Message for South Asia: After India visit twice, Hasina’s China visit underscores ‘Bangladesh’s pragmatic act of balancing’

On July 10, Bangladesh's prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, concluded her three-day official visit to China from

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Message for South Asia: After India visit twice, Hasina’s China visit underscores ‘Bangladesh’s pragmatic act of balancing’

On July 10, Bangladesh's prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, concluded her three-day official visit to China from July 08-10.

The leader of Bangladesh made a successful maiden trip to China after being re-elected in January. Following two fruitful trips to India in June, Sheikh Hasina's journey to China might be characterized as a masterful balancing act. For the sake of the south Asian country’s national interests, Dhaka is delicately balancing between two major nations. China has been seen as China's most important development partner, while Bangladesh today views India as its most significant political ally. 

Sheikh Hasina has been managing relations between China and India in a balanced manner. As one of Dhaka’s good neighborhoods diplomatic policies, she believes that New Delhi is crucial to Dhaka. She views China as a nation Bangladesh can learn a lot from at the same time. She has fulfilled her pledge to balance ties.

Bangladesh is in dire need of improved infrastructure, more investment, and technical help due to its fast economic expansion. The World Bank claims that Bangladesh's economy has continued to develop at one of the quickest rates in the world since 2000. As a result, Hasina has guaranteed Bangladesh's increased involvement in advancing the Belt and Road Initiative, which China has suggested. Since Hasina's government's primary objective is to strengthen Bangladesh's economy, the closer economic relations between China and her nation, as well as its recent elevation from a strategic partnership to a comprehensive strategic-cooperative partnership, are not surprising. 

Bangladesh now places a higher priority on strategic autonomy due to the growth of its national might. Bangladesh is seen as a major participant in the Indo-Pacific Strategy, although it retains its own perspectives on the region's awareness and vision, emphasizing economic concerns above geopolitical maneuvers. The world community has seen Hasina's diplomatic style in recent years and has come to believe that Bangladesh has great potential for growth and development. Bangladesh has kept up positive ties with important nations and international organizations. 

In the China instance, China was involved in the development of infrastructure projects related to transportation, electricity distribution, and communications in addition to lending money and transferring technology. Hasina has on many times expressed her respect for the route China has gone. China and Bangladesh, both emerging nations, aim to raise the quality of life and quicken socioeconomic growth. 

Because of this, bilateral collaboration may exhibit mutual respect and be complimentary. Hasina's visit brought up the topic of Bangladesh's willingness to resolve the Rohingya situation. Despite the humanitarian stance that Hasina's administration provided to the refugees, the problem remains unresolved, and the refugees are now a burden on Bangladesh. China needs a pragmatic stance in this regard to motivate Myanmar to take back the refugees. China has also pledged to provide 1 billion RMB in economic aid to Bangladesh in an effort to reduce economic challenges.

Hasina's recent trips to China and India demonstrated her practical approach to international relations. Despite concerns raised by some Indian media outlets on China's influence in Bangladesh, Hasina is eager to strengthen her ties with both China and India. Both domestically and internationally, she is seen as a more amiable-foreign political figure in India. In June 2024, Sheikh Hasina visited India twice. Beyond their obvious diplomatic worth, the two trips also serve as a message about Bangladesh's geopolitical policy, coming immediately before Sheikh Hasina's recent visit to China from July 8–10, 2024. Sheikh Hasina's extremely personal diplomacy includes finding a balance amongst the main regional powers including India and China.

Following Hasina's election victory, the Indian media focused on the nation she would choose for her first international trip. Along with other leaders of South Asia, Hasina initially attended Modi's swearing-in ceremony before going on a separate state visit. The choice was well received by the Indian media, which saw Hasina's two trips to the country in less than a month as proof of the two nations' unwavering affinity. Unquestionably, the historical connections between Bangladesh and India have had a significant political influence on the current state of their diplomatic relations.

Past discussions have resolved a number of issues between Bangladesh and India, such as the sharing of water, the exchange of enclaves, and connectivity. India encircles the nation on three sides; there is no gain in a confrontation with New Delhi. In light of the observable outcomes of the visit to India, up to ten Memoranda of Understandings (MoUs) and some specific declarations have been made. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that he would send a technical team to Bangladesh to assess the benefits and drawbacks of the Teesta water sharing project, in spite of Mamata’s, the chief minister of West Bengal, unfounded objections. However, Hasina inked 21 agreements and memoranda of understanding with China during her meeting with Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping. Hasina’s visit may strengthen people-to-people connectivity, trade, investment, technology transfer, business, and economic ties with China. This necessitates keeping these two Asian influential countries in a strategic equilibrium.

Hasina prioritizes Bangladesh's economic interests and does not consciously seek to align herself with either China or India. Bangladesh desires cordial relations with all of its neighbors, in accordance with her statements. Her foreign policy is not contradictory. China has shown Bangladesh that it is a responsible and fruitful regional actor that is eager to share its rewards. This time, President Xi emphasized the need for further collaboration between the two nations in battling unipolar hegemony, outside meddling, serving as a voice for the global south, the digital economy, and together creating the Digital Silk Road. Xi's ideas align with Hasina's vision for a Digital Bangladesh. Furthermore, China is open to expanding its educational exchange, climate diplomacy, youth, individual, and media contacts with Bangladesh. Bangladesh is anticipated to enjoy a politically stable atmosphere and be able to concentrate on its growth. Without a question, both India and China are and should remain its most reliable ally.

Sheikh Hasina never meddles with the interactions that the two nations need to have with one another; her administration maintains the relationships while taking all of these factors into account. Additionally, she sees no issues with continuing to have equal ties with China and India. She visited New Delhi and is now on her way to Beijing. Analysts predict that Dhaka will have a balanced approach to ties with Beijing and New Delhi since Bangladesh depends on both for stability and growth. Sheikh Hasina adeptly navigates the conflicting interests of China and India since the issue is quite ambiguous.

Sent- In by: Ozair Islam 

Bio: Ozair Islam is a freelance writer and columnist, with a Master’s from the Department of Development Studies, University of Dhaka

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