How Bangladesh can Leverage the G20 Summit to Forward Its Agenda?

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On 1 December, 2022, India took over the G20’s presidency for 2023, demonstrating India’s growing significance in the global platform. Hosting the G20 summit for the first time will have profound strategic implications for India, providing it with an opportunity to become a centrepiece of the current global political stage and emerge as a global leader of the South. 

In addition to G20 member nations, the G20 Presidency also invites guest countries and international organisations to G20 meetings and summits. Bangladesh is one of the guest nations invited by India to the upcoming G20 summit, which will be held in New Delhi in September 2023.

India has invited nine crucial strategic allies from across the world. And Bangladesh is the only South Asian country invited to the G20 summit, highlighting its growing strategic significance. The invitation, which comes amid a series of energy and connectivity initiatives between the two nations, is likely to enhance ties further.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India intends to transform the G-20 into an influential platform that will ensure greater regional stability and harmony and Bangladesh’s presence at the summit is a vital aspect.

The Ukraine war has provided India with strategic leverage to consolidate its global position than never before. New Delhi has the opportunity to test its clout and credibility in dealing with the fragmented global order.

India’s strategic goal for G20 is to promote its economic and political interests on a global scale. As part of its good neighbourhood policy, there will be more than 200 meetings on a range of topics during the G20. India will also organise the G20 foreign ministers’ summit, which will be held in New Delhi on 1-2 March.

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and western sanctions have had an impact on Bangladesh’s foreign policy, with a reversion to non-alignment. Against such a backdrop, this will be a very exciting summit for Bangladesh as well as India.

India’s grand strategy: Where does Bangladesh fit? 

India sees its G20 participation as a chance to further its economic growth and development while also influencing world policy on crucial issues such as trade, climate change and terrorism. It also intends to utilise the G20 to contain Chinese growth in the region. Hence the G-20 can facilitate India’s grand strategy to influence the South Asian strategic domain.

Though India is the regional power in South Asia, it needs the support of Bangladesh to flourish. For India, Bangladesh’s geostrategic location is the key to maintaining its security and ensuring its access to the volatile Northeast. Bangladesh’s direct access to the Bay of Bengal also makes it a bone of contention in the superpower rivalry. Therefore, India’s containment of the growing Chinese influence in the region cannot be possible by bypassing Bangladesh.

So despite the harsh global climate, Bangladesh remains India’s top priority in its ‘good neighbourhood policy’.

Bangladesh as an emerging voice from the global south may utilise the G-20 summit to advocate for strategically significant issues like climate change, the Rohingya Refugee crisis, the food and energy crisis, and growing polarisation, which not only has regional repercussions but also affects the global security landscape adversely.

Before joining the G-20 platform, PM Sheikh Hasina proposed six proposals, which need to be addressed collectively for sustained global economic growth and development of the “global south”.

“Taking the current global economy amid the Russia-Ukraine war and Covid-19 pandemic into account – it is high time to work collectively for a sustained global economic growth and development of the global south”, she said.

Bangladesh’s growing significance to the G20 

There are several reasons Bangladesh is significant to the G20. Firstly, Bangladesh’s economy is quickly expanding, with GDP growth rates of approximately 7% in recent years. The economy of the nation is wide and diverse, with a concentration on agriculture, clothing, and textiles, as well as a developing service industry.

Bangladesh has a massive and fast-expanding population of approximately 160 million people, making it the world’s seventh most populated country. This big population provides a sizable consumer market as well as a vast pool of human resources.

Bangladesh, as a member of the G20, may bring the challenges it faces to the attention of the world’s major economies and collaborate to develop solutions.

Secondly, Bangladesh is among the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. As a G20 member, Bangladesh can raise awareness about the critical need to solve the climate problem and press the world’s greatest economies into taking action.

Thirdly, Bangladesh belongs to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), both of which promote regional cooperation and integration. And as a member of the G20, it may encourage further regional integration and collaboration in the global economy.

Finally, Bangladesh can be a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia, owing to its geographical location. It provides India with strategic leverage to create a regional hub connecting Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and China through both land and sea.

Bangladesh has been playing the role of the vanguard in domains like the blue economy, environment, poverty alleviation, and SDGs. At the G-20 summit, Bangladesh can engage with the top nations on its climate and refugee diplomacy. As Indian PM Narendra Modi focuses on climate change, counterterrorism and poverty alleviation, Bangladesh can share its insights with the rest of the world regarding its success story in dealing with climate change and pursuing other SDGs goals.

In this increasingly chaotic world, racked by the global pandemic and the Ukraine war, it is the developing countries who suffer the most in spite of having no role in it. Therefore, in today’s context, the role of the G-20 is integral as G-20 members seek to strengthen their cooperation with the developing world.

– Saume Saptaparna Nath and Syed Raiyan Amir is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

Published in The Business Standerd [Link]