PM places 5-point proposal for making any Indo-Pacific initiative a success

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday placed a five-point proposal, including creation of an environment of peace and fair competition by all countries staying away from rivalries, to make any Indo-Pacific initiative a success.

‘Over a 5-decade of my journey in politics tells me that any initiative in Indo-Pacific should include creation of an environment of peace-harmony-stability of all countries; focusing on entire aspects of sustainable development; engaging countries based on mutual trust and mutual respect for mutual benefit; focusing on wealth creation for all, development must be inclusive; and creating fair competition not rivalries,’ she said, the UNB reported.

The Prime Minister made the proposals while addressing a panel discussion on the three-day World Economic Forum’s (WEF) ‘Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2019’ at Dalian International Conference Centre at Dalian city of Chinese Liaoning Sheng province.

The three-day WEF annual meeting, also known as WEF Summer Davos, is being held (July 1-3) with the theme of ‘Leadership 4.0 – Succeeding in a New Era of Globalization’.

The Prime Minister said, ‘We sometimes look just in terms of the capacity of a few large economies or their needs.

But, we must address the key concerns of smaller communities or relatively weaker economies for our collective journey and sustainable world.’

She said it is widely recognised that the Indo-Pacific region is the most dynamic in the world, while the Bay of Bengal, home to 1.5 billion people, is equally a rich and growing region. ‘People living around our Bay of Bengal have so much potential to develop and grow. There’s a tendency to look at Indo-Pacific in respect of trade or security issues,’ she added.

Talking about bilateral issues, Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh amicably delimited its maritime boundary with Myanmar and India. ‘And now, Bangladesh and India are joining hands to uniquely develop our trans-boundary river navigation.’

‘I always believe that in spite of differences in size and capacity compared to India, Bangladesh can only secure her peace and security through sustainable development and connectivity,’ she said.

Noting that it is true that geopolitics is always important, she said, ‘Yes, geopolitics will always be part of life. But we’ve to carefully appreciate and balance issues. We cannot trade off long-term interests for short–term gains. A cooperative yet competitive environment among all countries is the insurance of our shared prosperity.’

In reply to a question as to how Bangladesh maintains good relations with China and India simultaneously, Sheikh Hasina said the principle of Bangladesh’s foreign policy is ‘friendship to all, malice to none’.

‘We don’t want to engage in any war or conflict with anyone. Any issue between [any two countries] them is their internal matter. We’ve been working to maintain good relations with all and so far we’ve gained success in this regard,’ the Prime Minister was quoted as saying by Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque while briefing reporters after the panel discussion.

Responding to another question whether Bangladesh face a debt trap taking a number of mega projects with foreign loan, the Prime Minister said: ‘Our external debt is around 14.3 per cent of GDP — clearly it’ a sign of a healthy economy.’

China is involved in some mega infrastructure projects in Bangladesh. Chinese companies were employed in the construction of the longest and challenging 6.9-km river bridge in Bangladesh, which is fully funded by Bangladesh government, she said.

‘Many people talk about ‘debt trap’. I’ve a simple answer– as long as these mega projects are in our people’s interest, has the right pay-off and negotiated rightly, we must not be worried.,’ she said.

In reply to a query, Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh is ready to join Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as the country is always interested to join any connectivity and regional cooperation.

Delegates, including heads of state and government, business, civil society and academia, from more than 100 countries across the world joined the WEF meeting being held in Dalian port city which is a trading and financial centre in Northeastern Asia and known as the Hong Kong of Northern China.