From Multilateralism to Minilateralism: Connecting South Asia with Southeast Asia through Bangladesh

a Syed Raiyan Amir and b Md. Anwarul Azim

a Research Associate, the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA), Dhaka, Bangladesh.

b Assistant Professor, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.


Bangladesh is a key participant in a number of inter-and intra-regional connectivity initiatives, including the Trans-Asian Railway and Asian Highway, due to its geographic location. Bangladesh is presently at the center of the main regional and sub-regional frameworks because it was a founding member of the two regional cooperation processes in the sub-region—SAARC and BIMSTEC. Since this is the case, regional connectivity is crucial to Bangladesh’s foreign policy. Beyond the bigger regional institutions, Bangladesh has demonstrated its willingness and adaptability to collaborate with sub-regional entities to further the connectivity goal. Here comes the concept of minilateralism which implies countries act on smaller scales for larger impacts. Bangladesh has likewise implemented a diverse strategy for connectivity over the years, emphasizing both the construction of hard infrastructure and the promotion of soft connectedness through an increase in people-to-people interactions in the area.

This overview explores the evolution of Bangladesh’s connection strategy over time while also noting the difficulties and advancements in putting some regional connectivity initiatives, including the land ports and regional inland waterways, into practice. It emphasizes in its conclusion that the minilateral ties between the nations will be crucial to the success of various connectivity initiatives both within and outside of South Asia where all facilitate the bigger concept of multilateralism. This research paper aims to explore the potential of Bangladesh as a catalyst for regional integration in South and Southeast Asia. However, over the last decade, South Asia has experienced a significant shift towards regional integration, but progress has been slow due to some approaches which need time and consensus from many parties. The emergence of sub-regional initiatives like the BBIN is attempting to overcome these challenges where one can notice the significance of minilateralism. This paper will analyze the role Bangladesh has played in promoting regional connectivity and fostering stronger economic and political ties between South and Southeast Asia the paper will provide insights that can inform policy and decision-making in the region, promoting greater economic cooperation and political stability across South and Southeast Asia through connectivity emphasizing the concept of minilateralism.

Keywords: Minilateralism, Multilateralism, BIMSTEC, BBIN, ASEAN, South Asia with Southeast Asia, Sub-regional Connectivity, Regional Connectivity