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Prospect Of Joining US-Led Indo-Pacific Strategy

BD not willing to buy arms, wants US to invest: Momen

Published : Monday, 19 October, 2020 at 12:00 AM  Count : 161

Bangladesh foreign policy principle, 'Friendship towards all, malice towards none' has allowed the country to avail all opportunities or to join all allies if it guarantees national interest first, experts said.
They observed that joining the IPS programme, Bangladesh will not lose anything although US Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) has been taken up to counter China's BRI which aims at establishing connectivity with around 70 countries including Bangladesh.
"During his Dhaka visit, Stephen E Biegun made it clear that US considers Bangladesh to be an important partner and wants to see Bangladesh at the centre of US' initiatives to strengthen its relations in the region. However, strategic initiatives of China's BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) will never conflict with the joining of IPS if we follow the core philosophy of our existing Foreign Policy," former
   foreign secretary Shahidul Haque told the Daily Observer on Sunday.
He said through this core idea, Bangladesh pursues a moderate foreign policy that places heavy reliance on multinational diplomacy, especially at the United Nations and World Trade Organization (WTO) and deal with the OIC or African countries.
"Since our independence in 1971, the country has stressed its principle of 'Friendship towards all, malice towards none' in dictating its diplomacy. It is right for a country like Bangladesh as we are small in size but crucially important for geopolitical causes in the new changing formation of global politics. If we really set to sign a MoU in this regard, our concern should be to protect our interest first and we should not be a party to any big powers mission," Dr Tareque Shamsur Rahman said.
He said both China and India are our friends, USA, Australia and Russia are also our friends and we are maintaining relations with them over the decades, although there are many if and buts in their relationships.
According to him the IPS issue has taken up a new momentum as Biegun's visit to Dhaka and Delhi is seen as a lead-in to next week's visit by the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Sri Lanka, India and the Maldives.
The US drew up its national security strategy in 2017, and began the advancement of IPS in the beginning of the following year. From the very outset they approached Bangladesh to join the initiative. Two years before that, in 2016, Bangladesh joined China's Belt and Road Initiative. And two years even before that, Bangladesh lent its support to Japan's Big B, that is, The Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt. It was more or less since then that Bangladesh has featured in Japan, China and US strategic investment and infrastructure moves in the region.
Echoing the experts, Foreign Secretary Masud bin Momen said Bangladesh welcomes any initiative for international development. The basic considerations will be business, investment and economy. But Bangladesh's policy will be to stay away from any initiative that has elements of security and defence. He was discussing about the strategic initiatives of China's BRI, Japan's Big B and the US' IPS.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said under the proposed Indo Pacific Strategy alliance, led by the United States, Bangladesh is not interested in purchasing arms, rather the country wants American investments in the infrastructure of the country.
"They want to sell arms, but we are not interested in issues related to conflict," Foreign Minister Dr Momen said when asked about Bangladesh's stance on the IPS.
"We have no objection to the Indo Pacific strategy. But they should come forward for infrastructure development if they want to make the IPS more effective".
"They have to spend money, only talking will not do, they have to invest," the Minister said pointing out that the US has no contribution to Bangladesh's infrastructure development.
A recent move by the US to sell sophisticated defence equipment, including Apache helicopters, could not be materialised. US officials admitted that they had several rounds of talks with the authorities concerned on selling of sophisticated US defence equipment, which they claimed the 'best in the world'.

According to a recent study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, China is the fifth-biggest arms supplier in the world and also supplies most weapons to the region, except India. Around 35 per cent of China's arms supplies went to Pakistan between 2013 and 2017, followed by 19 per cent to Bangladesh.
Dhaka procured 71 per cent of its arms from China over the five-year period, it revealed.

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