Harnessing Strategic Potential: Maximizing Bangladesh’s Benefits from Matarbari Deep Sea Port in the Bay of Bengal Geopolitical Landscape

Share this:


Sarder Ali Haider


Matarbari Deep Sea Port, located in the southeastern part of Bangladesh, is an ambitious and significant infrastructure project undertaken by the Government of Bangladesh (GOB) to address the country’s growing trade and connectivity requirements (Rahman, 2018). The port is situated in the Cox’s Bazar district, approximately 34 nautical miles south of the existing Chittagong port, and is being developed with financial assistance from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) (Uddin, 2019). The project aims to construct a deep-sea port with a depth of around 16 meters, enabling it to accommodate large vessels that cannot be handled by the existing Chittagong and Mongla ports (Hossain & Hoque, 2016). Upon completion, the Matarbari Deep Sea Port is expected to significantly enhance the maritime trade capacity of Bangladesh and transform the country into a regional logistics hub (Alam, 2019).

The Bay of Bengal, a large body of water that connects the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean with South Asia, holds considerable strategic importance due to its geographic location, which provides access to some of the fastest-growing economies in the world (Brewster, 2014). As a littoral state of the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh’s strategic position is further amplified by the development of the Matarbari Deep Sea Port (Kabir, 2020).

The port’s location near the confluence of major international shipping routes not only facilitates trade between South Asian countries, such as India, Nepal, and Bhutan but also provides an opportunity to connect with Southeast Asian nations, such as Myanmar, Thailand, and Malaysia (Rahman, 2018). Furthermore, its proximity to the strategic sea lanes in the Indian Ocean makes it an essential asset for both regional and extra-regional powers, who are contesting for influence in the Bay of Bengal (Brewster, 2014). Consequently, the Matarbari Deep Sea Port has the potential to significantly impact the geopolitical landscape of the region, with Bangladesh playing a pivotal role in shaping the future dynamics of the Bay of Bengal (Kabir, 2020).

Matarbari Deep Sea Port’s Strategic Potential

Enhanced regional connectivity and trade

  • Improved access to South Asian markets:

The Matarbari Deep Sea Port has the potential to significantly improve access to South Asian markets, particularly for landlocked countries such as Nepal and Bhutan (Rahman, 2018). With the development of the port and its associated infrastructure, Bangladesh can serve as a vital transit point, facilitating the movement of goods between these countries and the wider region, thereby increasing regional trade and connectivity (Uddin, 2019).

  • Potential for Southeast Asian and global market connections:

The strategic location of the Matarbari Deep Sea Port near major international shipping routes can also enable Bangladesh to tap into the Southeast Asian markets, as well as establish connections with the global market (Rahman, 2018). The port’s capacity to handle larger vessels will allow for more efficient shipping and reduced transportation costs, ultimately contributing to increased trade and economic growth (Alam, 2019).

Economic development opportunities

  • Job creation and local economic growth:

The development of the Matarbari Deep Sea Port is expected to create a significant number of direct and indirect employment opportunities for the local population (Hossain & Hoque, 2016). As the port’s operations expand, it will generate demand for various services, including logistics, transportation, and port management, leading to increased economic activity and growth in the surrounding areas (Rahman, 2018).

  • Attraction of foreign investment in infrastructure and industry:

The Matarbari Deep Sea Port has the potential to attract substantial foreign investment in infrastructure and industry (Uddin, 2019). Improved connectivity, combined with the availability of skilled labor and a business-friendly environment, can make the area surrounding the port an attractive destination for both domestic and international investors (Alam, 2019). This, in turn, can stimulate further economic growth and development in Bangladesh.

Energy security and the Matarbari Power Hub

  • Facilitation of coal and LNG imports:

As part of the Matarbari Power Hub, the Matarbari Deep Sea Port will facilitate the import of coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG) required for Bangladesh’s growing energy needs (Alam, 2019). The port’s ability to handle large vessels carrying coal and LNG will contribute to the country’s energy security by ensuring a steady supply of these vital resources (Hossain & Hoque, 2016).

  • Impact on Bangladesh’s energy supply stability:

The development of the Matarbari Power Hub, in conjunction with the Matarbari Deep Sea Port, is expected to have a significant impact on Bangladesh’s energy supply stability (Alam, 2019). By diversifying the country’s energy sources and infrastructure, the project will help to reduce Bangladesh’s reliance on a single source of energy and increase the overall resilience of its energy supply system (Hossain & Hoque, 2016).

Maximizing Benefits for Bangladesh

Leveraging strategic partnerships

  • Collaboration with regional and global partners:

To maximize the benefits of the Matarbari Deep Sea Port, Bangladesh should actively engage with regional and global partners for investment, technology transfer, and capacity-building support (Rahman, 2018). This could include partnering with organizations such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank, and the United Nations, as well as individual countries with expertise in port development and management (Uddin, 2019). By fostering diverse partnerships, Bangladesh can ensure the efficient development and operation of the port.

  • Ensuring a balanced approach to avoid over-dependence on a single partner:

To maintain its strategic autonomy, Bangladesh should avoid becoming overly reliant on a single partner for the development and operation of the Matarbari Deep Sea Port (Hossain & Hoque, 2016). By diversifying its partnerships and seeking support from various regional and global stakeholders, Bangladesh can maintain a balanced approach, ensuring its long-term strategic interests are safeguarded (Kabir, 2020).

Focusing on sustainable development

  • Balancing economic growth with environmental considerations:

While the Matarbari Deep Sea Port offers significant economic benefits, it is crucial to ensure that the project adheres to severe environmental standards to minimize adverse ecological impacts (Alam, 2019). Environmental assessments, mitigation measures, and regular monitoring should be integral components of the port’s development to create a sustainable and eco-friendly infrastructure (Hossain & Hoque, 2016).

  • Investing in renewable energy and green technologies:

As part of the Matarbari Power Hub, Bangladesh should prioritize the development of renewable energy projects alongside traditional energy sources (Alam, 2019). Investments in solar, wind, and other clean energy technologies will not only contribute to the country’s energy security but also promote sustainable development and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (Hossain & Hoque, 2016).

Developing a skilled workforce

  • Education and training programs for port management and operations:

To ensure the efficient operation and management of the Matarbari Deep Sea Port, Bangladesh should invest in education and training programs for its workforce (Rahman, 2018). This includes specialized training in port management, logistics, and maritime safety and security, as well as vocational training for workers in related industries (Uddin, 2019).

  • Encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship in related industries:

The development of the Matarbari Deep Sea Port presents an opportunity to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in sectors such as logistics, transportation, and maritime services (Alam, 2019). By providing incentives, mentorship, and financial support for startups and small businesses, Bangladesh can create a vibrant ecosystem of enterprises that will benefit from and contribute to the port’s growth (Rahman, 2018).

Strengthening regional cooperation

  • Initiatives for regional economic integration:

Bangladesh should take an active role in promoting regional economic integration by participating in initiatives such as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) (Kabir, 2020). By strengthening ties with its neighbors and advocating for greater regional cooperation, Bangladesh can enhance its strategic position in the Bay of Bengal and benefit from increased trade and connectivity (Brewster, 2014).

  • Promoting peace and stability in the Bay of Bengal region:

As a littoral state in the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh has a vested interest in maintaining peace and stability in the region (Kabir, 2020). By engaging in dialogue and confidence-building measures with its neighbors and other regional stakeholders, Bangladesh can foster an environment of trust and cooperation, which is essential for the long-term success of the Matarbari Deep Sea Port and the wider Bay of Bengal region (Brewster, 2014).

  • Maritime security cooperation:

Given the importance of the Matarbari Deep Sea Port to Bangladesh’s economy and energy security, it is crucial for the country to collaborate with regional partners on maritime security issues (Hossain & Hoque, 2016). Initiatives such as joint naval exercises, information sharing, and capacity building can help to address challenges like piracy, smuggling, and illegal fishing, ensuring the safety and security of the port and the surrounding maritime environment (Kabir, 2020).

  • Infrastructure connectivity projects:

To further enhance regional cooperation and capitalize on the strategic potential of the Matarbari Deep Sea Port, Bangladesh should actively participate in and promote regional infrastructure connectivity projects, such as the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor and the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway (Rahman, 2018). These projects will not only improve physical connectivity between Bangladesh and its neighbors but also facilitate greater economic integration and cooperation in the region (Alam, 2019).

মাতারবাড়ী সমুদ্রবন্দর নিয়ে ভারত-জাপানের এত আগ্রহ কেন

Geo-political Interest and Conflict

The interest of both China and India in the Matarbari Deep Sea Port does raise the possibility of geopolitical competition or even conflict, given their regional rivalry and strategic interests. However, Bangladesh can take several measures to address this situation and minimize potential tensions:

  • Balanced approach:

Bangladesh should maintain a balanced approach in its foreign policy and engagement with both China and India. By fostering relationships with both countries and ensuring that neither side feels excluded or threatened, Bangladesh can reduce the risk of conflict and protect its own strategic autonomy.

  • Transparency and open dialogue:

To avoid misunderstandings and suspicions, Bangladesh should promote transparency in its dealings with both China and India. Open dialogue and communication can help build trust and prevent misperceptions that could escalate tensions.

  • Diversify partnerships:

Bangladesh can reduce its reliance on any single partner by diversifying its strategic relationships with other regional and global players, such as Japan, the United States, and the European Union. This can provide additional sources of investment, technology, and support, as well as mitigate the risk of becoming overly dependent on either China or India.

  • Regional cooperation and confidence-building measures:

Bangladesh should actively participate in regional cooperation initiatives, such as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). By fostering regional cooperation and engaging in confidence-building measures, Bangladesh can contribute to a stable and peaceful regional environment.

  • Collaborative projects:

Bangladesh can encourage joint projects or initiatives involving both China and India, which can help build trust and cooperation between the two countries. These projects could focus on areas such as infrastructure development, trade, or disaster management.

  • Strengthening domestic capabilities:

Bangladesh should invest in enhancing its domestic capabilities, including its defense and security infrastructure, to better respond to potential challenges arising from geopolitical competition. This may include improving its maritime security capabilities to protect its interests in the Bay of Bengal.

  • Engaging with international organizations and norms:

Bangladesh should actively participate in international organizations and adhere to global norms and rules, such as those related to maritime security, trade, and environmental protection. This can help build a rules-based regional order that reduces the risk of conflict and promotes stability.

By adopting these strategies, Bangladesh can mitigate the risk of geopolitical conflict arising from the interests of China and India in the Matarbari Deep Sea Port and navigate the complex regional dynamics while protecting its own interests.


The Matarbari Deep Sea Port holds immense strategic potential for Bangladesh due to its advantageous location near the Bay of Bengal, offering enhanced regional connectivity and trade, economic development opportunities, and improved energy security. By tapping into South Asian, Southeast Asian, and global markets, the port can significantly contribute to the country’s economic growth and development, while also strengthening its regional and global presence.

It is crucial for Bangladesh to maximize the benefits of the Matarbari Deep Sea Port to ensure long-term growth and stability. This involves leveraging strategic partnerships, focusing on sustainable development, investing in renewable energy and green technologies, developing a skilled workforce, and strengthening regional cooperation. By taking these steps, Bangladesh can not only fully capitalize on the port’s strategic potential but also create a more resilient, prosperous, and sustainable future for its people.




Alam, M. S. (2019). Bangladesh’s quest for a deep seaport. Journal of Commerce and Trade, 14(1), 34-43.

Brewster, D. (2014). Beyond the string of pearls: Is there really a Sino-Indian security dilemma in the Indian Ocean? Journal of the Indian Ocean Region, 10(2), 133-151.

Hossain, M., & Hoque, M. M. (2016). The Matarbari deep seaport in Bangladesh: A strategic assessment of regional implications. Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), New Delhi, India.

Kabir, M. H. (2020). Geopolitics of the Bay of Bengal: An appraisal. South Asia Journal, 2020(37).

Rahman, M. M. (2018). Prospects and challenges of Matarbari deep seaport project in Bangladesh. South Asian Survey, 25(1-2), 81-95.

Uddin, J. (2019). Japan’s connectivity strategies in the Bay of Bengal: The case of Bangladesh. Asia Policy, 14(1), 32-37.

Share this:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *