“Friendship to all, malice to none” is what Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman articulated in the 1972 Constitution and it is still very much relevant and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is maintaining diplomatic relations with the world following this policy. The fundamental foreign policies of Bangladesh originate from the article no. 25 of the Constitution of Bangladesh. Foreign policy of Bangladesh comprises personal circumstance techniques picked by the Constitution of the nation to defend its national advantages and to accomplish objectives inside its worldwide relations milieu. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs details and executes the strategies as indicated by the direction from the important segment of the Constitution of Bangladesh. It is evident from the history that the country’s internal and external policy was greatly influenced by the philosophy, objectives and programmes of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He had established friendship with all countries of the world whether a country follows capitalist, democratic or socialist ideologies. ‘Friendship to all, malice to none’ was the inner feelings of Bangabandhu, which had translated his expression of love for all the people of the world.
A scope of points of view is applied so as to offer profundity to the investigation and to limit predisposition however much as could reasonably be expected. These points of view consider what is occurring inside and outside the locale for the most part; just as what’s going on inside Bangladesh. An investigation of Bangladeshi international strategy shows that the local viewpoint requires more prominent accentuation than it has been given until now. Therefore, the territorial perspective goes before the residential in consequent parts managing Bangladesh’s most basic relationship: that with India. In my brief note, how the Prime Minister of Bangladesh is extending leadership towards deepening bilateral relations of Bangladesh with India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan will be conversed.
Both India and Bangladesh share common civilizational and cultural values. There is a huge potential for the expansion of bilateral trade, which helps maintain peace and harmony on both sides of the border. In the past five years, the two nations showed impressive development and perseverance in settling complex pending issues, like demarcation of the land boundary. In recent decades, the two countries continued to consolidate their political, economic, trade and cultural relations and built a comprehensive institutional framework to promote bilateral cooperation. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited India from October 3 to 6, 2019. The visit occurred barely months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi formed his government for the second consecutive term. The visit underscored the unique bond that now exists between the two nations. During the visit, a 53-paragraph long joint statement was issued, featuring the key issues discussed between the leaders. The report is significant as it provides an outline to further deepen India-Bangladesh relations, upholding the spirit of mutual trust and confidence.
The issue of sharing the waters from the Teesta has been pending since 2011 and I urge upon the Indian government to take necessary steps to sign the water sharing treaty without further delay. Bangladesh also expects India to assume greater responsibility in the repatriation of the displaced Rohingya, a large number of whom have been living in Bangladesh since 2017, after they were forced to leave their homes in the Rakhine state in Myanmar. Because, at the end of the day, a consensual vision of this particular relationship, with such an important neighbour, has to be created, for better regional integration. Apart from formal relations between the Indian and Bangladeshi governments, members from different cross-sections of society must become stakeholders in the relationship.
Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are a clear example of South-South cooperation which is essential for the developing world. This is a blessing in disguise for developing countries who should give preference to trade and cooperation among themselves instead of looking to the traditionally rich countries for conventional OECD assistance. Bringing up their commitment to multilateralism, both nations have acknowledged increased interaction and cooperation between the two countries on contemporary multilateral issues like climate change, disaster management, migration, health, peacekeeping, etc. at the UN and other regional and international platforms. It has been because of the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. They have further agreed to share respective knowledge, ideas, innovation to effectively realise the Agenda 2030 in the name of sustainable development goals (SDGs). We earnestly believe, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will keep the momentum forward to “consolidate the already excellent” relations for the benefit of their peoples. With the rise of Asia, the partnership between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh can be taken to a whole new level by being a model to be emulated by other South Asian countries for enhanced economic growth leading to economic development in the region.
When states recognise one another as sovereign states and agree to diplomatic relations, they create a bilateral relationship. Bangladesh and Bhutan are leveraging one’s own opportunities and elaborating methods for handling the competitive advantages that are available. These are primarily factor advantages, among which raw material sources and production potential consequently come forward as interchangeable priorities for both countries with a transition economy. We observe that over the years both countries have been so compassionate for a strategic development partnership encompassing hydropower, free trade and transport. Regionally, Bangladesh engages and cooperates through a plethora of forums and mechanisms – such as BIMSTEC, Colombo Plan, SAARC and UNESCAP – where significant progress has been achieved and several initiatives and projects in key areas of cooperation are in the pipeline. Being neighbours by geography, the foundations of the two countries’ age-old friendship have been laid down by the visionary leaders of the two countries on the common aspirations for peace, mutual respect, collective prosperity and deeper integration. The two countries have walked a similar path of socio-economic progress and are on a track towards LDC graduation within the next decade. As much as the two countries take pride in their collective history of partnership and headway advanced on multi-faceted fronts, the strong political leadership they inherit and the complementarities, opportunities and untapped potential the two countries offer make the future equally appealing and their bilateral ties all the more promising.
Bangladesh and Nepal, countries of South Asia with different ecological conditions, social systems and historical and cultural backgrounds, are making smooth progress in their bilateral relations. In the context of fast changing global structures, more creative steps are required to protect and promote interests of smaller economies and to maximize mutual interests. Despite excellent bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Nepal, their economic relations have remained at a less than desirable level. Nepal’s relationship with Bangladesh is unique, characterised by ties at the people’s level. Economic and commercial relations between Nepal and Bangladesh have been growing steadily, but the volume of bilateral trade has not seen much improvement despite tremendous potential for expanding and diversifying trade. The Bangladesh government has to focus on convincing neighbours that, within the SAFTA (South Asia Free Trade Agreement) framework of SAARC, Bangladesh offers excellent investment opportunities and the overall investment climate is conducive to foreign investment. Economic diplomacy of Bangladesh should go beyond political relations and help pave a way for globalisation. Nepal and Bangladesh have to keep friendly relations with India due to our similar cultural and religious traditions and geographical attachment.
It is evident that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is following the path of Bangabandhu for consolidating the regional cooperation on the basis of mutual respect and trust. Bangladesh is uniquely positioned to take advantage of its location in the eastern region of South Asia. It will be a centre point of different initiatives that seek to connect Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal with the ASEAN and other East Asian countries. Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina is trying to engage in various sub-regional connectivity projects through road, rail and sea routes with India and other South Asian countries. Bangladesh now keeps its head high before the world because of maintaining good relations with South Asian countries.
The writer is a professor of Government and Politics and the Provost, Sheikh Hasina Hall, Jahangirnagar University. He previously held the position of Director to the TSC and Dean of the Faculty of Law at Jahangirnagar University.
Financial Express, August 14, 2020, Link