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Canada intends to become a long-term partner in the Indo-Pacific

Canadian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Dr Lilly Nicholls has said her country’s Indo-Pacific strategy recognises that the future of the world is interlinked.

She was speaking at a roundtable jointly organized by BIPSS and Canadian High Commission on the contemporary issue titled ‘Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy: A New Horizon of Opportunity.’

In her opening remarks, High Commissioner Nicholls highlighted the significance of the Indo-Pacific region where two-third of the world population lives with the prospect of achieving half the global GDP by 2024.

“Indo-Pacific Strategy is an important foreign policy of Canada through a generational global shift,” said the Canadian envoy.

She mentioned that in the first pillar titled “Peace and Security”, the objective of Canada is open, free, and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

“Bangladesh and Canada both are leading peacekeeping nations with a National Action Plan to be achieved by 2025,” she said, adding that the other major pillars of Canadian strategy were the economic ties, green future, and people to people ties.

“In an increasingly connected world, where global challenges require collective efforts, Canada has recognized the importance of the Indo-Pacific region and has developed a comprehensive strategy to engage with it,” said President of Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) Major General (retd) ANM Muniruzzaman while moderating the roundtable held in Dhaka today.

He mentioned that the Indo-Pacific region, spanning from the eastern coast of Africa to the western coast of the Americas, is home to some of the fastest-growing economies, dynamic cultures, and emerging geopolitical challenges.
“Indo-Pacific region serves as a crucial hub for global trade, innovation, and cooperation. At its core, Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy is built upon 3 extensive pillars starting from security, prosperity to diplomacy,” he said.

The Indo-Pacific region is home to 40 economies, over 4 billion people and an estimated $47 trillion in economic activities.

Former foreign secretary Md. Touhid Hossain said Canada seeks a peaceful Indo-Pacific Strategy where 40 countries are there except for Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

He highlighted that national interest is most important in the international arena and geopolitics, no matter what the values.

“That is why sticking to the principles and long-term interest matters. Canada seeks peaceful presence in the Indo-Pacific, as does Bangladesh, as both countries have a shared commitment to the existing rule-based order where maritime security is also a prime concern.”

Parvez Karim Abbasi, Assistant Professor of the Economics Department, East-West University, observed that Canada has finally moved from its ambiguous position and has marked its clear position in international politics.

He said Canada, as a country, does not follow a narrative aligned with the United States, rather Canada has its own narrative.

He called to attention that there are potential areas for cooperation between Bangladesh and Canada.

He further added that there is opportunity to tap into the financial development fund and ocean fund, with home-grown expertise and sustainability.

The discussants pointed out several key points related to international relations doctrine, for instance, constructivism and its relevance with the Indo-Pacific Strategy published by Canada.

Among other issues, questions about ease of visa issuance in the context of people-to-people connectivity were raised.

Apart from these, other issues of security, strategy and multilateralism were also raised in the session.

Ambassadors and diplomats based in Dhaka, as well as government officials, defence personnel, academicians, journalists, scholars, and students were present at the event.