President of Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) Major General (Retd) ANM Muniruzzaman on Thursday said Bangladesh needs to remain very careful keeping its national interest protected as strategic landscape in the Asia Pacific region is rapidly changing.
"Strategic landscape is getting changed rapidly. We need to observe it very carefully," he said while addressing a virtual dialogue titled "Bangladesh-China Development Cooperation: Experience and Outlook".
The security analyst said they (Bangladesh) does not want to join in any defence pact, any defence grouping or any defence aligned grouping.
"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 US
He laid 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 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 emphasising on 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, according to the US government.
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 a multiple channel 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 vaccine.
Muniruzzaman laid emphasis on exploring external funding for the vaccine to make it available for all in Bangladesh.
Enhanced Ties with China
Bangladesh has laid emphasis on enhanced trade and investment cooperation with China amid an increased interest among Chinese investors to invest in growing Bangladesh.
"We are working very closely with the Chinese authorities to know the need of the Chinese importers," said State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam.
Shahriar said there is an increasing interest of investment in Bangladesh and investment will continue to grow in the exclusive economic zone in Anwara upazila of Chattogram on 800 acres of land.
He reiterated Bangladesh's commitment on having closer economic cooperation with China for mutual benefit.
Referring to high level visits between the two countries, Shahriar said there will be more such high level visits once the COVID-19 situation improves.
On infrastructure issues, the Srate Minister said the infrastructure gap will not be widening rather it will be narrowing down amid huge works in place.
Vaccine diplomacy, Rohingya crisis, global initiatives like Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) were also discussed.
Mahbub Uz Zaman, Bangladesh Ambassador to China, Li Jiming, Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh attended the programme, organised by Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) as guests of honour.
Ambassador M Humayun Kabir, President, Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI); Major General A N M Muniruzzaman, ndc, psc (Retd), President, Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS); Cheng Min, Professor, Institute for Bangladesh Studies, Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, Kunming, China; and Dr Wang Shida, Deputy Director, China Academy of Contemporary International Relations, Institute of South Asian Studies, Beijing, China, made comments as panelists.
Professor Rehman Sobhan, Chairman, CPD chaired the dialogue.
Dr Fahmida Khatun, Executive Director, CPD delivered the welcome remarks.
This year marks the 45th anniversary of Bangladesh-China diplomatic ties.
During the past decades, development cooperation between Bangladesh and China has increased significantly, the speakers said.
The objective of the event was to review Bangladesh's economic relationship with China and discuss the outlook for future bi-lateral partnership through investment and trade.