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Kick-starting a new strategic and defence partnership with Bangladesh

Black_cats

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Kick-starting a new strategic and defence partnership with Bangladesh

8 Jun 2021|David Brewster



Australia’s 2020 defence strategic update identifies the northeast Indian Ocean as a priority area as part of our immediate region, but it’s also where our security relationships are the least developed. A new reportpublished by the National Security College examines Australia’s interests in that region and options for enhanced security relations with Bangladesh.

For at least a decade, Australia has rightly concentrated on India as its key South Asian partner, but it is now time to broaden that strategy to include other countries in that region. Enhanced security, political and economic relations with Bangladesh should be part of that. Despite being one of the first countries to recognise an independent Bangladesh, Australia has not properly developed the relationship.

Improved connections with Bangladesh would also be part of a developing web of relationships with existing and emerging middle powers across the Indo-Pacific. These can supplement relationships with major powers and, potentially, also help mitigate some of the impacts of major power competition.

Australia has significant strategic equities in Bangladesh, reflecting economic opportunities and potential threats emanating from the northeast Indian Ocean.

Bangladesh is one of the big economic success stories in Asia. Over the past several decades, Bangladesh has grown from one of the poorest countries in the world to a middle-income country. In the years prior to the Covid-19 crisis, its economic growth averaged around 7% to 8% per annum. It could well become one of Asia’s new economic ‘tigers’ and a key trading partner for Australia.

It’s in our interests to support a stable and independent Bangladesh as it pursues development while balancing external pressures. Bangladesh is located at the fulcrum of the Bay of Bengal, between India and China, and is the subject of growing strategic competition between them. Recent threats by the Chinese ambassador if Bangladesh dared to develop relations with the Quad will likely be shrugged off by Dhaka. Indeed, such bullying may only further highlight the value for Dhaka of building partnerships with countries like Australia and Japan that can add further ballast to Bangladesh’s regional relationships.

Australia also has other security interests in the region, including in managing risks of climate change, people and drug smuggling and violent extremism, all of which could have a significant impact on Australia.

The ethnic cleansing of Rohingya people from Myanmar has resulted in more than 1 million refugees in Bangladeshi camps, creating risks from unregulated population movements and violent extremism.

Climate change, including sea-level rise and severe weather events, may also have a major impact on Bangladesh in coming years, potentially triggering large-scale population movements and regional instability.

Extended civil unrest in Myanmar also creates risks of a surge in drug smuggling or refugee movements. Myanmar is already Australia’s largest source of opium and now methamphetamines, and a breakdown in order could flood those drugs onto the Australian market.

Australia may increasingly need Bangladesh as a regional partner to help address these threats. But our security relationship is very thin. Official military visits are rare and there is no resident defence representative. But Bangladesh has recently flagged its interest in developing closer security relations as part of a more comprehensive relationship with Australia.

Much can be done to kick-start engagement at minimal cost. Australia can start by focusing on low-hanging fruit, building relationships between the defence forces, building Bangladesh’s maritime security capabilities in selected areas and seeking opportunities for collaborative regional engagement.

Bangladesh has a large, professional and well-funded military. Although it has a democratic civilian-led government, the armed forces play a prominent role in public affairs. Good relationships across the Bangladeshi military are not only essential for defence cooperation, but are also a valuable element in broader political engagement.

Current arrangements for servicing the relationship through Australia’s defence adviser in Colombo are far from optimal. Australia needs a defence representative on the ground to have credibility, fully engage with the Bangladeshi military and explore further opportunities. This should include opportunities as a potential supplier in niche defence technologies or surplus equipment in light of Bangladesh’s military modernisation program. A resident defence adviser would also improve Australia’s visibility of security developments in the region.

Australia has long used military education to develop relationships with regional partners. We should provide opportunities (including on a paid basis) for senior Bangladeshi officers at the Australian War College, the National Security College or the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security. Networks could also be developed through targeted exchanges of personnel, for example, between the Bangladeshi and Australian peacekeeping training centres.

A port visit by one or more Australian naval ships could be undertaken as part of a future Indo-Pacific Endeavour activity in the northeast Indian Ocean.

Australia should undertake targeted capability-building activities with Bangladesh on selected maritime security issues where Australia has direct interests. These should focus on playing to Australia’s strengths in experience and expertise, in areas such as maritime domain awareness, search and rescue, and port security, where Australia can provide valuable expertise and training.

Bangladesh’s assumption of chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association in 2021 provides an opportunity to collaborate on regional initiatives in maritime safety and security, the blue economy and environmental security. BIMSTEC, the regional political grouping in the northeast Indian Ocean, could also be a useful vehicle to demonstrate Australia’s renewed interest in the region.

India is without doubt Australia’s most important partner in South Asia and has been one of Australia’s key foreign policy focuses for some years. But India’s smaller neighbours also have important roles to play as we consider opportunities and risks in the region. An improved relationship with Bangladesh can provide valuable heft to regional relationships and additional options for Australia.

AUTHOR
David Brewster is a senior researcher with the National Security College at the Australian National University. Image: Department of Defence.

 

prothought

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I Though India was the strategic and defense partner of Australia in this region. Given the Hindutva's fascist mentality, Bangladesh will most likely be treated as a Muslim enemy by India. How then Australia would be able to have strategic partnership with Bangladesh too? Australians have chosen to stick with a disgraced Hitler-type murders of Hindutva India as part of their Quad alliance. Is there a second thought about that evil alliance in Australian strategic circles?
 

bluesky

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Bangladesh is located at the fulcrum of the Bay of Bengal, between India and China, and is the subject of growing strategic competition between them. Recent threats by the Chinese ambassador if Bangladesh dared to develop relations with the Quad will likely be shrugged off by Dhaka. Indeed, such bullying may only further highlight the value for Dhaka of building partnerships with countries like Australia and Japan that can add further ballast to Bangladesh’s regional relationships.
By reading the full account of the feature, I can guess how India is nervous without BD participation in the QUAD. No one really knows when war will break out. But, even without knowing, all the countries keep on strengthening their respective troops as if there is no tomorrow.

Both India and China are building up their forces in anticipation of fiery days.

BD seems to be encircled by the US and now Australian sweet talks. BD can participate in naval or military exercises with Australian forces but should refrain from directly endorsing QUAD at the displeasure of China.

Chinese middle south needs BD land as a neutral buffer zone to protect itself from the QUAD invasions.
 

Jobless Jack

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By reading the full account of the feature, I can guess how India is nervous without BD participation in the QUAD. No one really knows when war will break out. But, even without knowing, all the countries keep on strengthening their respective troops as if there is no tomorrow.

Both India and China are building up their forces in anticipation of fiery days.

BD seems to be encircled by the US and now Australian sweet talks. BD can participate in naval or military exercises with Australian forces but should refrain from directly endorsing QUAD at the displeasure of China.

Chinese middle south needs BD land as a neutral buffer zone to protect itself from the QUAD invasions.
This offer by Australia is nothing but an in-direct invitation to join Quad.
 

Jobless Jack

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MUH HUH THEY HAVE 8 FIGHTERS THEY AREN'T IMPORTANT :hitwall:
Undoubtedly BD is important to the west.

But if BD takes up the offer of joining Quad that means providing fully and unconditional recognition to Israel as a sovereign state.

Is BD govt and people ready to give this?

Providing full and unconditional Recognition as sovereign state to Israel will become mandatory condition to meet if BD wishes to co-op with West /USA in any field in the future.
 
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SpaceMan18

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Undoubtedly BD is important to the west.

But if BD takes up the offer of joining Quad that means providing fully and unconditional recognition to Israel as a sovereign state.

Is BD govt and people ready to give this?

Providing full and unconditional Recognition as sovereign state to Israel will become mandatory condition to meet if BD wishes to co-op with West /USA in any field in the future.
Either way we get fucked in the @ss

Better to actually industrialize and try to become actually self sufficient
 

bluesky

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Undoubtedly BD is important to the west.

But if BD takes up the offer of joining Quad that means providing fully and unconditional recognition to Israel as a sovereign state.

Is BD govt and people ready to give this?

Providing full and unconditional Recognition as sovereign state to Israel will become mandatory condition to meet if BD wishes to co-op with West /USA in any field in the future.
However, neither America nor Australia has said a word on recognizing Israel.
 

Jobless Jack

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However, neither America nor Australia has said a word on recognizing Israel.
NO ? Not yet anyway.

No western company will work with any economic or political entity that is" discriminatory " in its policies.

In the west , one form of discrimination is counted as disrespecting Jewish people. Jewish people consider it highly disrespectful when other people and countries say they do not recognize Israel or insult Israel. As Israel is considered Home by the Jewish people.

Its the policy of every western organizations government or private to not do business or any sort of co-op with countries that does pursue discriminatory policies against Jews . If you dont believe me. Please look up the anti discrimination policies of Major western Companies such as google , apple, tesla, Amazon etc.

So If BD wishes to maintain and expand the economic relationship with GCC, USA and West . Then the recognition of Israel is mandatory pre condition .
 
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mb444

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Undoubtedly BD is important to the west.

But if BD takes up the offer of joining Quad that means providing fully and unconditional recognition to Israel as a sovereign state.

Is BD govt and people ready to give this?

Providing full and unconditional Recognition as sovereign state to Israel will become mandatory condition to meet if BD wishes to co-op with West /USA in any field in the future.

Mate israel is really not that important. Quad does not care about israel and BD need do nothing relating to israel.

Australia is irrelevant in the global scenario ignore them. Quad needs to come with open check book and lots of shiny toys and comprehensively outbid the chinese. Otherwise bye-bye.
 

Avicenna

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Words matter.

I am reading and re-reading this article to get some insight.

Very interesting to say the least.

Given the tension between China and Australia this is quite significant.
 

vishwambhar

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Everything is pointing out that things are taking shape to bring Bangladesh into QUAD.....Indo-BD strategic partnership will go to next level with QUAD..... Interesting times ahead....
 

Bilal9

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Guys I believe our defence folks (especially Navy) should talk to Australian Govt. on Naval collaboration.

They have lot of experience in modern Naval builds such as Catamarans (even large ones) and Waterjet propulsion for small to medium sized (up to 600-700 ton) Naval craft.

Austal is one Australian company which built the Stealth vessel USS Independence (LCS-2) for the US Navy.




They also build superb small patrol craft (best of class, HMAS Armidale)


They also can help with upgrading our riverine ferry designs, which are somewhat accident prone. This is a Catamaran which plies the route between Macau and Hong Kong.


These are larger Wave-piercing Catamarans built for US Navy and Marines (dozens of varying designs like these have been built in the US in Austal's Alabama shipyards). The bodies are marine grade Aluminum Alloy and propulsion is by waterjet. These below are logistics and troop carrier designs for maybe 1000 fully equipped troops that can achieve speeds of 50-60 knots, thanks to Waterjet propulsion and efficient hull design.


 
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