Bangladesh experienced a 9% increase in per capita income for the year 2020-2021 (its per capita income was estimated at 2227 USD, and it exceeded India’s GDP in 2020-2021 which was $ 1,947). The World Bank revised Bangladesh’s GDP growth for 2020-2021, due to higher-than-expected remittance flows (after previously predicting that the South Asian nation’s GDP would increase by $ 1. 7%, it revised its estimates to 3.6%). In recent years, Bangladesh has experienced sky-high growth rates – in 2019, for example, the South Asian nation grew by 8.4%.
Bangladesh’s Aid to Sri Lanka and India: Significance in Symbolism
Two recent developments reiterate that Dhaka is keen to send a message that it is not happy with its economic boom, but wants to strengthen its global influence in South Asia; First, Bangladesh agreed to provide a currency exchange of $ 200 million in Sri Lanka for a period of three months. Sri Lanka had received aid from China in 2020 (this includes a loan of $ 1 billion, a currency swap of $ 1.5 billion) and in 2020 India had also granted a credit swap of $ 400 million. USD to the island nation.
It would also be relevant to point out that Bangladesh is also among the 40 countries that provided assistance to India during the second wave of the pandemic. The South Asian nation supplied India with 10,000 vials of Remdesivir when the second wave of covid19 was at its peak. In addition to Remdesivir, Bangladesh had provided PPE kits and tablets of zinc, calcium, vitamin C and others.
While in terms of the scale, Bangladesh’s aid to Sri Lanka may not be significant, it sends an important message both within the region and outside Bangladesh, no longer being in the shadow of the country. India (Bangladesh’s foreign exchange reserve at the end of April was US $ 456 billion). Likewise, Dhaka’s support for India during the covid19 pandemic is extremely important in terms of symbolism.
Bangladesh seeks balance between China and India
The country’s economic growth has allowed him to cultivate strong ties, and his recent response to comments made by a Chinese diplomat shows that while maintaining cordial relations, he is unlikely to bow down to China. Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming in a virtual address to members of the Association of Bangladesh Diplomatic Correspondents (DACB) said last month that China-Bangladesh would be affected if Bangladesh joined the Quad. said the Chinese diplomat
“Obviously, it will not be a good idea for Bangladesh to participate in this little club of four as it will seriously damage our bilateral relations,
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen responded forcefully to the Chinese diplomat’s remarks. Said Momen:
as a sovereign country, Bangladesh will determine the course of its foreign policy in the interest of its people ”
There is no doubt that Bangladesh’s economic ties with China have grown stronger (the two countries aim to increase bilateral trade to 18 billion by 2021). In 2016, the two countries also turned their relationship into a strategic one when an agreement was signed between Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Chinese President Xi Jinping. China is also investing heavily in Bangladesh’s infrastructure sector and has become one of the countries’ major development partners.
At the same time, Bangladesh’s relations with India have also improved. Bangladesh is India’s largest trading partner in South Asia. In 2019-2020, bilateral trade between the two countries was estimated at 9.45 billion USD. Besides trade, efforts have also been made to improve connectivity – rail, sea and road.
The relevance of Bangladesh beyond South Asia
The importance of Bangladesh can also be measured by the fact that the United States has also sought to include Bangladesh in its Indo-Pacific vision (a former United States Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, ironically called Bangladesh a hopeless case. ). US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke with Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen in February 2021.
“It is good to speak with Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and congratulate him on the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence. We affirmed the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Bangladesh and look forward to working together to address challenges in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific ”,
Beijing was not very happy with the idea of Bangladesh joining the Quad and emerging as a major player in the Indo-Pacific. While Dhaka cannot ignore China, it wants to increase its strategic relevance in the wider Indo-Pacific region.
Recent developments clearly recall a few points; First, that the economic landscape of the region is undergoing a significant change. Second, once countries move forward economically, as Bangladesh has done, they can navigate geopolitical complexities better and cannot be forced to make binary choices. India therefore has an interest in the economic progress of its neighbors in the South Asian region, and this should not be based on conditionalities or simply in response to China’s opening up to countries in the region. .
In conclusion, some of the recent developments discussed earlier in the article reiterate the growing importance of Bangladesh not only in the context of South Asia, but globally. Other neighboring countries would do well to emulate Bangladesh’s emphasis on economic growth, as this will ensure that no country can meddle in its internal affairs and dictate its foreign policy.