Bangladesh-Argentina: A soft power opening the door of opportunities for Bangladesh

Last year, the Messi-led Argentina football team won the 2022 world cup and became the world champion among the 32 countries. Undoubtedly, it was a tremendous success for Argentina. But behind this, a country’s most of the people known as Bangladeshi football fans played a significant role by supporting and giving pathos and encouragement to them in each and every match without any interest. During the world cup performances, this wholehearted support of Bangladesh happened as a trending topic on social media and amazed the world.

So, to give something back, the citizens of Argentina also started to support the Bangladesh cricket team which was first shown in Bangladesh’s home ODI series win by beating the giant team, India. They created a group on Facebook, Fans argentinos de la selección de cricket de Bangladesh (Argentinian fans of the Bangladesh cricket team) where they are still posting the glorious achievements of Bangladesh cricket history and encouraging the Bangladesh cricket squad.

This is the “fans to fans” interaction between Bangladesh and Argentina, which has recently expanded beyond citizens to include “government to government” interactions. After winning the world cup, Bangladesh’s PM Sheikh Hasina sent a congratulatory letter to Argentina’s government despite not having diplomatic relations and in response, Argentina’s president Alberto Fernández thanked her and expressed strong interest to open up an embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh. As a result of this, on upcoming 27 February of the current year, Bangladesh-Argentina is going to develop diplomatic relations by inaugurating a new embassy in Dhaka.

In this view, it is proved that the game of football played a powerful role to bring them so close and that can be explained by the concept of soft power. According to Joseph Nye who first coined the term, soft power is a country’s ability to attract others by political, cultural, and moral influence without prosecuting coercive action. Here the cultural influence refers to music, sports, language, etc. which are the elements of soft power. In this regard, it can be asserted that the game of football has worked here as a soft power that influenced the two countries to come close.

So, by this oncoming, a gigantic door of opportunities in the economic, geopolitical, and cultural sectors may be opened for Bangladesh with the strong possibility of bringing about a remarkable change in the trajectory of making SMART Bangladesh.

Economic Opportunities

In Latin America, there is a most prominent economic market called MERCOSUR. Bangladesh by that oncoming approach is going to gripe the market with its exportable products; Ready-Made Garments (RMG), pharmaceuticals, ceramics, leather, melamine goods and IT products. Hoping that Bangladesh will succeed to gain its aims because Argentina and Brazil, the two countries of Latin America, are the most dominant and founding members of the market with whom Bangladesh has already strong bilateral relations and further is going to develop the relations. In the fiscal year 2021-22, Argentina exported $791 million worth of goods to Bangladesh; by contrast, Bangladesh exported $9.5 million worth of goods to Argentina without any diplomatic relations. So, it is being perceived that the number of exports and imports will be upturned at a triple rate after forging bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Argentina.

Cultural Favor

After getting Nobel Prize in Gitanjali, Rabindra Nath Tagore visited Latin America and made a literary friendship with Argentine author Victoria Ocampo. As a result of this, the impression of the Bengali language was left in the region which can be extended after opening the diplomatic relations with Argentina, I hope. Not only that, but the oncoming relations can also secure a good day for the Bangladesh football squad. In the last FIFA men’s football team ranking, Bangladesh was ranked 192nd out of 211 countries determining that football in Bangladesh is gradually going to a moribund situation. The fundamental reasons behind that are impolitic coaches, insufficient equipment of training, and the lack of proper guidelines for players. Hoped that those problems can be resolved by making relations with Argentina that at present ranked 2nd in the FIFA ranking report and possess a football legend, Lionel Messi. In fact, Latin American countries, especially Brazil and Argentina are the powerhouses in generating the best football players like Pele, Maradona, Carlos, Ronaldinho, Messi, Neymar, and so on.

Geopolitical Gain

In Latin America, the U.S., on the one hand, is playing a dominant role by using the nationalistic policy “America First”; on the other hand, China is seeking to personate as a ‘benign power’ by following Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) that in sum exhibits as the geopolitical rivalry between the two great powers. I perceive that in the rivalry, there has a possibility for Bangladesh to gain opportunities from both sides in terms of trade and business. Because China may want Bangladesh to join its bloc, similarly the U.S. can do so in the region after promoting bilateral relations with Argentina. For that, they both likely show friendly behaviour toward Bangladesh. As a result of this, Bangladesh will get more trade facilities than Japan, India, the EU, and so on in Latina America.

However, to obtain these opportunities, Bangladesh has to play a discreet role in the region and it is further manifested as a conclusion that here Bangladesh has to stay conscious about the geopolitical game of two rivals, the U.S. and China that not be a scapegoat of their game in any way.

Josim Uddin
Josim Uddin
Column Writer in Bangladesh National Newspapers and a student of the Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka.