Bangladesh expressed its commitment to walk alongside Japan, a leading creator of the QUAD alliance in the Indo-Pacific strategy, for the sake of a peaceful Indo-Pacific region.
The Prime Ministers of Bangladesh and Japan, Sheikh Hasina and Fumio Kishida, have affirmed that the invasion of Ukraine constitutes a legal violation of international law, specifically the UN Charter, and poses a severe threat to the international order based on the rule of law. They emphasized the importance of respecting Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders by the principles of the UN Charter.
Through their joint statement released on April 26, 2023, during PM Hasina's official visit to Tokyo, both Prime Ministers expressed their positions on the Indo-Pacific tension and the invasion of Ukraine. In today's world, the national security strategies of many countries are influenced by the Indo-Pacific approach and the threat of aggression by Russia in Ukraine. The invasion of Crimea by Russia shattered the notion by defense strategists that Russia would not invade the territories of smaller countries. This development serves as a wake-up call for less militarily powerful nations to reevaluate their national security.
The joint statement issued by the Prime Ministers focused on national security and the establishment of peace. Japan had declared its Indo-Pacific strategic position over the past decade, while Bangladesh announced its Indo-Pacific strategy just two days before Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Japan. The Prime Minister of Japan recognized that Bangladesh's Indo-Pacific strategy would contribute to furthering Japan's efforts to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific vision. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina appreciated Japan's contribution to this issue.
The leaders acknowledged each other's strategies and outlined their plans. Kishida stated that Japan would strengthen its defense capabilities as part of its new national security strategy. Sheikh Hasina articulated her vision of modernizing Bangladesh's armed forces under the Forces Goal 2030.
Freedom of navigation
Regarding regional security, PM Hasina welcomed a new cooperative framework to deepen security cooperation among like-minded countries' armed forces and related organizations.
Bangladesh expressed its commitment to walk alongside Japan, a leading creator of the QUAD alliance in the Indo-Pacific strategy, for the sake of a peaceful Indo-Pacific region. Like Japan and the United States, PM Hasina clarified her position regarding the East and South China Sea when discussing these matters with her Japanese counterpart. Both leaders affirmed their commitment to maintaining sea authority, freedom of navigation, and civil aviation in the South China Sea by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982 and the International Civil Aviation Organization.
The UNCLOS of 1982 ensures peaceful navigation and the utilization of resources by all countries bordering bodies of water. The South China Sea is a disputed area where various claimants, including China, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam, have overlapping territorial claims. According to the US State Department, China controls approximately 62% of the sea, but China's exact claims still need to be made transparent due to their nine-dash line. Additionally, Vietnam, Taiwan, and the Philippines have disputes with China over certain islands in the South China Sea.
Power balance strategy
It is worth noting that all claimants against China are smaller countries that seek a settlement through dialogue. However, tension persists in the South China Sea, potentially escalating into the broader Indo-Pacific region. A peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea is crucial for maintaining peace in the Indo-Pacific. The historical analysis demonstrates that dialogue becomes challenging or costly when disputes involve major powers or numerous forces. A power balance strategy between two alliances or powers can help prevent disturbances, wars, or aggression. Thus, the power balance strategy in the Indo-Pacific, including the South China Sea, serves as a pathway to peace. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is a proponent of peace and continues to express her commitment to the QUAD creator, Japan.
The pursuit of a peaceful world and the safety of ordinary people necessitate the elimination of nuclear weapons. The majority of people around the world want to put an end to the production of nuclear weapons in any country. However, their voices have not been successful in halting the relentless race to build atomic weapons. Currently, two countries, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Russia, are in an uncontrollable position in this race. The DPRK, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, is continuously developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
Prime Minister Hasina, along with her Japanese counterpart, emphasized that the use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine is unacceptable. They both expressed grave concerns about the DPRK's nuclear race and the security and humanitarian implications for ordinary people in any country. Bangladesh stands firmly against the proliferation of these inhumane weapons.
Myanmar’s importance to Bangladesh
The security concerns of Bangladesh extend beyond the humanitarian crisis of Rohingya refugees within its borders. The ongoing violence and armed conflicts in Myanmar also pose significant security challenges. The security of Bangladesh cannot be ensured without upholding the democratic process and a stable government in Myanmar to resolve the armed conflicts. Therefore, Sheikh Hasina sought assistance from Japan not only for the early repatriation of Rohingya refugees but also for a solution to the Myanmar’s political crisis through the efforts of ASEAN.
PM Hasina's visit to Japan was crucial in clarifying Bangladesh's security strategy in a world marked by power conflicts. It highlights the importance of Indo-Pacific cooperation, the promotion of peace, the resolution of territorial disputes, the prevention of nuclear proliferation, and the pursuit of regional stability.
(The author is a senior journalist based in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and a recipient of the Ekushey Padak, the highest state award. Views are personal. He can be contacted at email@example.com.)