Bangladesh’s Foreign Policy

Bangladesh’s Foreign Policy

Bangladesh’s foreign policy is particularly focused on South Asia. Due to its geographic location and size of the country, among other things, it is a priority of Bangladeshi politics to achieve good political, economic and development cooperation. In constitution is noted “friendship to all and malice to none”. Bangladesh has not been involved in any war since it was founded in 1971, although the quality of relations with individual countries has changed over the years. The current government under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (transliterated: Śekh Hāsinā), for example, is cooperative and open towards India. The government was and is generally a factor that determines the extent and quality of external relations, as well as geopolitical and economic conditions. As a country located in southern Asia according to remzfamily, Bangladesh is a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (abbr.: SAARC), which focuses, among other things, on regional development cooperation, the expansion of a common transport or electricity infrastructure and the joint fight against terrorism. However, bilateral connections work faster in some ways than via SAARC. Bangladesh’s participation in the international climate debate is another important point in its foreign policy program. International cooperation seems essential here and the high level of concern in Bangladesh results in a strong involvement in climate-relevant meetings.

Map of Bangladesh

Map of Bangladesh

Relations between Bangladesh and India Historically, these are the external relations to which the governments in Bangladesh have paid the greatest attention. There is a 4,000 km long border between the two countries, which is roughly 80% of Bangladesh’s international border. India was involved in the emergence of Bangladesh by providing crucial military support and coordination to the Bangladeshi freedom fighters. Relations between the two countries were often complicated, strained and sometimes ended in mutual accusations. The perceptions of the relationship between Bangladesh and India, which are reflected in the media, always fluctuate between two extremes. On the one hand, a feeling of dependence on a politically, economically and militarily overpowering country is portrayed, that ignores or even sabotages Bangladeshi interests in the immediate vicinity. On the other hand, there is a sense of admiration for a politically, economically and militarily strong country with which Bangladesh shares a common history, culture, etc. and which works benevolently with Bangladesh and from which Bangladesh learns. Relations are currently progressing with the opening of construction work on a pipeline that will in future transport up to 400,000 liters of diesel between Siliguri in the Indian state of West Bengal and Parbatipur in Dinajpur, Bangladesh. In addition, there are constant issues in foreign policy that both deal with and negotiate on a regular basis. This includes the regulation of fresh water. Of about 400 rivers that flow in Bangladesh, 54 rivers flow from India to Bangladesh. Two more of these 400 rivers flow from Bangladesh to India. India is therefore the upper riparian of the most important freshwater inflows. Greater freshwater abstraction off the Bangladeshi-Indian border during the drier winter has already led to problems in Bangladesh. For example on the river Tista. Both countries have built dams on this, but the Bangladeshi dam for redistributing the Tista water, mainly for irrigation purposes, has no working basis if more water is diverted to India during the dry season due to the increased demand on the Indian side before it could cross the border. In addition, agriculture in the region irrigated by the Tista is largely fallow due to the lack of water during the dry season. This is being negotiated. The government of the Indian state of West Bengal is particularly involved in the success of a potential water contract. Something similar could happen with the Indian Tipaimukh dam on the Barak River. This would affect the Sylhet region in Bangladesh and likely affect nature and agriculture there. The border between the two countries was established in 2015 with the Bangladesh-India Border Treaty (transliterated: Bāṃlādeś-Bhārat sīmānta cukti). Previously, a total of 162 enclaves in each other country had existed in their own. The residents had not been provided with basic infrastructure or medical help since 1947. Another issue that seems to be particularly important for India is the transit of Indian goods and people through Bangladeshi territory. A contract has been signed and an agreement on certain modalities, such as a transit fee or transit volume, is still pending. On the Bangladeshi side, considerations of territorial integrity play a role in the question of the extent of the transit allowed, especially since there was also transit traffic of Indian military vehicles in the room. Since the so-called Siliguri Corridor, also known as the ‘Chicken’s Neck’, is only 22 km wide between Central / North India and Northeast India, the transit would mean better connections to the Indian Northeast.

Relations with China are strongest in economic terms. The Chinese government and companies are investing heavily in expanding the infrastructure.

The European Union is Bangladesh’s most important economic partner. Three quarters of all exports are transferred to the EU. This includes products from the textile sector in particular. EU spokesmen recently announced that no election observers would attend the parliamentary elections in Bangladesh due to staff shortages.

The Bangladesh- Germany relations took another step on November 19, 2018. The German ambassador to Dhaka has officially announced the provision of 285.3 million euros for various development programs. A loan for the expansion of the water supply in Dhaka had previously been signed in October, in which the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (abbr.: KfW), among others, will be involved. Germany is generally perceived positively in Bangladesh. Both countries cooperate particularly in the areas of development cooperation and business.