Bangladesh must maintain its strategic neutrality

Prothom Alo

ANM Muniruzzaman

ANM Muniruzzaman

There are signs of a strategic polarisation emerging in the Indo-Pacific region. The long-standing adversity between the US and China is deepening further. The strategic competition between the two will intensify in the days to come. It is evident that the US is unwilling to stand up against China alone. It is making an effort to create a fresh initiative with its allies to thwart China.

It is common knowledge that China’s clout is increasing in the region. It is actively endeavouring to create a new sphere of influence. The US is moving forward with its allies Japan, India and Australia to obstruct China. While Quad, the US-led informal security dialogue comprising four countries including India, kicked off in 2007, it then became inactive. Though a virtual summit among its top leaders held in March this year, Quad was not only revived, but also took up a plan to widen its scope of action. The statement issued at the end of the summit spoke about Quad’s activities in this region pertaining to climate change, cyber security, technology and more.

we must not join any alliance or grouping that will lead to militarization in the Indian Ocean. We must maintain our strategic neutrality. We will always uphold our strategic autonomy in national interests

Though Quad is intractably linked to the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS), albeit unofficially. It plays a significant role in lending impetus to the ISP initiative. We have seen China’s serious objection to the role of IPS and Quad. According to China, Quad’s activities can disrupt stability in this region and instigate unrest. However, I would be surprised if the Chinese ambassador made this remark only about Bangladesh getting involved in Quad. After all, Bangladesh is not linked to Quad. No one has even approached Bangladesh as yet to join Quad. Bangladesh, too, has not expressed any desire to join. In fact, Bangladesh appears nowhere on the list of countries mentioned in recent writings and studies about an expansion of Quad.

Interestingly, experts feel there may be a militarisation of Quad in the future. Many observers think that this will become the NATO of Asia. That is why we need to observe these developments closely. After all, Bangladesh has an important geostrategic location. It is a maritime country and Quad’s basic work area is maritime.

Due to its sensitive positioning on the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh’s importance has significantly multiplied. That is why we must not join any alliance or grouping that will lead to militarisation in the Indian Ocean. We must maintain our strategic neutrality. We will always uphold our strategic autonomy in national interests. For the sake of national interests, Bangladesh always wants peace and stability in the region.

* Maj. Gen. (retd) ANM Muniruzzaman is the president of Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS).

*This column appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir

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