Strategic autonomy fundamental to maintaining economic freedom, says BIPSS President Major General (retd) ANM Muniruzzaman
President of Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) Major General (retd) ANM Muniruzzaman on Thursday said Bangladesh needs to remain very careful about keeping its national interest protected as strategic landscape in the Asia Pacific region is rapidly changing.
"Strategic landscape is changing rapidly. We need to observe it very carefully," he said while addressing a virtual dialogue titled “Bangladesh-China Development Cooperation: Experience and Outlook”.
"Don't become part of military agreements or soft military agreements. We should be very careful in maintaining our status," he said mentioning recent agreement between India and the United States.
He put emphasis on maintaining strategic autonomy which is fundamental to maintaining economic autonomy or economic freedom with competitiveness.
"We, as a first tract developing country, need to have strategic autonomy so that we have economic freedom to cooperate with everybody," Muniruzzaman said.
He said Bangladesh is a signatory of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and at the same time Bangladesh believes in the principles of Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS).
"We want to remain active part of the BRI and at the same time we want to cooperate with the IPS," Muniruzzaman said emphasizing taking maximum advantage of both the initiatives for national interest.
He said Bangladesh has to be extremely cautious in navigating the new complex world avoiding taking any side.
In November 2017, US President Donald Trump outlined a vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific in which all countries prosper alongside as sovereign, independent states.
This vision, the US said, is based on values that have underpinned peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific for generations.
It said free, fair, and reciprocal trade, open investment environments, good governance, and freedom of the seas are goals shared by all who wish to prosper in a free and open future.
Muniruzzaman said Bangladesh is a key maritime nation and provides a critical maritime space making it attractive to China and other countries.
Terming China Bangladesh's strategic and largest trading partner, the expert suggested Bangladesh to explore opportunities beyond traditional cooperation.
He laid emphasis on cooperation in the areas of green economic development, smart agriculture, smart city development, water and river basin management, regional and sub-regional cooperation, and opportunities in the post Covid-19 era.
Muniruzzaman said Bangladesh and China have multiple channels of cooperation.
"We have excellent people to people relationship. China is our biggest military hardware provider too," he said.
On Covid-19 vaccine, Muniruzzaman said Bangladesh needs to keep all doors open to get access to affordable vaccine quickly.
He said Bangladesh needs to have the capacity to negotiate a good and affordable price of the vaccine which comes out first in the market.
Bangladesh is now in touch with India, China, and Oxford for Covid-19 vaccine.
Muniruzzaman put emphasis on exploring external funding for the vaccine to make it available for all in Bangladesh.