Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will likely participate in the 2023 G20 Summit in New Delhi on 9-10 of that month. Sheikh Hasina is among the nine guest countries' heads invited by Narendra Modi, the Premier of India and President of the G20 countries.
What is the significance of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to India to attend the G20 Summit? In fact, one can argue that several reasons, ranging from local to international, signify Sheikh Hasina's visit to India.
First of all, it is a matter of honour and prestige that Bangladesh is the only country among the South Asian nations that was invited to attend the G20 Summit of 2023. This invitation conveys the growing importance of Bangladesh in regional and global economy and politics.
The scholarly and policy community has defined Bangladesh as a 'development miracle'. According to the World Bank, Bangladesh is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
The invitation reflects the dynamics of the foreign policy of the Sheikh Hasina regime, which took Bangladesh to a position of glory and prestige. Therefore, the invitation to attend the G20 Summit portrays Bangladesh's significance in regional and global diplomacy.
Second, the upcoming visit of Sheikh Hasina upholds profound importance for Bangladesh-India bilateral relations and Bangladesh's ties with other states and non-state actors. Bangladesh and India share civilisational, cultural, social, and economic linkages. They have been passing the best times since 2009, when Sheikh Hasina came to power in Bangladesh. Dhaka and Delhi have scripted a 'golden chapter' in their bilateral ties, spanning from economic to socio-cultural dimensions that have impacted the lives and livelihoods of millions.
Sheikh Hasina's visit to New Delhi to attend the G20 Summit will provide an opportunity to deepen Bangladesh-India relations. Bangladesh has been identified as one of the important countries for India's 'Neighbourhood First' and 'Act East Policy'. In fact, the geo-strategic location of Bangladesh (which works as a bridge between South and Southeast Asia) makes it an important country for both India and extra-regional powers.
In addition, the tremendous socio-economic progress of Bangladesh has been a successful case study in the South Asian region and beyond. Thus, India also views Bangladesh's role as pivotal in advancing South Asian peace, prosperity, security, and stability. In this context, one can cite that on 26 March 2021, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated that 'India and Bangladesh must progress together for the prosperity of the region'. Therefore, India considers Bangladesh an important partner to translate its G20 agendas into reality in the region and beyond.
Third, the visit of Sheikh Hasina also becomes vital for Bangladesh's bilateral and multilateral diplomacy. The G20 Summit can create scope for bilateral and trilateral meetings between Bangladesh and other G20 members and invite states where Bangladesh can showcase its tremendous socio-economic progress and its growing role in addressing regional and global issues/challenges. One can cite that the 'Ashrayan Project', which harbours thousands of homeless could be a model project for the rest of the world.
Fourth, the Summit will welcome delegations from regional and international organisations, such as the Asian Development Bank, IMF, World Bank, United Nations, WTO, WHO, ILO, etc. Having delegates from all those different international and regional organisations at the same place at a time is a great opportunity to meet them and discuss national and global interests. In addition, Bangladesh can reaffirm its commitment to the neo-liberal world order, emphasising the role of these institutions.
Fifth, the environmental dimension of the G20 Summit signifies the visit of Sheikh Hasina, and Bangladesh can share the climate change mitigation and adaptation policies with other G20 participants. It should be noted that Bangladesh is one of the most climate-affected countries in the world. However, it is also known as a climate-resilient state. Therefore, Sheikh Hasina could direct the attendees about mitigating climate-related issues, as Bangladesh is one of the most successful countries confronting natural calamities.
Sixth, Bangladesh is a maritime country, and the Bay of Bengal is considered a third neighbour of Bangladesh. In fact, G20 is a platform that promotes maritime trade, maritime safety, security, and Blue Economy. Thus, Sheikh Hasina, in such a platform, may represent Bangladesh's view on maritime safety, security, and Blue Economy.
Finally, Bangladesh can utilise this G20 Summit to advocate issues such as the Rohingya refugee crisis. The Summit will allow raising the obstacles and adversities Bangladesh faces to a global platform. Sheikh Hasina would raise her voice against the Russian-Ukraine war and represent strong support to confront the consequences of the COVID-19 global pandemic. In addition, the detrimental impact of climate change on Bangladesh and its people due to the uncontrolled and unplanned industrialisation by the developed countries could be put on the global table by Sheikh Hasina.
Dr Md. Shariful Islam is an Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Rajshahi. He is also an adjunct research fellow at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs, Dhaka. E-mail: [email protected]