The emerging world order : How will Bangladesh navigate?

As part of discussions on important national and international issues, Dhaka Tribune and Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) jointly organized a roundtable titled "The Emerging World Order: How will Bangladesh Navigate?" on  March 30, 2022.

During the roundtable, the experts reiterated that Dhaka needs to ascertain its place while ensuring national interest. The speakers also stressed the need for the development of the military for strong deterrence.

BIPSS President, Major General (retd) ANM Muniruzzaman moderated the roundtable. In his address, he noted that while the end of the Cold War brought about a time of unipolarity, soon, there were forces of multi-polarity coming into play, especially with rising global powers like China. Moreover, he noted the impact of Covid-19 and subsequently, the ongoing Ukraine crisis on the international system which was already in a state of flux and cautioned Bangladesh to both study and leverage the current international landscape. 

Former former secretary Touhid Hossain in his keynote address then noted that the rise of China was inevitable but pointed out that active US support accelerated its progress by 20 years. He proclaims that the West is now trying to contain China through initiatives like Indo-Pacific strategy, QUAD, and AUKUS, the latter two being relatively recent phenomena. 

Dr ASM Ali Ashraf followed with his own keynote address, stating that despite the high politics and debates, like whether we would be on the Chinese axis, the Russian axis, or the American axis, Bangladesh had multiple competing demands for its engagement with international partners. Yet, he too cautions that Bangladesh ought to look at where its RMG products -- its biggest source of export earning by far -- go and take decisions accordingly.

The discussion then went over to the panelists. Former High Commissioner Air Vice-Marshal Mahmud Hussain stressed the importance of the military for Bangladesh. He also notes that in addition to talking about the global order, we must look to South Asia, and for Bangladesh to do its part. For that, if we want a liberal order in South Asia, Bangladesh has to come much closer to India and the other nations of South Asia in terms of intraregional trade. FInally, he stressed on the importance of building institutions.

Sean McCafferty asked the all important question of what opportunities smaller nations and middle powers in the Global South had to challenge neo-colonial relationships, rightfully noting events over the last few years, particularly with regard to vaccine inequality between the Global North and Global South, the disproportionate impact of climate change, and the continued extraction of resources from poorer nations. 

Sacha Blumen offered Australia’s perspective on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, noting in her condemnation of Russia that all states must comply with the UN norms of peaceful resolution of territorial integrity issues and the sovereignty of states.

Finally, Tanvir Habib concludes by reflecting that international order has changed from being a conglomerate of Christian countries to empires and now to modern nation-states, yet, the power principle remains because one key condition of international order remains the same, that the more powerful countries tend to have a higher position in the pecking order. He notes that Bangladesh’s balancing has two internal aspects: the necessity for our willingness and the necessity for strengthening institutions. 

The event was attended by members of the academia, local and foreign diplomats, former and serving government officials, journalists, and university students. 

Major General (retd) ANM Muniruzzaman, President, BIPSS

It is very important for all of us to constantly study this international system so that we can find our rightful place in the international order. Bangladesh must leverage its strategic relevance and importance in this current landscape.

Touhid Hossain, Former Foreign Secretary of Bangladesh

AUKUS could destabilize the regional and sub-regional strategic balance that currently prevails in this region. This eventuality has had very adverse repercussions in both Asia and Europe. 

Dr ASM Ali Ashraf, Professor, International Relations, University of Dhaka

Do you want to antagonize the RMG market? The answer is no. 

Air Vice-Marshal Mahmud Hussain, Former High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Brunei Darussalam 

I would say that for Bangladesh to navigate through this order is to have a very strong military deterrence. The lack of deterrence probably encouraged Myanmar to push the Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh.

Sean McCafferty, Erasmus scholar, University of Glasgow and BIPSS International intern

I'm wondering, if in this multipolar reality, we might see more opportunities for these smaller powers to challenge these neo-colonial power dynamics.

Sacha Blumen, Head of Political Affairs and Public Diplomacy, Australian High Commission, Dhaka

Australia thoroughly condemns in the strongest possible terms, the illegal, unjust, and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. It's a gross violation of international law.

Tanvir Habib, Lecturer, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka

I don't necessarily think Bangladesh can tackle the problems yet to come. History has taught us that as great powers emerge, the rivalry gets tougher and more prominent.