Bangladesh needs pragmatic approach in new world order

Country’s military requires development for deterrence

Bangladesh will have to pursue a pragmatic foreign policy in a new world order that has emerged due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, experts told a roundtable on Wednesday.

Under the new order, they said that countries across the globe would belong to either a United States-led coalition or a group dominated by China.

Dhaka needs to ascertain its place while ensuring national interest, they added, stressing the need for the development of the military for deterrence.

The experts were speaking at a roundtable on “The Emerging World Order: How will Bangladesh Navigate?” at a local hotel. As part of a series of discussions on important national and international issues, leading English daily Dhaka Tribune and Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) jointly organized the roundtable.

BIPSS President Major General (retd) ANM Muniruzzaman moderated the roundtable that was attended by academia, local and foreign diplomats, former and serving government officials, journalists, and university students.

Touhid Hossain, former foreign secretary of Bangladesh, and Dr ASM Ali Ashraf, professor of international relations at the University of Dhaka, took part in the events as keynote speakers.

“Two events completely shook the world: the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. As a result of the Russia-Ukraine war, the world order is in a flush,” said BIPSS President General Muniruzzaman, initiating the discussion.

“We will have to find our place in our national interest,” he said.

The world is going to be divided into “Washington-centric democracies” and “Beijing-centric autocracies,” he observed.

Noting that multilateralism was under threat, the BIPSS president said: “Countries like Bangladesh take note of it.”

However, he pointed out it would be tough to navigate the situation.

Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Describing the similarities between Russia and Ukraine, former foreign secretary Touhid Hossain said one of the important lessons from the Russia-Ukraine conflict was that no relationship could be taken for granted.

Calling to look at Bangladesh’s reality, he said that Bangladesh would have to balance its relationships with the key players such as the US, Europe, China and India.

“We need to develop our military to have minimum deterrence,” Hossain said, suggesting that Bangladesh should turn to Europe as a source of its military hardware, as the country’s dependence on China was “unhealthy.”

“We must diversify our sources of hardware. We can turn to Europe,” he said.

The former foreign secretary placed great emphasis on building different institutions of the country to ensure democracy, human rights, and good governance.

On the Rohingya crisis, he said: “It is a matter of grave concern for us.”

Professor Dr Ali Ashraf said that, following the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the world was witnessing a new kind of polarization with the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on one side and a Russia-dominated bloc with support from China and India on the other.

Bangladesh will have to look at the implication and constraints that have been created due to the ongoing conflict and act accordingly, he said.

Emphasizing on more pragmatic diplomacy in the new international order, Dr Ashraf talked about the capacity building of the country’s forces and intelligence agencies.

He also said that Bangladesh should diversify its labour markets and modernize the readymade garment sector.