Friday, 31 January 2020

The Major Challenges of Bangladesh Foreign Policy



The Key Challenges of Foreign Policy in Bangladesh
Bangladesh, a South Asian country, is located in a conflicted region and peace may be a dream in the area. India, Pakistan and China have an uneasy political relationship and rivalries. Moreover, Kashmir disputes aggravate the bitterness of their bilateral relations. Bangladesh has also unsettled issues with its close neighbours.



Rohingya Issues, Myanmar & Friends
About 1 million Rohingya refugees fled from Myanmar taking shelter in Bangladesh. International communities help to donate money and to provide foods to the refugees but Bangladesh has not received support from its close friends. As Myanmar has a strategic location and lots to give, China, India and Japan are investing in the country (Burma).

Balancing relationship with different countries
Due to the geopolitical advantage, many influential countries are now giving much importance to Bangladesh. The country has to balance its relationship with these big players (US-Rus, China, Japan & India).

Bangladesh aborted Sonadia deep seaport project with China in 2016. India had shown a concern that it would bring China’s direct presence closer to Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India.

Chinese 'debt trap'
A big challenging question is - Is Bangladesh going to fall in a 'debt trap' of China? China and Bangladesh have made numerous infrastructure deals (billions worth). However, some are concern that dependence on Chinese money will force Dhaka indebted to Beijing although these investments promise advantages.

A love-hate relationship with India?
The changes in the government of Bangladesh affect the relations with its neighbouring country India. There is some sort of mistrust and the love-hate relationship between India (the world’s largest democracy) and Bangladesh.


The sharing of river Teesta’s waters:  Indian PM Narendra Modi has committed on the fair share of Teesta River’s water, but nothing happens.

Border killing: Although India has committed to zero border deaths, shooting and killings, unfortunately, continue at the India & Bangladesh border by India’s Border Security Force (BSF). It is also worth mentioning that the picture of Felani's body hanging on the border fence caught international media attention and created much anger among Bangladeshi citizens. The India & Bangladesh border has been termed as one of the most dangerous borders in the world.

Cows and Onion Crisis: Following the cow trade ban, legal cattle trade from India has shrunk but cow smuggling is increased significantly in the border.

Bangladesh also faced a huge demand and price hike crisis due to the Indian’s ban on onion export to Bangladesh. Bangladesh is trying to mitigate the problem by raising domestic onion production in the future.

Muhorir River & Char: The disputes on settling the boundary along the midstream of the Muhuri River is one of the unsolved issues between the two countries. Despite repeated requests from the government of Bangladesh, India keeps the disputes hanging.

World Bank & the Padma Bridge Project Scam
World Bank (WB) blocked its promised finance for constructing the Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project because of corruption conspiracy (2012) among Bangladeshi government officials with the key stakeholders. However, it was told (PM) that Muhammad Yunus stopped WB funding by using his relations with Hillary Clinton (the ex-US Secretary of State).

Money Laundering / Money Flight
Dishonest businessmen in Bangladesh generate capital flights (money smuggling) through opening fake LCs, over & under-invoicing of imports or hundi. The Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) and National Board of Revenue (NBR), the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), police and law enforcement agencies are trying to prevent money laundering but they have failed.

Drugs and smuggling
Bangladesh has become a supermarket for traffickers who buy the drugs from factories in Myanmar (a hub of ya’ba smuggling and trading) and India at cheap rates and sell in Bangladesh at higher price.

Migration & Remittance issue
Exports of labours from Bangladesh to the Middle East has declined profoundly for multiple factors, for instance: the higher migration cost, limited employment opportunities & promised salaries, violence against women workers, armed conflicts and lack of government initiatives to protect migrants etc. The manpower market is shrinking steadily. 

Terrorism and Extremism
After the attack on the Holey Artisan cafe in Dhaka (July 2016), a deadly extremist attack, there was a fear of growing extremism in Bangladesh but it has not happened thanks to the present government of Bangladesh. To stop terrorism and extremism, Anti-Terrorism Unit (ATU) and Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) have been established.

Imbalanced International Trade with China And India

Shortage of Bangladesh Diplomatic Missions Abroad


In foreign policy, friends are often changeable and there is no permanent friend or foe.  Only self-interest is constant (the real thing).


What should Bangladesh do?
Will BD make good friends with the influential countries who can help the country (without increasing enemies)?


Further Reading



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