Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has returned from India after a historic and a successful visit in connection with joining the bilateral summit with India and participating in the 18th G20 New Delhi Summit 2023.
The visit was unique and it has been immensely beneficial for Bangladesh. Bangladesh Prime Minister’s visit was specifically linked with two landmark foreign policy events in New Delhi with a huge significance. The first event is the Hasina-Modi Summit which was held on 8 September 2023 before the holding of the G20 Summit in New Delhi. Two leaders from Bangladesh and India took the bold decisions to meet before the global summit of G20, reflecting an unfathomable goodwill and trust between the two nations. The bilateral summit was greatly successful in terms of outcomes and the context. Another significant achievement was the participation of Bangladesh Prime Minister in the G20 Summit for the first time. India as a host nation of G20 invited Bangladesh as one of the nine countries in the world and the only nation in South Asia to join the Summit. Bangladesh’s participation in the G20 Summit has tremendously boosted its multilateral diplomacy in the present-day world. One can argue that Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India has created a new milestone in Bangladesh foreign policy.
In a closer look at the outcomes of the visit, several areas are visible which have vastly benefited Bangladesh and its diplomacy. In the context of Bangladesh-India bilateral partnership, the visit has undoubtedly further bolstered mutual cooperation and diplomatic understanding. The Summit between Sheikh Hasina and Narendra Modi has created a plethora of positive results.
First, the summit has facilitated an exchange of view of the two leaders about bilateral, regional and global issues in critical times of domestic and regional politics. It has deepened personal understanding and bond between the two leaders. The twitter of Indian Prime Minister Modi after the Summit shows the importance of bilateral relations to both the leader.
Second, Bangladesh and India signed three memorandum of understanding (MoUs), including one on cooperation in Digital Payment mechanisms. They have looked forward to the joint inauguration of three projects (Agartala-Akhaura Rail Link, Unit-II of the Maitri Power Plant, and Khulna-Mongla Rail Link) at a convenient date later. The Indian side welcomed the Indo-Pacific Outlook announced by Bangladesh. They welcomed the operationalization of the Agreement on the use of the Chattogram and Mongla Ports and the commissioning of the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline. They also expressed appreciation for the operationalisation of the settlement of bilateral trade in INR (rupee) and encouraged the business community on both sides to utilise the mechanism.
Third, the Summit has showcased distinctiveness of Bangladesh-India relations since it took place as a separate diplomatic event outside the purview of the G20. It was followed by the similar summit between the United States and India. It also signifies the importance that India attaches to Bangladesh.
Fourth, the Summit has covered a wide range of issues during the discussion between the two leaders which include trade, connectivity, water, Rohingya crisis, energy, and defense cooperation. Notably, the Prime Minister of India directed his foreign office to resolve the outstanding bilateral issues such as the Teesta Water Sharing agreement.
Fifth, the Summit has conveyed an unequivocal geopolitical and diplomatic message to the world that Bangladesh-India relations are special and enjoy highest level of attention from the two governments which need to be continued for the betterment of the region and beyond.
Sixth, the Summit has highlighted the significance of the role of Bangladesh under the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to maintain regional peace and stability which is under constant threats from terrorism, militancy, insurgency and hegemonic overtures of great powers.
Finally, the Summit reflects a new importance of Bangladesh to India and the region. For example, during the Summit the Indian Prime Minister expressed his deep gratitude to his Bangladeshi counterpart for her contribution in ensuring the existing peaceful situation in the North Eastern region of the country.
Highlights of Achievements
Coming to the G20 Summit, Bangladesh’s participation in the most powerful global platform of multilateral diplomacy outside the United Nations is a phenomenal achievement. A number of factors may be highlighted in this regard. First, the invitation itself is a major diplomatic achievement of Bangladesh. It has provided a rare opportunity to represent Bangladesh in the presence of dominant global leaders and to interact with them. The Group of Twenty (G20) is composed of twenty major economies in the world, representing 85% of global GDP, 79% of global trade, and 65% of world population. India’s choice of Bangladesh as the only South Asian invitee demonstrates deepening of bilateral partnership between the two neighbors and a recognition to growing significance of Bangladesh on the global stage as well as and recognizes its remarkable progress in economy and social domains over the past decade.
Second, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was present in the Summit as the most experienced global leader in the current world. She has boldly introduced Bangladesh and its spectacular success in different sectors – from economy to digitalization in her speech in the Summit. Bangladesh’s economy is rapidly expanding, with more than 6% GDP growth in recent years and has a massive and fast-expanding consumer class of approximately 170 million people, making it a lucrative place for investment with growing capabilities. In addition, Bangladesh has become an example to many nations to eradicate extreme poverty and to boost shared prosperity. In fact, from an international basket case in 1971, Bangladesh is now 35th largest economy with a GDP of US$578 billion in 2023. The presence of Bangladesh Prime Minister has enhanced global image of Bangladesh. Third, Bangladesh Prime Minister was engaged in bilateral meetings on the sidelines with global leaders from four countries – South Korea, Argentina, Saudi Arabia and UAE. Sheikh Hasina guided a powerful display of ‘conference diplomacy’ during the Summit. Fourth, Prime Minister’s social interactions with global leaders in the Summit, including the US President Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, may be considered immensely significant for bilateral diplomacy. The brief but a meaningful chat between the US President and Bangladesh Prime Minister has captured positive attention from people in the region about Bangladesh-US bilateral partnership.
Fifth, another great achievement of Sheikh Hasina’s global diplomacy in the G20 is her role as the champion of the cause of Global South. She proposed five recommendations for enhancing global cooperation to achieve collective interests of humanity in the world which are particularly considered in the context of the evolving challenges in the Global South. These recommendations include:
- Timely and effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as the top of all multilateral initiatives, including G20;
- Support and facilitation of the continuation of duty-free, quota-free market access and extension of unilateral tariff preferences and TRIPS waivers by the G20 for countries in transition from LDCs to developing ones, for a significant timeframe after the graduation – to ensure a smooth and sustainable transition;
- Keeping the markets of the G20 open to ensure a smooth, timely, and predictable supply of essential goods and commodities, including agricultural products for the vulnerable economies;
- Getting equal attention by half of the global population for building peaceful, just, and inclusive societies; and
- Trengthening South-South and triangular cooperation with support from partners, international financial institutions, private sectors, and other stakeholders for ensuring human development globally.
Sixth, one can also argue that Sheikh Hasina’s leadership and her participation in the Summit have contributed to two landmark bilateral visits to Bangladesh – Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov and the French President, Emmanuel Macron. These visits are directly connected with the G20 Summit. The visit of Lavrov is the first of its kind in the history of Bangladesh-Russia relations while a French President’s visit to Bangladesh happened after 33 years. Both the visits are critical for Bangladesh for multidimensional reasons, particularly for geopolitical and diplomatic grounds. Finally, Bangladesh had been part of a successful G20 Summit held in New Delhi, India. Unlike the Bali Summit, this has produced a consensus on the joint declaration known as the “New Delhi Declaration”, reflecting a diplomatic understanding between the West and China and Russia. India has been instrumental as a host nation to produce this outcome in a challenging time. Besides, the G20 Summit has generated a new hope for multilateralism in the world as the theme of the Summit rightly encapsulated, “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (The World Is One Family), in other words, “One Earth, One Family and One Future”.
In the conclusion, Bangladesh has witnessed an unprecedented diplomatic dynamism, centering around the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India for a bilateral summit with India and participation in the G20 Summit. The G20 Summit has brought about a regional and global focus to Bangladesh-India bilateral partnership. Bangladesh’s participation in the G20 Summit has added a new value as the country always promotes a rules-based international system. Although it is a continuation of diplomatic success of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, this recent visit will be considered a new milestone in the annals of Bangladesh’s diplomatic journey in the quest for lightening the global image of Bangladesh and ensuring national development and security.