan acts.

Fortunately, the country is moving to address digital infrastructure gaps, including through the development of the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys). PhilSys is one of the most complex – but also game-changing – projects undertaken in the country.

The Philippines is one of only 23 countries without a national ID system. As a result, Filipinos need to present multiple IDs (and often specific IDs that many do not have) when transacting, including with government, creating barriers to services for the most vulnerable among the population. Information across government databases is often inconsistent. These undermine the Philippines’ transition to a digital economy, society and government. The PhilSys will help address this by providing all Filipinos with a unique and verifiable digital ID (and not just a card), while also adopting innovative and practical data protection and privacy-by-design measures.

The new partnership agreement between the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for DSWD’s adoption of the PhilSys is a milestone for the Philippines’ social protection and digital transformation journeys. DSWD will be the first agency to utilize the secure biometric and SMS-based identity authentication offered by the PhilSys to uniquely identify and verify its beneficiaries. Pilots with the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS) program will begin within the next few months, before PhilSys is used by all DSWD programs.

Adopting PhilSys will enable DSWD to further accelerate its digital transformation. By automating verification and business processes for its programs and services, DSWD will be able to improve the impact while reducing the costs of social protection programs. PhilSys will assist with identifying and removing ghost, duplicate and deceased beneficiaries to address leakages, fraud and corruption, and thus boost transparency and public trust. The unified beneficiary database that DSWD is developing with the help of PhilSys will contain up-to-date and consistent beneficiary information across all programs.

The World Bank is supporting these DSWD initiatives through the Beneficiary FIRST (standing for Fast, Innovative and Responsive Service Transformation) social protection project.

Importantly, these changes will translate to benefits for Filipinos.

Those who interact with the DSWD will face less paperwork, queues, hassle, costs and time. With their PhilSys ID, they will also have better access to a bank or e-money account where they can potentially receive payments directly in the future, promoting financial inclusion. Indeed, more than 5 million low-income Filipinos have already opened bank accounts during PhilSys registration. And the resources that DSWD saves can be redirected to addressing the needs of beneficiaries who live in remote areas without easy access to internet and social protection programs.

Beyond the advantages for social protection, the digital transformation PhilSys will catalyze in the public and private sectors can be fundamental to the Philippines’ pivot to reviving the economy and getting poverty eradication back on track. Success in utilizing PhilSys for social protection will have a significant demonstration effect in accelerating digital transformation by other government agencies as well as the private sector.

But digital transformation is not easy. It is not about simply digitizing things. It is about re-imagining how things can be done for the better, with technology as an enabler. Digitizing bad systems or processes just leads to bad systems or processes digitalized. Digital transformation therefore depends on and can only be as fast as process re-engineering and institutional and bureaucratic changes to overcome inertia.

Digital transformation must also be inclusive to avoid exacerbating digital divides or creating new ones.

The effort will be worth it. And the World Bank is firmly committed to scale up our support to the Philippines’ digital transformation agenda. A digital Philippines will not only be more resilient to future shocks – whether they are natural disasters or pandemics – but also be poised to take advantage of the opportunities brought by COVID-19 (shift of activities online) and those that lie ahead in the post COVID-19 world.
 first published in The Philippine Star, via World Bank

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Bringing “the people” back in: Forest Resources Conservation with Dr. Apichart Pattaratuma

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With a lifetime dedicated to forest conservation, Dr. Apichart Pattaratuma reflected back on his career and what forest management means to Thailand. In the year 1978, he received the prestigious United Nations and Ananda Mahidol Foundation Scholarship to attain higher education at the College of Forest Resources, University of Washington, Seattle, USA. After graduating in the year 1985, he returned to Thailand with a commitment to teach and research at the Department of Forest Management, Faculty of Forestry, Kasetsart University until his retirement with full professor position. The excerpts below encapsulated a conversation between Dr. Pattaratuma and Dr. Rattana Lao on forest conservation.

Beyond the classroom: An anthropological perspective

I dedicated my life to study the anthropological aspect of forest management to His Majesty King Bhumibol Aduyadej of Thailand. I studied cultural dimensions of forest management in many areas of Thailand. I began with Huay Hin Dam with Karen hill tribe (Pra-ka-ker -yor) Suphanburi Province. I tried to review the international literature on land use and combine it with in-depth interviews with the hill tribes to understand the cultural dimensions of their livelihoods. I observed how they built their houses and how their managed their forest. There are three characteristics of the Karen tribe. Firstly, they lived on small plots of lands and their houses are very small. Secondly, they conserve their forest land with water resources. Thirdly, they refrain from using pesticides. Culturally, there is a clear division of labor amongst men and women. While men will clear the lands, women will cultivate agricultural goods such as papaya, guava and banana. There is limited drugs use.

It’s liberating to do research beyond the classrooms. To observe real live, real changes. I learnt more than I set out to do and they are all interrelated to a bigger picture.

Intersectionality between culture, migration and forest management

Karen hill tribes migrate in a cluster. There are more than 3 families migrating together to the new fertile forest land. They will migrate together when land is exhausted. This is most evident in the borderland between Thailand and Myanmar. Back then they did not have official documentation but slowly they do. There has been an influx of hill tribes from Myanmar to Thailand due to political conflicts from Myanmar. From my observation, they are very conscious about forest conservation and resources management. They said: “no forest, no water”. They are compelled to protect the forest from pesticides in order to keep the water clean and their health well. They are very logical. Although they grow rice, it’s very subsistent and only for household consumption. They don’t grow rice for commercial purpose. This is the land use for Karen hill tribe.

I also studied in Kampeangpetch, Nan, Chiang Rai, Phrae and Lumphun. Each place is diverse and the situation is really different. Some local tribes are preserving of the forests, others are more detrimental. We need an in-depth study to understand the cultural dimension of land use for each tribe.

The heart of forest management

People. It’s the people. People must particulate in the forest management. Otherwise, it is very difficult. When we go into each location, we must approach people and bring them into the conversation. I have tried to do all my life. Civil servants must approach people, not other way around. People are looking up to our action. They look into our sincerity and commitment. If they see that we are committed to study about their livelihood, they will share the right information and they will help.

Indonesia is a good example of successful forest management. The state get people involved. In every kilometer, there are four actors involved in protecting the forest: soldiers, policemen, villager and forester. They help each other protecting the wildlife and forest resources.

Can legal change help the people?

Legal relaxation can help lessen the pressure between man and forest. Before the legal requirement was very strict. Any kind of forest intrusion would be caught including small hunters gatherers. I think that is too strict. That put people against the law. People should be able to go into the forest and pick up some mushroom and bamboo and some wild products to lessen their poverty and hunger.

As long as people are still hungry, it’s very hard to manage the forest. There must be a way to balance the two: people livelihood and forest management.

Capitalists invasion

Much of the legal attention is paid to small farmers use of the forests. However, the real issue is big corporations invade the forest. This is very significant. Deforestation happens mostly from large scale corporation rather than small scale farmers. There are many loopholes in the system that lead to systemic corruption and mismanagement of land use. Many wealthy houses are built on large scale timber to exemplify wealth and status. It saddens me.

Would the next generation get to see large tree in the forest?

Less likely.

What can we do to protect the forest?

There are many organizations that responsible for the forest protection such as Royal Forest Department, Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and Department of Marine and Coastal Resources. But the manpower are not sufficient to cover the large area of forest in Thailand. There are not enough permanent manpower to go on the ground and protect forest resources, while the intruders to National Parks are equipped with more advanced weaponry.

To protect the forest, the state must be committed and the people must participate in the process.

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Southeast Asia

Possibilities for a Multilateral Initiative between ASEAN-Bangladesh-India-Japan in the Indo-Pacific

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In the Indo-Pacific context, there are multiple partners all aiming for economic fulfillment along with maritime security and safety. Countries ranging from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea seem to be more worried about the freedom of navigation and overflight as Chinese aggressiveness is rampant and expansionist is a scary idea. The region from India to Bangladesh has a huge potential of interconnectedness and if connected to the Southeast Asian countries, it would also help in India’s Act East Policy and India’s neighbourhood first policy and further help out in strengthening relations to the far East as in Japan. All these countries combined can create an interconnected chain of mutual and common interests with balanced ideas of economic, military, social, political and people to people exchanges which would in turn help develop a multilateral.

Who can lead this Multilateral Initiative and Why?

Japan can be the prime crusader for this multilateral as it has excellent relations with all the parties and is the pioneer of the free and open Indo-Pacific. Japan has excellent diplomatic, economic and infrastructural relations with all the possible partners as it provides ODA loans, aid and assistance. Japan being the pioneer of Free and Open Indo-Pacific can be guiding force for this multilateral in the maritime domain which would help create a new regional grouping consisting of South Asia and Southeast Asia primarily based on maritime. Japan is the only developed country among all the other players and with its expertise, it can surely guide, help, support and take along all the countries. Japan most importantly is a non-aggressive nation and believes in mutual respect unlike China. Japan has no dept trap issue unlike China. Japan is known for quality in infrastructural development and with their expertise in science, technology and innovation can well lead these countries. Japan’s reputation of honesty, no corruption and extreme detailed paper work is commendable.

What are the benefits from this Multilateral Initiative?

This multilateral would help connect the Indian Ocean (India) to Bay of Bengal (Bangladesh) to the South China Sea (ASEAN) and the East China Sea (Japan)- would help in the creation of water interconnected network from South Asia to Southeast Asia. This could be the first regional maritime grouping covering South Asia to Southeast Asia. This maritime grouping can create a network of ports which could also become an economic hub and intersecting points of investment and infrastructural development (already Japan is investing in a big way in all these countries). India’s Northeast would get a greater economic, infrastructural and people-to-people exchange as it would connect India to Bangladesh and Myanmar. Mekong Ganga Economic Corridor already exists and could pave the way for Bangladesh and Kolkata greater port exchange which could be developed as nodal points in Bay of Bengal and would help in easy and cheaper freight. These countries can also aim for the strengthening of defence and security relations in the domain of maritime and can also aim for a logistics support agreement and a network from Indian Ocean to Bay of Bengal to South China Sea to East China Sea and would help tackle Chinese aggressiveness and China has been mapping the waters in all these waters and so, to protect one’s territorial sovereignty and integrity, defence relations must be build.

An ecosystem based on Digitalization, Science, technology and Innovation can be formed which would help create a united cyber security law and all this could ultimately lead to the 4th Industrial Revolution. South Asia and Southeast Asia would be lucrative markets and labour distribution and generation of employment can be done through the ports, logistics network, economic and trade exchanges and interactions. This multilateral would form a resilient supply chain in the region of South Asia and Southeast Asia in the domain of Indo-Pacific. Marine economy can be a major factor of this multilateral initiative as it would be a major success in the maritime domain. This multilateral can also work on vaccine diplomacy and work on future health hazards mechanisms.

Why Bangladesh must think of adopting the Indo-Pacific Strategy?

Bangladesh must adopt the Indo-Pacific strategy and create its own objects and call it the SAMODHRO NITI. Bangladesh has the capability of being an excellent maritime power and it is a major leader in the Bay of Bengal and to be an effective part of this multilateral. The Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt (BIG-B) would be a key binder. Bangladesh must realise that China by building dams on the Brahmaputra River would actually create issues for Bangladesh’s fishery catchment areas as it would get inundated with salt water and to stop that Bangladesh must work to strengthen its position to tackle China. Also, China could also create water issues for Bangladesh and Bangladesh must look at ways to safe guard its water resources. Thereby, Bangladesh must work towards countries who face similar issues with China. The Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor is an excellent example of cooperation but this Multilateral if formed can be a stronger initiative and Bangladesh benefits from it as being a hub of textile, leather and pharmaceuticals and this Multilateral has all the efficiency of becoming an economic hub which would benefit Bangladesh too. If Bangladesh adopts an Indo-Pacific Policy, then its market in Japan, the US and Europe would become stronger due to shared interests and can also sign a Free Trade Agreement with EU like Vietnam did.

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