Webinar on Geopolitics of the Pandemic The Bangladesh Scene

08 May 2021
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COVID-19, the pandemic and its vicious outcome is taking lives every day. This dangerous virus has not only brought disastrous consequences to the health sector of any country, it is also responsible for massive socio-economic and political changes. The impact of this change is visible in the geo-politics and Bangladesh is no exception. In this crucial time, it is necessary to rethink and realign the socio-economic and geo-political policies of our country. With the invitation from Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Bangladesh, Professor Dr. Ali Riaz has published a comprehensive research paper on the possible solution and policies that could be taken up by Bangladesh to continue developing during this situation. A webinar was organized by the Centre for Governance Studies on Saturday, 8th May, on “Geo-politics of the pandemic: The Bangladesh Scene” to highlight the critical analysis of the paper with distinguished participants. The webinar was moderated by the Professor of Development Studies of University of Dhaka and Senior Fellow of CGS Dr. Asif Shahan.

The distinguished participants of the webinar were- Professor Dr. Ali Riaz, The Resident Representative of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Bangladesh Felix Kolbitz, Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue Dr. Fahmida Khatun, Professor Amena Mohsin of Department of International Relations of the University of Dhaka, Secretary of Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) Dr.Badiul Alam Majumdar and former Election- Commissioner Brigadier General Dr. M. Shakhawat Hossain (Retd). 

The first speaker Felix Kolbitz tried to portray a picture of the activities of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) and its contribution to develop the socio-economic sector in Bangladesh. In this regard, this organization have been organizing various seminars, trainings and policy-dialogues in Bangladesh. The pandemic has brought about massive changes in the socio-economic as well as political aspect of the country and his discussion focused on the importance of the research paper and its implementation. 

The key-note speaker of the webinar was Professor Dr. Ali Riaz. He explained the summary of the paper. How the pandemic has been affecting the world for more than a year and Bangladesh being a part of it as well, as a result there is a change in the geo-political aspect of the world. His paper highlights on the four main elements while discussing the current scenario-inherent weakness of global, questioning the nature of the globalization, disruption of supply-chain as a new order of integration would be thought out, public health infrastructure question came up and the fourth element that came up was what would be the community cost. Considering the external relations of Bangladesh, the country has to deal with two things- economic recovery plan and governance. He also mentioned, even though the relation between Bangladesh and USA is steady, we’re witnessing some China-leaning. In case of economic and strategic sense China will be more significant in the coming years for Bangladesh. He places government as the principal actor as the government takes the economic policies. The last national budget was criticized as he didn’t consider it viable in the time of the pandemic. The second actor is the business sector as the sector’s influence in policy making and politics has increased. He also considered the opposition party as an actor though the efficiency of such party in our country is absent. Regional actors could be India and China. The importance of equidistance to maintain a steady relation with all the countries was mentioned but there might also be a possibility of radicalization. 

Furthermore, Professor Amena Mohsin agreed with Dr. Ali Riaz on the context of Bangladesh maintaining an equidistance with the outside world and ruling out the possibility of turning radical. Considering the rising economic and Bangladesh’s geographical situation, the country is in a critical state with India, China and USA. 

Dr. Fahmida Khatun emphasized on the importance of cooperation between regions. During the pandemic, countries have resorted within their nationalistic view.The monetary measures taken up by the government hasn’t been adequate, because it is mostly loan basis and hasn’t been looked from a broader perspective. She suggested that the budget has to be not just for health sector, but other arenas has to be in mind because of the future uncertainty. 

On the other hand, Dr. M. Shakhwat Hossain pointed out the collapse of the public health system and situation in the country. The failure in regards to the vaccine policy and the dependency of Bangladesh on just one country were discussed. He talked about the Rohingya issue and the good relation between Myanmar and China and the uncertainty about the relation between Myanmar and Bangladesh in this regard after the pandemic. 

Dr. Badiul Alam Majumdar talked about the importance of cooperation in tackling the COVID-19 situation. Failures of organizations like World Bank in monitoring governments was pointed out. 

Former Foreign State Minister Abul Hasan Chowdhury also took part in the open discussion. The significance of “Friendship towards all and malice towards none” and the equidistance scenario of Bangladesh was emphasized.

Moreover, Former Ambassador M. Shafiullah expressed his concern about Bangladesh’s capability in maintaining a steady relation with both India and China and the uncertainty of Bangladesh’s ability to maintain an equidistance with all the countries. A policy to protect the country’s sovereignty was recommended.  

Click the link to download Key Note Paper

Watch the full webinar here