Distinguished Professor Dr. Ali Riaz has been quoted on the recent U.S. diplomatic push to strengthen security ties with Bangladesh. Recently, the United States Secretary of Defense Mark Esper made a call to the Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. It is reported that the U.S. is trying to sell military hardware including Apache helicopters and missiles to Bangladesh. The renewed U.S. move came at a time when China is trying to court Bangladesh, and the Indian influence on Bangladesh is reportedly waning.
Riaz said to the Nikkei Asian Review that the timing of the phone call between the U.S. defense secretary and Bangladesh’s prime minister was “very important” because of Dhaka’s warming relations with Beijing. “The growing influence of China in the region, and Bangladesh’s participation in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative, have made it imperative for the U.S. to vigorously pursue its Indo-Pacific agenda,” Riaz said. The report, “US uses defense diplomacy to woo Bangladesh away from China,” mentions that Bangladesh has been buying more arms from the U.S. since the 1990s. China, however, remains the principal supplier to the country.
Although Bangladesh-U.S. talk about the advanced arms purchase began in October last year, it has now taken a new urgency. Riaz also anticipates a shift in U.S. policy toward South Asia, with more engagement, if Joe Biden is elected president in November. However, he believes it “won’t be more accommodative to China’s growing influence.”