How about Bangladesh?

Posted in China, foreign policy, India by jrahman on April 30, 2012

The folks at AoD have thrown the gauntlet — they want a conversation.  Well, I don’t have anything terribly original to say about ministers or MPs or ex-MPs or their drivers, whether they are with or without jobs.  Nor do I have anything to say about the return of hartal.  But I think I can say something semi-intelligent about Purboposhchim’s take on foreign policy.

The blogger observes:

Consider that two of our neighbours are China and India – high growth countries with large populations. Over the next century these two countries will grow more powerful and their ambitions will grow with them. There will be opportunities for cooperation and for conflict.

What should the Bangladeshi foreign policy be in response to this ‘new Great Game’? 

Purboposhchim says there are two options: one, “play one against the other” (the Afghanistan option); or two, “make ourselves indispensable to both” (the Switzerland option). 

Of course the blogger is pumping for the Swiss route.  And I suppose if there is a choice between those two options, I would also choose the Swiss —  who wants to be Afghanistan?

It’s just that I don’t think the premise of that choice is particularly sensible.



Seven trashes collected by the senses.


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Clueless elephant, hidden dragon

Posted in China, economics, foreign policy, India, macro, trade by jrahman on September 14, 2011

Despite the two countries’ shared history and geography, India is not even among Bangladesh’s top-ten foreign investors. India may have close political ties with its eastern neighbour. But China wins the economic competition in Bangladesh hands down. China is Bangladesh’s biggest trading partner, as well as its primary supplier of military equipment. And it seems that not a month goes by without Chinese companies winning contracts to build power stations, roads, telecoms and other infrastructure in Bangladesh.

That’s from Tom Joehnk’s piece in the lead up to Dr Singh’s Dhaka trip.  Let’s see if we can unpack that a bit more.


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The China card

Posted in foreign policy by jrahman on March 18, 2010

Bangladeshi Prime Minister is on a five day trip to China.  According to the Daily Star, Bangladesh will seek $2.2b for infrastructure projects including several bridges and a fertiliser factory.  The PM will visit Kunming, a major city in Souther China.  Apparently, Bangladesh is very keen for a Chittagong-Kunming road and rail network through Myanmar.  Also, Bangladesh is reported to be seeking Chinese funding for a deep sea port, which China will be allowed to use. 

If these stories turn out to be true, this trip will have more reasons to generate headlines than the PM’s trip to New Delhi in January.  And yet, the lead up to this trip has been very low key compared with the earlier one. 

But then again, China has always been a low key regional power.  Whereas Indian envoys have a track record of making headlines (link), the Chinese ones quietly apply pressure to cancel shows on Tibet.  Bangladesh has a larger trade deficit with China than India (see the chart), and exports more to India than China — when was the last time anyone heard of Chinese takeover of our economy, or lack of access to the Chinese market?

So China exerts pressure when its interests are at stake.  What does Bangladesh get in return?  I guess we will know in a few days.  For now, let me state my cautious optimism about the trip.

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