The United States’ Indo-Pacific strategy is a whole-of-government effort to support a free and open Indo-Pacific region in which all nations are sovereign, strong, and prosperous and can prosper in freedom and peace. The vision focuses on three areas – economic, security and governance. In 2017, US President Donald Trump laid out America’s vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific for the first time.
Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) and The Daily Star arranged a roundtable discussion titled ‘Indo-Pacific Strategy: Implications for the Region’ at The Daily Star Centre on March 4, moderated by BIPSS President Maj Gen (retd) ANM Muniruzzaman.
The Daily Star Associate Editor Brig Gen (retd) Mohammad Shahedul Anam Khan, Bimstec Secretary General M Shahidul Islam, US Ambassador in Dhaka Earl R Miller, German Ambassador in Dhaka Peter Fahrenholtz, former Ambassador Shamim Ahmed, Prof Amena Mohsin, Prof Dr Imtiaz A Hussain and Assistant Prof Parvez Karim Abbasi, among others, spoke at the event.
They gave much emphasis on reaping the benefits that the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) offers in the region, addressing the challenges to make sure that every country gets benefited. The foreign affairs experts focused on investment opportunities, security aspects and stability in the region for greater good.
Since the IPS is still at a formative stage, it is, at this moment, difficult to say how things are going to take shape. It is important for Bangladesh policymakers to understand all the maritime strategic initiatives coming into play including Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and IPS. The speakers highlighted in these areas saying they would like to see these initiatives and strategies to be inclusive that benefit all nations and people of the region.
Ambassador Miller says he is sometimes asked whether this new emphasis on Indo-Pacific is just an attempt by the US to contain China. He made it clear that the United States’ vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific excludes no nation but welcomes investment from all countries saying Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is China’s way of doing things.
“Our focus is on helping the private sector do what it does best; spark economic growth, innovation and long-lasting prosperity,” said the US Ambassador.
He said Indo-Pacific governments must foster a policy environment that prioritises the rule of law, property rights, labour rights, transparency, anti-corruption and sustainable financing.
The US envoy said Bangladesh has much to be proud of when it comes to economic growth and development over the past decade. “And we must always remember economic development, and respect for democracy and human rights are mutually reinforcing, not competing objectives.”
Ambassador Miller said American businesses want to invest in countries that operate transparently, uphold the rule of law, and protect individual rights.
“Encouraging sound, just and responsive governance is a core aspect of the Indo-Pacific vision. Progress in these areas will not only expand Bangladesh’s ability to maximise the economic tools and security cooperation but also protect the country’s long-term growth and stability,” said the Ambassador.
He said they work with key partners like Bangladesh to protect and enhance a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific that respects principles such as peaceful resolution of disputes, freedom of navigation, open and transparent investment environments, and strong and responsible governing institutions.
“Bangladesh shares our goals of building a more prosperous, secure, prosperous and inter-connected region, and with its strategic location and fast-growing economy, it is poised to play a central role in the Indo-Pacific,” said Ambassador Miller.
He said like the US, China is an Indo-Pacific country and they welcome its constructive participation in upholding and international system based on clear and transparent rules.
“We welcome investment from all countries if it is commercially motivated, transparent, and follows international rules, such as those by the World Bank or International Monetary Fund,” said the envoy.
The US Ambassador said countries must do their part by creating conditions that welcome private investment and allow it to flow to productive enterprises in their economies. “Roll out the red carpet, not the red tape.”
Shedding lights on the concept of Indo-Pacific Strategy, Moniruzzaman said this is still evolving and laid emphasis on ensuring a win-win situation for all.
Quoting Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, he said they, however, do not want to end up in forming rival blocs. “That’s very important for countries in South Asia or small states. We want to have inclusive groupings which are beneficial for individual country in the region and bring a win-win situation of benefits,” said Moniruzzaman.
BIMSTEC Secretary General M Shahidul Islam said member states of BIMSTEC will be very happy to be part of Indo-Pacific Strategy, but they really need to wait and see how things happen.
Parvez Karim said a major component of IPS is geo-economic aspects and as Bangladesh develops its blue economy concept, it must analyse this to take the best benefit for the country.