Bangladesh, too, likely to feel the heat?

Currently, Russia is the fourth highest development partner for Bangladesh

As the world sees the harrowing invasion of a sovereign country in years, Bangladesh may bear the brunt of the Russia-Ukraine crisis as the country is heavily dependent in many areas on the world’s largest nation.

Voicing their concern over the gruesome development that unfolded in Ukraine early Thursday, analysists say the sanctions—both imposed and planned-- on Russia may badly affect Bangladesh’s growth too. 

Bulk of Bangladesh’s nearly six million tons of wheat imports come from Russia and Ukraine. Wheat apart, Russia is also an important bilateral development partner of Bangladesh when it comes to power sector, readymade garments, fertilizer, military hardware etc.   

Currently, Russia is the fourth highest development partner for Bangladesh, with the latter in 2018 signing its biggest ever credit contract worth $11.38 billion with the ex-Soviet nation to build the much-hyped Roopur Nuclear Power Plant.

Meanwhile, local businesses are already in fear of a massive blow, with oil prices exceeding $100 on Thursday--the highest since 2014-- soon after the Russian attack.  

Bangladesh’s export to Russia in the financial year 2020-21 was $665.31 million against the import of $466 million, according to the official data.

The hike in energy prices could badly affect the country’s energy security as well as economy, fears Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS), a local think tank.

Bangladesh will face pressure to choose a side between Indo-US relations and Sino-Russian influences, which could lead to much strain felt by the foreign policy and diplomacy of Bangladesh, according to BIPSS.

“A new concept of the instrumentalisation and weaponising of national minorities to undermine state sovereignty is emerging (Russia's recognition of the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk territories), something all small states, such as Bangladesh, must be aware of”, it added.

When contacted, BIPSS Research Fellow Shafqat Munir said a complete supply chain disruption would cause dire consequences to Bangladesh, especially its apparel-dependent export sector. 

He is also concerned as to what would happen to the nuclear plant in Pabna if Russia’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation, which is implementing the project, faces sanctions. 

The analyst has another question: what does the Russian invasion mean to small and sovereign countries like Bangladesh?

“This (the invasion) is a sheer threat to countries like Bangladesh that earned their independence through fierce battles against the occupation forces,” Munir furthered.

But he thinks Bangladesh needs to closely monitor the development in Ukraine. 

Parvez Karim Abbasi, assistant professor of economics at East West University, said that the Ukraine crisis, if not contained may initiate greater turmoil and instability in central Asia, Middle East and South and Southeast Asia in the near future.

“Oil, food and commodities’ prices will shoot up and inflation will rise at a rapid rate, leading to depreciation of local currencies like the Taka,” he furthered.

He went on saying: “Depending on the extent of sanctions imposed by the West, Russian trade and investment in Bangladesh may come under greater scrutiny. 

Bangladesh, the economist suggested, must continue to maintain a position of geopolitical neutrality and not be coerced into choosing sides in an era of flux and uncertainty.