• Naval Headquarters Complex, Banani, Dhaka–1213, Bangladesh
  • 8:30am - 3:30pm
    Sunday to Thursday

The Maritime Dimension of Foreign Policy Choices of Bangladesh: Securing National Interests Amidst Geopolitical Conundrum

Nur Ahmed
Bangladesh Institute of Maritime Research and Development

Keywords: Maritime, Domain, Foreign, Policy, Indo-Pacific, Region,


The Bay of Bengal, or broadly defining, the Indian Ocean region, has become a major hotspot for geopolitical tussles among major powers. Like other littoral states, Bangladesh also faces enormous external pressures to shape its critical foreign policy choices. This paper aims to surface the maritime dimension of these choices and to provide a comprehensive analysis of those choices. It analyses the choices through the Neoclassical Realist framework and hence, takes both the domestic and external variables into consideration. The paper argues that Bangladesh has been articulating national interests based on the required variables for its economic development and this principle has been guiding its foreign policies in the maritime domain. Based on the current trajectories, the study also provides a brief outline of the future challenges for Bangladesh. 


Banerjee, S. (2018). Emerging Structure of Maritime Security in the Bay of Bengal. https://www.vifindia.org/sites/default/files/Emerging-Structure-of-Maritime- Security-in-the-Bay-of-Bengal_0.pdf.

Bateman, S. (2012). Conclusion: Identifying Common Maritime Challenges and Priorities. In Maritime Challenges and Priorities in Asia: Implications for Regional Security. Edited by Sam Bateman and Joshua Ho. pp.1–337. New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203116272.

Bdnews24.com. (2021). China Urges Bangladesh Not to Join US-Led Quad Alliance, Warns of ‘Substantial Damage’. Bdnews24.com. https://bdnews24.com/ bangladesh/2021/05/10/china-urges-bangladesh-not-to-join-us-led-quadalliance-warns-of-substantial-damage.

BETS Consulting Services Ltd. (2018). Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) (Port) for JICA Data Collection Survey on the Matarbari Port Development.

Brewster , D. (2022). Maritime Security Challenges in the Bay of Bengal . Personal Interview.

Brewster, D. (2015). An Indian Ocean Dilemma: Sino-Indian Rivalry and China’s Strategic Vulnerability in the Indian Ocean. Journal of the Indian Ocean Region, 11 (1), 48–59. https://doi.org/10.1080/19480881.2014.994822.

Brewster, D. (2017). Silk Roads and Strings of Pearls: The Strategic Geography of China’s New Pathways in the Indian Ocean. Geopolitics, 22 (2), 269–91. https://doi.org/10.1080/14650045.2016.1223631.

Dutta, S. (2021). Forging a Bay of Bengal Community is the Need of the Hour. East-West Centre. https://www.eastwestcenter.org/publications/forging-bay-bengal- community-the-need-the-hour.

Ferdous, J. & Islam, M. (2020). Politics and Possibilities of Deep Sea Port in Bangladesh: A Special Focus on Matarbari Port Project. International Journal of Research and Scientific Innovation (IJRSI), VII (X), 82-89.

Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh , The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh (1972).

Hasan, M., Ruud, A. E. (2020, October 9). Bangladesh’s Balancing Act between Great Powers. The Interpreter. https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/ bangladesh-balancing-act-between-great-powers.

apan International Cooperation Agency (2018). Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) (Port) for JICA Data Collection Survey on The Matarbari Port Development. Retrieved from https://www.jica.go.jp/english/our_work/social_ environmental/id/asia/south/bangladesh/c8h0vm0000bikdzb-att/c8h0vm0000e1ubre.pdf.

Japan International Cooperation Agency (2022). JICA Bangladesh profile. JICA Bangladesh. Retrieved from https://www.jica.go.jp/bangladesh/english/office/ others/c8h0vm00009u4ya3-att/profile.pdf.

Kalita, P. (2023). Myanmar’s Sittwe port, northeast’s new trade route, set to open on May 9. The Times of India. Retrieved 02 July 2023, from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/guwahati/myanmars-sittwe-port-nes-new-trade-route-set-to-open-on-may-9/articleshow/100026046.cms.

Lee, S. (2020). Unequal rivals: China, India, and the struggle for influence in Southeast Asia. In Bajpai, K., Ho, S. and Miller, M. C., eds., Routledge Handbook of China-India Relations. London and New York: Routledge, p. 441.

Mahmed, F. and Satoh, R. (2023). Bangladesh deep-sea port promises strategic anchor for Japan, India. Nikkei Asia. Retrieved 11 June 2023, from https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/Bangladesh-deep-sea-port-promises-strategic-anchor-for-Japan-India.

Parry, M. (2022). Australia’s Strategic View of the Indo Pacific. EPRS: European Parliamentary Research Service. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes /BRIE/2022/698917/EPRS_BRI(2022)698917_EN.pdf.

Plagemann, J. (2021). Small States and Competing Connectivity Strategies: What Explains Bangladesh’s Success in Relations with Asia’s Major Powers?. The Pacific Review, 35 (4), 1–29. https://doi.org/10.1080/09512748.2021.1908410.

Punch, K. F. (1998). Introduction to Social Research: Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches. SAGE Publications, p. 150.

Radio Free Asia. (2019). China To Help Bangladesh Build Submarine Base, Senior Official Says. Radio Free Asia. Retrieved from https://www.rfa.org/english/news/ china/bangladesh-submarine-09122019173617.html.

Ramachandran, S. (2020, October 12). Bangladesh Buries the Sonadia Deep-Sea Port Project. The Diplomat. https://thediplomat.com/2020/10/bangladesh- buriesthe-sonadia-deep-sea-port-project/.

Ranjan, V. (2016). Australia and India in Asia: When ‘Look West’ Meets Act East. Strategic Analysis, 40 (5), 425–39.

Riaz, A. (2020). As the Sino-Indian Rivalry Heats up, Watch Bangladesh Carefully. The Atlantic Council. https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/newatlanticist/ as-the-sino-indian-rivalry-heats-up-watch-bangladesh-carefully/.

Rostow, W. W. (1958). The National Interest and Objectives. Naval War College Review, 10(8), 1–24. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44640536.

Saimum, R. (2020). The prospect of Belt And Road Initiative in the context of Bangladesh. China Report, 56(4), 464-483.

Shigeta, S. (2023). Japan weighs providing foreign aid for military-linked projects. Nikkei Asia. Retrieved from https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International- relations/Japan-weighs-providing-foreign-aid-for-military-linked-projects.

Singh, A. G. (2016). India, China and the US: Strategic Convergence in the Indo- Pacific. Journal of the Indian Ocean Region, 12 (2), 161–76. https://doi.org/ 10.1080/19480881.2016.1226752.

The Business Standard. (2021). US took note of China's warning to Bangladesh against quad: Official. The Business Standard. Retrieved from https://www.tbsnews .net/bangladesh/us-took-note-chinas-warning-bangladesh-against-quad-245479.

The Daily Star (2020). Bangladesh and US to enter maritime cooperation soon: Foreign minister. The Daily Star. Retrieved from https://www.thedailystar.net/ country/news/bangladesh-and-us-enter-maritime-cooperation-soon-foreign-minister-2009293

The Daily Star. (2019). Coast Guard Global Summit: Japan, Bangladesh discuss maritime security issue. The Daily Star. Retrieved from https://www.thedailystar .net/country/japan-bangladesh-discuss-maritime-security-issue-1831789.

The Daily Star. (2021). Bangabandhu’s Foreign Policy Still a Guiding Principle. The Daily Star, https://www.thedailystar.net/news/bangladesh/diplomacy/news/ bangabandhus-foreign-policy-still-guidingprinciple-2163241.

The Daily Star. (2022). ‘Unsustainable Projects Lead to Debt Traps’. The Daily Star. https://www.thedailystar.net/news/bangladesh/diplomacy/news/unsustainable -projects-lead-debt-traps-2967551.

The New Age. (2020). Bangladesh Formally Scraps Sonadia Deep Seaport Project. The New Age. Retrieved from https://www.newagebd.net/print/article/115005.

The U.S. Embassy in Bangladesh. (2020). Remarks by Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun. News and Events. https://bd.usembassy.gov/remarks-by-deputy -secretary-of-state-stephen-biegun/.

The World Bank (2023). South Asia. Retrieved 11 June 2023, from https://www.worldbank.org/en/region/sar/overview.

Upadhyaya, S. (2018). Maritime Security Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region: Assessment of India’s Maritime Strategy to Be the Regional ‘Net Security Provider’. University of Wollongong. https://ro.uow.edu.au/%0Atheses1/297.

US Department of State (2022). U.S. Security Cooperation with Bangladesh. Retrieved from https://www.state.gov/u-s-security-cooperation-with-bangladesh/.

Walt, S. M. (2014). Alliance formation and the balance of world power. In Realism Reader (pp. 145-149). Routledge.

Waltz, K. N. (1993). The emerging structure of international politics. International security, 18(2), 44-79.

Yasmin, L. (2022). Bangladesh at 50: The Rise of A Bangladesh That Can Say No. Perspectives. https://doi.org/https://apcss.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Security- nexus-Bangladesh-at-50-Jan-2022.pdf.

Zaman, R. U. (2022). Bangladesh’s Quest for Development and the Sino-Indian Contestation. In Crossing the Himalayas: Buddhist Ties, Regional Integration and Great-Power Rivalry (pp. 133-155). Springer, Singapore.

The Maritime Dimension of Foreign Policy Choices of Bangladesh: Securing National Interests Amidst Geopolitical Conundrum