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Three Important Dignitaries in Bangladesh: Their Coincidental Visits?

May 05, 2012

Dr. Matiur Rahman

JP Morgan Chase Endowed Professor of Finance and MBA Director, McNeese State University, USA.

Mrs. Hillary Clinton represents USA-the only current world leader. Dr. Pranab Mukherjee represents India-an emerging economic powerhouse in the world amid Brazil, Russia, India itself, china and now South Africa (BRICS). Deputy Prime Minister of Japan represents a foreign reserve rich country next to China today. On all counts, their visits are very important and memorable for Bangladesh because of their dominating roles in world economics and politics. India`s importance to Bangladesh for many historic and so many other reasons need not be re-emphasised here.

Maybe, Bangladesh is small in geographic size and GDP. But we are large in population with huge potentials to cater to the needs of productive workforce in developed countries. We are also blessed with a geo-political strategic location Our improving human capital quality is gaining worldwide recognition. Our market size is relatively large and expanding for consumer goods. Our vibrant RMG sector is a proven success story. Quality of education is in a decaying mode, but still high enough as compared to many developing countries. Technologically, Bangladesh is in an emerging stage. Bangladesh can aid neighbouring countries and the rest of the world in their ongoing herculean counter-terrorism efforts. Putting all together, Bangladesh has ample reasons to draw their attention. China is paying close attention too. They help Bangladesh to negotiate from a position of strength, not weakness.

The USA, India and Japan are united together by a common thread of economic, business, political and strategic interests. The USA and India are acting together to neutralise China in Asia. China is flexing its economic and political muscles in Asia and Africa. This is a cause of concerns and uneasiness for both USA and India, in particular. The USA needs India to counter china`s growing influence in Asia. India will be on US side due to its long-standing animosity toward China. The USA has been exploiting it to its advantage. At the same time, India needs USA for investment, technologies, wider market access, etc. So does China need USA for its sustainable economic development and maintaining growth momentum.The Most Favoured Nation Treatment(MFT) , granted by the USA for decades helped China build its economy. The USA also needs to borrow from China as it has accumulated over $3 trillion foreign exchange reserve. Another attractor is China`s market with resurging middle class. The US motive behind such help was to encounter the former Soviet Union keeping China neutral or ambivalent or on the sideline in the then US-Soviet conflicts for world supremacy. The USA in general has no track record of helping other nations without its own political or economic interest or both. Japan also got a big help for decades from the USA to build its economic might in the post WW-II era. Perhaps, USA felt moral obligation to do so out of guilt conscience for what it did in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Japan is also vastly dependent on USA for marketing goods to advance its export-propelled economy. In geo-politics and economic interest, the USA has no permanent friend or foe, to remember. The USA regardless of domestic political infightings always acts in its own best interest excepting some humanitarian causes in order to put a good face on itself.

With former Soviet gone as a super power, the USA has the virtual monopoly over global leadership keeping China in check. India also wants the same. Asia is vital to the USA for market, investment, capital and skilled manpower supply for brain gain causing brain drain in developing countries. Japan`s needs are similar as well, today. Asia is rising and Europe is decaying with no end in sight except Germany. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1992, the dynamics of world diplomacy have changed. Countries are no longer divided in two camps, politically. In today`s world, all countries pursue their own economic and business interests in diplomacy. It transformed to be less political, more trade-oriented. So, current diplomats need to be re-equipped with economic and business tools in negotiations. The old political skills are going out of steam.

As mentioned earlier, Bangladesh occupies a unique position in this quadrangle of USA, China, Japan and India. Our diplomats must understand this game and be able to exploit it to our advantage. Negotiations must seek to gain advantages in duty-free wider market access, financial assistance, technologies, FDI, etc. As I have been reading in recent days, Bangladesh has chalked out a right agenda for negotiations. The size of gain from the trio`s visit is conditional upon our negotiating skills. Bangladesh should be able to negotiate from a position of relative strength. “You get what you negotiate for, and not what you want”, to remember. The outcome must be a win-win for all parties involved. Never expect a miracle. It is long, arduous and complex process by nature. To see final outcome, we must have patience and must refrain from passing premature comments in news papers and tempting talk shows. We need them, as they need us for a number of reasons. Such complementarities improve the chance of success for a win-win solution. In addition to the USA and Japan, both China and India are very important to Bangladesh. Their visits are not coincidental. They are pre-planned and the part of a well thought-out seemingly new game plan for Asia. Not surprisingly, a high-powered Chinese delegation will visit Bangladesh very soon. China cannot remain so benign in this game. Following such visit, some rules of the game have to be adjusted to prove that China`s interests in Bangladesh are not at stake. Convincingly, we have to prove that Bangladesh is a time-tested reliable partner of China too. In closing, our enmity to none and friendship for all for mutual gains. Also, no masters, but friends.

Dr. Matiur Rahman earned his MA and PhD in Economics from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, USA. He also earned MA in Development Economics from Boston University, USA in addition to BA (Honors) and MA in Economics from Dhaka University, Bangladesh. Currently, he is MBA Director and JP Morgan Chase Endowed Professor of Finance at McNeese State University, Lake Charles, Louisiana,USA. He is a prolific researcher and published scores of articles in economics, finance and business in peer reviewed academic journals in USA and abroad.