Dhaka keen to be the bridge between South, Southeast Asia: Momen

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News Desk

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Saturday said that Bangladesh’s partnership with Japan on the Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt, or BIG-B initiative, in Southeastern Bangladesh is creating a connectivity hub for the region.

“We are keen to be the bridge that South and Southeast Asia need for greater integration of the two sub-regions and to make the Indo-Pacific region more connected,” he said.

“We are ready to scale up cross-border multimodal connectivity and seek more international partnerships to advance such ambition. Bangladesh is eager to embrace the opportunities that enhance economic cooperation, connectivity, and ensure the holistic security of this region,” he added.

The foreign minister was speaking at a seminar “Bangladesh’s Indo-Pacific Outlook: Opportunities and Way Forward.”

The Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) and the Bangladesh Foundation for Regional Studies (BFRS) jointly organized the seminar at the BIISS auditorium.

He, however, said the protracted Rohingya crisis, which has its origin in Myanmar but continues to weigh heavily on Bangladesh, has the potential to destabilize the entire region unless the international community intensifies its efforts to ensure the sustainable repatriation of the 1.2 million forcibly displaced Rohingyas, temporarily sheltered in Bangladesh, to their homeland, Myanmar.

“Fast and sustainable settlement of the crisis is a centrepiece to promote peace, security and stability in the region,” he said.

The US pursues an Indo-Pacific strategy with its allies in the region, while China has its Belt and Road Initiative.

The foreign minister said that Bangladesh enjoys strong economic, cultural and diplomatic ties with countries of the Indo-Pacific region.

“Being a littoral state of the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh considers the stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific crucial in realizing her ‘Vision 2041’ of becoming a ‘Smart Bangladesh’ that is characterized by prosperity, social responsiveness, technological dynamism, and long-term resilience,” he said.

“We believe that mutual understanding, cooperation, and collaboration among the Indo-Pacific countries are essential for stability, peace and prosperity of the region in particular, and the world at large,” he added.

“We are committed to working with our regional partners to pursue regional and sub-regional integration through connectivity, and to jointly address shared challenges such as climate change and maritime security,” the foreign minister said.

Bangladesh’s growing multimodal connectivity with India through highways, inland and coastal waterways, railways and airways, restoration of severed connectivity after the 1965 India-Pakistan war, energy connectivity through projects like the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline for transporting diesel, cross-border power grid connectivity, digital connectivity, and sub-regional extension of such connectivity with other neighbours through arrangements like BIN MVA (Bangladesh India Nepal Motor Vehicle Agreement) are demonstrations of Bangladesh’s commitment to regional integration, he said.

“Now, Bangladesh has become a connectivity hub as we believe connectivity means productivity.

“With rapid economic expansion coupled with a geostrategic location, Bangladesh is bound to attract more attention from the international community, which has been the case in recent times,” he said.

“Mindful of our enhanced roles and responsibilities in the region, we have been pursuing inclusive engagements with all countries of the region.

“Our ‘Indo-Pacific Outlook’ encapsulates our rules of engagement drawn from our longstanding principles of friendship to all and malice towards none, respect for national sovereignty and equality, political independence, non-interference in others’ international affairs, respect for international law and principles as enunciated in the UN Charter, and adherence to the relevant UN treaties and international conventions, including the 1982 UNCLOS,” he said.

Combating climate change, sustainable use of the seas and oceans, de-carbonization and clean energy, expansion of trade and investment, supply chain resilience, investing in and connecting people, and building a sustainable and green future are common in the visions for Indo-Pacific of most countries, he concluded.

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