Sheikh Hasina expressed her views at that time when China is strengthening its political power in the Indian Ocean Region.
by Swadesh Roy writing from Dhaka
Two regional powers; India and China are now more concerned, to clarify, in a growing competition on the Indian Ocean. Their competition more often includes deep water port development and military petrol, not just the military power exercise on each other. Following this situation, both the countries; India and China are seeking for strong ties with smaller regional states to ensure their respective security and economic interest.
Given this context, The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, the good friend of India, expressed her voice regarding the Indian Ocean. In a recent seminar, which was held on 10th November in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, she said there are forty (40) developing countries surrounding the Indian Ocean, where 35% of the global population lives. Six countries surrounding the Bay of Bengal, and few more countries like Nepal, Bhutan, The Maldives, Malaysia, and Singapore also have important impact on the Bay of Bengal for their economy despite not being at the cost. She also added the economies of those countries are assured of or are dependent on the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, and the lives of their people are highly influenced by the Ocean and the Sea thus the resource, environment, ecology, and security of the Ocean and the Sea directly affected the economy and the securities of the nation. She also mentioned the security and stability of these maritime routes are very important for the economic stability of Bangladesh.
Sheikh Hasina expressed her views at that time when China is strengthening its political power in the Indian Ocean Region. When Sheikh Hasina clarified her position that she wanted stability in the Indian Ocean Region, the Sri Lankan election campaign was ongoing. But within following two weeks, the Sri Lankan people elected their new government. They are leaning towards China. On the other hand, in the Indian Ocean Region, Pakistan (another South Asian country) is the old friend of China. That’s why, it is clear that Indian influence in Sri Lanka may become marginalized. Though, India is the biggest trading partner of Sri Lanka. Simultaneously, Pakistan is a strategic partner of China in the Indian Ocean. China is also making connections to the Indian Ocean through Myanmar. That is what Beijing calls ‘National Bridge Head Strategy of Strategic Engagement’ in the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean, as part of it, is called two Ocean strategies.
With this object, it can be clearly said South Asian country Pakistan is a strategic partner of China regarding the Indian Ocean for a long time. Sri Lanka is going to join in that race, but now it is depending on the Indian democratic strategy position and diplomacy how they can prevent Sri Lanka from this race towards China. South Asian closer country Myanmar has a long tie with China in this Indian Ocean race. So, in this race in South Asia, only Bangladesh and The Maldives are by the side of India. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh has clearly expressed that she wanted security and stability in the Indian Ocean because her country’s economy partially dependent on Indian Ocean; besides, her country has a huge economic resource in the Bay of Bengal which is connected with the Andaman Sea and the Indian Ocean.
This is true, from the age of the bipolar tense world; Indian voice was also high regarding the peaceful Indian Ocean. India was also against the American presence in Diego Garcia. Then, the new country Bangladesh and its great leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman also supported the peaceful Indian Ocean policy.
After the end of the bipolar world, it became unipolar. America became the only power in the world. Then, America tried to make sure its military power’s presence in the Indian Ocean like Pacific. No doubt, it was a crucial time for India and a peaceful Indian Ocean. With this object, there was no easy way for India to keep the Indian Ocean free from big power’s military presence. However, changing the foreign policy and basically, the Afghanistan situation helped India to make an understanding with America. Therefore, India made that relationship with America that they would jointly exercise much military petrol in the Indian Ocean. But they need to lower their voice about the presence of American Navy in Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
In sharp contrast, China has already started showing its naval power in the South China Sea and in the Indian Ocean. It is true, in South China Sea and in the Indian Ocean, China wants some control. Sri Lanka and its ports are very strategic in Indian Ocean. So, China has started to win over Sri Lanka by their economic bad debt policy and they are now more or less successful.
Under the circumstances, India has to advance upholding the establishment of peace and rights in this region. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh has raised her concern towards these issues. Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh is now well-known leader of Asia, even in the world. So, it is high time she can appeal more to the Indian Ocean Region’s countries and Indo-Pacific Region’s countries that all the countries can use all their sea resource according to their rights and all can use all the maritime routes peacefully. This will not only help to make sure a peaceful world but also will help to make sure a stable economic world.
Swadesh Roy, Senior Journalist, Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is a highest state award winning journalist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org