Sheikh Hasina’s government has set an outlook for peace in the Indo-Pacific through dialogue and understanding.
The foreign ministry published the guidelines and objectives for the region at a press conference on Monday ahead of Prime Minister Hasina’s key visit to Japan, the US and the UK.
The US and its Western and Asian allies focus on the region because they see China’s activities as a bid to create a regional sphere of influence and become the world’s most influential power.
The US, the European Union, Japan and many other countries had earlier published their regional goals. Countries and blocks are working on the Indo-Pacific, considering its economic, trade and geo-political significance.
Bangladesh maintained neutrality when the West and its allies tried to win its support in the region. The government said it would support economic efforts but was not interested in defence cooperation.
At the press conference to publish the outlook, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam said Bangladesh considers stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific to be crucial in building a modern, knowledge-based, developed country by 2041, as planned by the Awami League.
“The Indo-Pacific area’s collective share in global GDP, preponderance in international trade, enhanced climate action and growing technological dynamism can be key determinants for ensuring Bangladesh’s long-term resilience and prosperity,” the government said in the outlook.
“Bangladesh, therefore, envisions a free, open, peaceful, secure, and inclusive Indo-Pacific for the shared prosperity for all.”
The outlook has four guiding principles and 15 objectives.
1. Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s foreign policy dictum: ‘Friendship towards all, malice toward none’.
2. Constitutional mandate on the conduct of international relations based on the principles of respect for national sovereignty and equality, political independence, non-interference in internal affairs, peaceful settlement of international disputes, as well as respect for international law and the principles enunciated in the United Nations Charter; and striving for renunciation of the use of force in international relations and for general and complete disarmament.
3. Adherence to the relevant UN treaties and international conventions, as applicable, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
4. Constructive regional and international cooperation for sustainable development, international peace and security, humanitarian action, and fundamental rights and freedoms.
Consistent with these principles, the objectives will guide Bangladesh’s Indo-Pacific outlook and engagements, the government said. The objectives are:
1. Strengthen mutual trust and respect, forge partnerships and cooperation, and promote dialogue and understanding with the aim of ensuring peace, prosperity, security and stability for all in the Indo-Pacific.
2. Strengthen existing mechanisms on maritime safety and security in the Indo-Pacific, including response to emergencies at sea and conduct of search & rescue, and uphold the exercise of freedom of navigation & over-flight, in accordance with international law and relevant international conventions, including UNCLOS, 1982.
3. Maintain meaningful and value-driven contribution to international non-proliferation, peacekeeping, peacebuilding and counter-terrorism efforts, including with partners in the Indo-Pacific.
4. Support regional and international efforts towards combating transnational organised crimes in the Indo-Pacific through both normative and practical actions.
5. Expand global lead on the flagship agenda of a ‘culture of peace’, enhance focus on the ‘women, peace and security’ agenda, promote interfaith harmony and work towards building peaceful, just and inclusive societies in the Indo-Pacific.
6. Promote open, transparent, rules-based multilateral systems that enable equitable and sustainable development in the Indo-Pacific and beyond through inclusive economic growth, right to development and shared prosperity for all.
7. Enhance physical, institutional, energy, digital and human connectivity, facilitate movement of goods, services, capital, and people in a systematic manner, and promote technology transfer, access to innovations and responsible behaviour in open and secure cyberspace and outer space.
8. Leverage the domestic agriculture, manufacturing and services sectors towards building resilient regional and global value chains to better manage future crisis and disruptions and to promote unimpeded and free flow of commerce in the Indo-Pacific.
9. Promote conservation, sustainable use and management of oceans, seas, and marine resources in the Indo-Pacific in pursuance of SDG-14 and other relevant internationally agreed development commitments.
10. Engage proactively in promoting food security, water solidarity, and disaster risk reduction in the Indo-Pacific, including through disseminating home-grown good practices.
11. Continue tangible work towards addressing the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, marine pollution, and other significant and harmful impacts on the environment in line with relevant international conventions and commitments.
12. Foster cooperation among Indo-Pacific countries to ensure energy security for all, including through investment and technology transfer on renewable energy.
13. Work towards developing coordinated response to future pandemics and ensuring health security, including through access for all to global public goods like vaccines, diagnostics and other treatments.
14. Collaboration with sub-regional partners and relevant organisations towards bolstering regional cooperation and enhancing mutually beneficial complementarities.
15. Strengthen collaboration and cooperation in science, technology, research and innovation for shared benefits of all, in keeping with the vision of ‘Smart Bangladesh’.