Bangladesh holding a critical location in the Bay of Bengal a nation of over 162 million has carved a niche through strong economic performance in the past decade and a half.
strategic environment is relatively benign despite a semi-hostile Myanmar which is internal turmoil post military coup in February 01. The country occupying climate vulnerable flat lands in the Bay of Bengal faces regional rivalry between India and China and increasingly between the QUAD (India, Australia, Japan and the United States) and China.
India Bangladesh relations have remained on a high at the political level even though there are many challenges including border management [allegations of killings by India’s Border Security Force (BSF), smuggling and so on], migration, sharing of river waters and shelter to militants which have been managed so far.
On the internal security front radical extremism remains a major concern with tipping impact on political governance with communal overtones having potential of violence against the minorities sporadically.
The large Rohingya bulge of refugees numbering over one million lodged in Chittagong Hill Tracts is a major concern for Bangladesh as there are no signs that Myanmar will be repatriating these in the near future.
With possibility of dwindling support of the international community in the wake of COVID 19 economic constraints raise the spectre of a draw-in from the country’s economy.
Political stability is provided by a strong Awami League government led by the experienced four time Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina holding reins of governance. There are authoritarian overtones which is not surprising.
A weak opposition has meant that the government has got away with poor management of COVID 19 with repeated waves leading to increase in the number of cases as well as fatalities.
On the economic front World Bank April Update on Bangladesh highlights impact of COVID 19 pandemic on the economy.
GDP growth is down to an estimated 2.4 percent in FY20.
Radical Islamist extremism remains a major concern for Bangladesh. The base arises from large number of Islamist preaching in madrassah the network of which is widespread and even a small percentage can cause turbulence.
Communal violence is also a major factor in internal security of the country. Hefazat protesters attacked Hindu temples, govt offices and police stations in March this year. In March again a Facebook post by Hindu man criticizing
The United Nations has recorded Bangladesh as one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of global warming and climate change due to its unique geographic location, dominance of floodplains
On defence and security front, Bangladesh government under the Awami League has undertaken an extensive plan of capability building known as Forces Goal 2030 launched as early as in 2019 and revised in 2012 and 2017 which is ongoing.
Short Term Projections
Political. Stable governance provided by the Awami League is expected to limit the level of political turbulence in the short term. How radical elements play out who may be supported externally remains to be seen?
International and Regional Relations. A critical challenge for Bangladesh is management of the Rohingya repatriation and in the absence of the same drawing international and regional support for their sustenance.
Economy. Bangladesh had the best prospects amongst South Asian economies post COVID 19 and was expected to have a 5 percent plus growth, this is now decelerated due to the COVID 19 bulge in July August, thus recovery remains a concern.
Internal Security. The Taliban’s take over in Afghanistan is likely to have a spiralling impact on terrorist groups – the Neo JMB and the Ansar al Islam with some fighters reported to be looking at taking support. Tightening counter terror controls are thus essential and will determine the way ahead.
Defence. Defence focus will remain on capability and capacity building of the armed forces with fulfillment of UN Peacekeeping missions and supporting the government on management of COVID 19 and the development front.