Antony Blinken’s maiden visit to Bangladesh: Beginning of a new era?
After much drama and theatrics, United States has now found a semblance of order. In the wake of a tumultuous election and concomitant violence and political wrangling, Biden is now at the helm of the world's most powerful country. With his abiding conviction in the spirit of democracy and multilateralism, there is not a shred of doubt that the new administration of US is set to reorient the foreign policy of to its characteristic liberal and its corollary multilateral image. and the flurry of activism in the month that passed offer much testimony to those grandiose rhetoric.
However, the crux of the today's article is not the foreign policy orientation or predilection of newly elected US president. Far from that, we will today dwell on about a diplomatic talk which is set to be held today (24th February). It requires no exaggerated underscores about how momentous of a bilateral visit this will be especially the fact that it is the first rendez-vous between the newly elected U. S. administration and its Bangladeshi counterpart makes this bilateral talks stand apart and consequential.
This diplomatic visit should be seen in the context of broader geopolitical configuration of today's world. In recent years, especially in US foreign policy discourse, we are seeing a sudden shift from its erstwhile Atlantic-centred pivot of foreign policy to the adaptation to the Indo-Pacific geopolitical scene. To be sure the term Indo-Pacific as popularized by US State Department oft-mentioned "Indo Pacific Strategy" (IPS) had acquired significant currency in the vocabulary of layman and analyst alike, often justifiably so.
Besides, the much hullabaloo of a coming Asian century and a consequent shifting foreign policy spheres shouldn't be overlooked. The "China Factor", which can be conceptualized an economically preponderant China and its footprint in the regions also need to be take into account. Especially, its involvement with the third world developing countries--in general through a mix of trade and generous loans, albeit notorious for debt traps--should be taken into cognizance.
Gleaning from all of the above-mentioned themes, it can be discerned that the increasing necessity of Bangladesh in the geopolitical scenario of the Bay of Bengal, and by extension broader Indo-Pacific region. One shouldn't forget the fact that Bangladesh is a littoral country of Bay of Bengal and adjacent to one of the busiest and most principal trade route of the world. These contingencies partly explain the importance US Administration puts to a far-flung and often tangential country that is Bangladesh.
Till now, we have made the point as to why Bangladesh is important in US great game which partly explains increasing and deepening engagement between the two countries. Henceforth, we will discuss about the bilateral issues at stake between the countries and promising prospects of such a diplomatic overture. Although, recently the geostrategic dimension has become more apparent, the relation between the two countries was once marked by friendly involvement and cooperation since the independence of Bangladesh. Economic aspect of the relation between the two countries is much more significant.
United States is the single largest export destination of goods from Bangladesh and was a part of Bangladesh's economic success. In 2019 alone, Bangladeshi export to US stood at $5.5 billion which is by no means paltry. Besides, US is the also an investor in Bangladesh and contributor of huge share of Bangladesh's FDI. All of these will have impact the development and prosperity of country.
There is no paucity of issues which can be discussed in the discussion between two countries. From deepening trade relations to the climate resilience, the issues between the two countries are diverse in nature. Hence the two counties require close cooperation. Both countries can deepen their bilateral trade volume. Bangladesh should put emphasis on the issue of trade liberalization: lifting some persistent tariffs and quotas which had been some causes of friction in the bilateral relations. However, this requires the goodwill from US. Bangladesh should leverage its geostrategic equation in persuading US.
The bilateral visit comes amidst raging pandemic which had wreaked much havoc and cause of much distress for both of the country. Therefore, to better combat the negative fallout of the COVID-19, Bangladesh should seek support from US in the form of economic and other assistance.
The long lasting Rohingya refugee issue remains the concern of Bangladesh. Especially, with the sudden halt of democratic processes and government in Myanmar, the concern only heightens in the host country which gave shelter to 1.1 Million Rohingya refugees when they fled atrocities perpetrated by Myanmar armed forces. For a safe, orderly and sustainable Rohingya repatriation--as a host country--Bangladesh must demanded strong US role.
Climate issue is another important and often overlooked agenda of bilateral relations. Bangladesh is one of the worst sufferers of global warming. Therefore, Bangladesh should exhort more responsible USA role in this issue. Besides, Bangladesh should seek US help in climate resilience and sustainability.
Moreover, it can be mentioned that, Bangladesh-US relations is at the crossroads and bilateral amicable ties between the two countries is at its zenith--considering geostrategic and other issues. Under these circumstances, today's bilateral talks is seen another effort to deepening bilateral involvement. Moreover, it can be expected that this talks will do justice to the hopes of promising future.
The writer is a student of Department of International Relations,
University of Dhaka