During the nineteenth century, Great Britain was preoccupied with the dubiety that one of the European powers could extend its dominance beyond Europe as well as politically wrecked Islamic Asia. That time, the ruler of Great Britain had an apprehension that Russia’s encroachment target would be its southern part- Afghanistan. And subsequently, it could sustain its marching towards India.
As of that time, from British diplomats to military personnel, all perceived that there are two ways to counter the imminent collision- either to accommodate Afghanistan under British rule or give it recognition as a buffer state between Great Britain and Russia. That endeavour of the British rulers has been widely known as ” the great game” in history. Consequently, Great Britain invaded Afghanistan as if it could deploy the British-Indian joint military forces to sustain its new rule. Although some historians opine that it was a combined agreement of Russia and Great Britain to denote Amo Darya as the border between Russia and Afghanistan. Although, the Soviet Union didn’t infringe on the boundary deal afterwards. But after 150 years, while the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan-instead of the assumed British army- it was the US that confronted the invasion and set off another great war of the twentieth century. Eventually, the game was over along with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
After the fall of the Soviet Union and the partition of the Indian Subcontinent, it was deemed by many geopolitical experts that another great game would not likely be brought about earlier in the twenty-first century. But it began to revive. Due to the end of the second world war, the changing political order inseminated the seeds of another great game in the world- more specifically in South Asia. And surely, the US and China are now the two verges of the newest version of the great game. In addition, the South-Asian countries are the middle of the pulling between these two new rivals. Without a doubt, Bangladesh conveys a significant rule among these nations.
Bangladesh is attracting to the world powers not only for its geographical position but predominantly of its current economic advancement- especially in the last ten years. Bangladesh is having the second-largest economy among the South Asian nations. Moreover, it is considered as the heaven of investment. Therefore, it is anticipated that the world’s richest countries, mostly like China and the US will be eager to strengthen bilateral relations with Bangladesh. By doing so, for the last two decades, these two countries have been continuing their leadings on trading and investment sectors in Bangladesh. Between these two including India, China has knocked all these old partners in trade and commerce.
China and Bangladesh have been enjoying a warming bilateral relation over the past 45 years. These two nations have played an exemplary role in cooperating for the sake of their bilateral progress. Continuing this trend, Bangladesh has seen an influx of Chinese investment. In 2016 when Xi Jinping had had a state visit here in Dhaka, he pledged to provide $38 billion to the infrastructure sector; which was the highest sum ever signed with Bangladesh by any single country. Along with this, our agriculture and garment sectors have been extending due to the favour of Chinese technologies. China is the biggest supplier of arms to Bangladesh from 2009 to 2013, with the country accounting for 82% of the total arms imported by Dhaka in this period. Our 90% of Navy equipment is purchased from China. They have exported modern ships and weapons to us (stealth warships, Long-range guided missiles, etc.) at aberrantly discounted prices. Adding to that, they have also helped to set up Missile production facilities and Shipyards in Bangladesh.
In contrast to it, Bangladesh has been one of the main exporting clients for China. In the last two years, roughly 33% of total imports came from China. Until now it is the highest import for Bangladesh with any single country. Moreover, Bangladesh is the second-largest arms export destination (next to Pakistan). Apart from this, about 37000 Bangladeshi had travelled to China before the pandemics hit Wuhan what contributed a larger sum to China’s Tourism sector. Most importantly, responding to China’s invitation to join Chinese-backed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project- denying the dissension from India- Bangladesh is now a proud member of BRI.
Bangladesh always shows its warm welcome for such economic cooperation. But when it comes to joining the military pact, it cordially shows its lucid reluctance. Accordingly, the country had adopted a specific motto in its foreign policy: Friendship to all, malice to none. Even long before the independence, Bangladesh gainsaid against West Pakistan’s exertion to enter into the groups (SEATO and CENTO) which were comprised for security purposes. After the liberation, it had followed the same path.
In regards to all these factors, there is no ambiguity that the two developing nations are embroiled in each other’s progression for several decades. Yet, how can China be worried as to Bangladesh would deny this warming cooperation and dig its own grave by joining the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad)?
Nevertheless, China seems unhappy and skeptical as well about Bangladesh’s next move. It was expressed on 10 May, when Li Jiming, the Chinese ambassador warned Bangladesh, in advance, not to join the Quad despite Dhaka’s obvious stance on this issue. He emphasized, “Obviously it will not be a good idea for Bangladesh to participate in this small club of four (Quad) because it will substantially damage our bilateral relationship.
Quad- a group of like-minded countries comprised to ensure a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region-support for freedom of navigation and territorial Integrity. However, it is merely a definition rather it has a goal to build a strong navy network that would halt Chinese aggression across the Seas. On account of this, the group is being regarded as Asian NATO to many experts. Bangladesh has nothing to do with this except expressing its opinion for ensuring a free and inclusive water path. Since it is yet to get an invitation from Quad itself. So it is likely to be irrelevant to express any advance willingness to think of participating, let alone being an active member in reality.
Responding to the Chinese envoy’s controversial remarks, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said, “Dhaka maintains a non-aligned and balanced foreign policy and it will decide what to do according to those principles. But yes, any country can uphold its position,”
Meanwhile, these recent remarks had raised a myriad of questions from the ordinary people of Bangladesh. Due to the border killings, religious conflicts, and some two-faced attitudes in solving the Rohingya crisis, India is somehow losing its reliable position what is being supplanted gradually by China. In this regard, if China acts absurdly as its only South Asian rival (India) has been doing to its neighbouring countries, it could damage the bilateral relations for a long.
Bangladesh has repeatedly cleared its position that it has a strong aversion to joining Quad, rather it is only keen on being part of the community that could be conducive to strengthen its economy and connectivity. Following this, it has been maintaining a balanced tie with all the major powers. Bangladesh perceives that it is not in a situation to partake in any specific belt of the major powers. On account of this, it is giving all its priority in upholding its economic status by setting aside its political power. Rebutting Henry Kissinger’s basket case theory and gradually morphed into a stable developing nation- as it has held its position high on the world stage, will it be excessive if Bangladesh claims to have cooperation, mutual respect, and diplomatic attitude from its friendly nations as it contains for others?