Experts react to recent comments by the Foreign Minister describing our relations with India and China
After visiting Mujibnagar Mukhtijuddha Memorial Complex on August 8, 2020, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said Bangladesh's relationship to India was a blood tie while the one with China was an economic one. The two relationships should not be compared. The minister also said that the tension between India and China would also not have any adverse effect between India and Bangladesh.
Does everyone feel the same? The Business Standard reached out to international relations experts and economists to get their reaction.
'Friendship with all and malice towards none'
Dr Imtiaz Ahmed
Professor, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka
Recently, the Foreign Minister Abdul Momen stated that we have blood relations with India while with China we have an economic relationship. Many of us have picked up the wrong idea from this statement it seems. Our foreign policy is based on the concept of "friendship with all and malice towards none."
Abdul Momen's recent statement is a reflection of that. We want to keep peace with both India and China, which is the right thing to do, especially during the India-China feud. The phrasing may have confused people but, I believe what the Minister meant is our relation with India goes deeper than mere economy level, because of our history.
Bangladesh and India, once have been the same nation, we share the same culture and language still now, so of course, with India, our relationship goes beyond economy. On the contrary, China and we have a strong business-oriented relationship. Both Bangladesh's and China's economy are largely dependent on each other. So, we have good relationships with both of them, and we do not want to pick a side here.
We have always maintained a friendly relation with every country, even with Myanmar, we have maintained a friendly economic relationship, keeping the Rohingya issue aside.
So, the issues India-China are having with their relationship cannot affect ours with them. However, The earlier the issue resolves between the two nations; it is better.
'I fully agree with what the Foreign Minister has said'
Dr Ahsan H Mansur
Executive Director, Policy Research Institute
I don't think there will be any negative impact regarding the Foreign Minister's comment as long as this government is in power. The government will balance it all.
I fully agree with what Foreign Minister has said. Both India and China are regional powers, and we have to keep a good relationship with both countries.
Apart from being a regional power, China is also becoming a global power, and we cannot simply ignore them. Also, India is our neighbouring country, and we should not ignore them either.
We indeed have an economic relationship with China; however, we import much more than we export. But exports to China are increasing, and hopefully, it will increase in the coming days.
Be it on 80 or 80,000 products, China cutting tariffs on importing products won't matter much as we hardly export (to China). So the Minister's comment won't affect us in this regard as well.
Bangladesh should not and will not commit any strategic mistake that may complicate our relationship with China.
Yes, we have some issues with India like blood brothers or sisters usually have between them, and those need to be resolved. Border killing, water crisis -these are some seriously important issues we have, and they are much more important than the problems with China.
Also, we must be treated (by India) as a friendly neighbour with equal dignity. We do not want them to treat us as a mere province of them.
We have to keep good relations with both India and China. But it has to be a mutually respectful relationship, and we must avoid those three factors (with India) that I mentioned earlier.
'The tension between India and China is their internal problem'
Former Ambassador and Chief Information Commissioner
For a developing country like Bangladesh, keeping a good relationship with both countries is very important as India is our neighbouring country, and we share deep economic ties with China.
India has been in support of Bangladesh since its liberation war against Pakistan. It is undeniable that Bangladesh gained its independence with the help of India and they have maintained a good economic relationship with us as well.
Despite having some disputes regarding water and some border killing issues, India has supported Bangladesh over the period with many resources. We are not facing any mainstream issues with them. Again, India has also maintained a balanced relationship with Pakistan in terms of international relationship and economics.
In terms of China, we also have a strong relationship with them. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman visited China in 1952 and 1957, and China also supports us economically to a great extent. China has offered no-tax on multiple products for Bangladesh, which will benefit us a lot.
Similarly, when it comes to the inter-relationship between Bangladesh, India and China, Bangladesh will maintain a good relationship with both the countries. Bangladesh is dependent on both countries for exports and imports.
The tension between India and China is their internal problem, and they have already started to take steps towards resolving the issue. They must understand that a bad relationship among them would not only affect Bangladesh but also countries around the Himalayan belt like Nepal and Bhutan.
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a massive loss to our country, and without the help of both India and China it would become very tough for us to recover the damages. So no matter what the relationship between India and China becomes, and even with the United States, Bangladesh will always keep its friendship with both the countries to overcome the economic losses from the Covid-19 situation.