Though still very much occupied domestically, the U.S. continues to exert its influence over the Indian Ocean Region generally and the Bay of Bengal specifically. It continues to solidify its relations with India, and it proposes to combine efforts in the expansion of ports on the Andaman Islands and build naval bases. This will help solidify the U.S. and India’s position against possible expansion attempts from the Chinese Navy. The U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh, Earl R. Miller, stated that on May 29 that the U.S. is eager to increase bilateral trade agreements with Bangladesh, provided that they maintain fair and safe workers rights. The U.S.A supports Malaysia in its recent stand-off with Chinese warships in the South China Sea. They condemn its ‘bullying behaviour’ and attempts to stronghold actors in the region.
Meanwhile, on May 27, China condemns allegations from the U.S. that they are continuing to expand naval power in the region during the coronavirus pandemic. China vows to send medical aid and supplies to Sri Lanka to assist in the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic. China pledges to donate $3 Billion to Indonesia for Coronavirus relief. They pledge to continue to deepen cooperation and strengthen diplomatic ties with the nation. China has sent 2 Coast Guard and patrol boats to support Bangladesh in attempts to prevent illegal migration and prevent the spread of the virus.
China hopes to foster relations with Bangladesh. It reiterates that movements off the coast of Malaysia we’re not a standoff. The boat Haiyang Dizhi 8 was merely conducting normal patrol and activities. They pledge to send 2 more teams of medical experts to Malaysia to help combat Covid-19 and manage the spread of the virus.
Following a $3 billion arms deal with the US last year and talks about expansion of the Andaman Island ports, India seems poised to assert itself more on the international stage. Prime Minister Modi now announced that an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer has been bought from the United States at the cost of $2 billion, to be used in conjunction with its Rajput-class vessels. India continues to be a leading source of coronavirus aid in the world. Having donated 13.000 face masks to Bangladesh this week, India has now sent three prominent immunology experts to Sri Lanka to help contain the spread of the virus there, which has remained under a thousand cases thus far. NIAID director Dr. Fauci commented: “I understand the value of prevention over treatment, but there are many countries that need these people more than Sri Lanka – India itself has over 30.000 cases of coronavirus!”
With Sri Lanka’s trade deficit growing to $850 million due to coronavirus’s effect on tourism, the government announced another hopeful solution. Following the $400 million currency swap with India, China is prepared to lower tariffs on Sri Lankan textiles and metals by half and three quarters respectively. A $50 million deal will see Chinese companies improving roads between factories and the Hambantota port to deal with the expected increase in trade, which an anonymous IMF official called “an exact repetition of the Chinese debt trap in Hambantota port that Sri Lanka walked into in 2008.”
The Bangladeshi government has continued easing its lockdown. After having re-opened 500 garment factories on April 27th, it announced several days later that 10 major shoe factories would also resume production. Finance Minister Montronaloya stated that: “coronavirus will not stop us from providing for ourselves.” WHO experts, however, have expressed concerns over the growth of the virus in Bangladesh, which has now crossed the threshold of 7000 cases.
A boat carrying Rohingya refugees capsized as Bangladeshi coast guard units were forcing it back into Myanmar’s waters, causing 74 people to drown. Foreign Minister Momen stated that this was a tragedy, but also asserted: “Our position is clear: Not a single Rohingya will be allowed to enter. Bangladesh will not take responsibility for Myanmar’s issues.” Many Bangladeshi coast guard officers believe the Rohingya refugees have caused Bangladesh’s recent increase in coronavirus cases.
India sent medical supplies to Bangladesh for the second time in less than a week, now donating 13.000 face masks. This came only three days after China made a deal with Bangladesh to supply it with two coast guard patrol boats, but Bangladeshi officials dismissed any connection.
Aung San Suu Kyi denies the responsibility for Rohingya refugees in the capsized boat from Bangladesh, they do not accept that the Rohingya are citizens of Myanmar, and therefore deny any responsibility towards them. The military blamed the ARSA (Arakhan Rohingya Salvation Army) for terrorist actions that caused the death of a WHO worker in Rakhine. The military rejects the insinuation that the UN has been targeted by their groups, and urges support in condemning terrorist actions in the area. Because of this the government is unable to condone a ceasefire between the army and resistant forces.
After threats from President Trump convinced Indonesia not to buy Chinese and Russian fighter jets earlier this year, and after firing a team of foreign policy advisors that wrongly – and costly – drew up plans exclusively for the South China Sea, Indonesia moves closer to the US again. Defense Minister Subianto announced that a sale of 3 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets was agreed upon, adding that a deal for $150 million dollars’ worth of navy patrol vessels was still being discussed with American manufacturers.
The Indonesian government has come under scrutiny after alleged suppression of dissidents. President Wadodo had received criticism from Christian activist Sudarto for choosing an Islamic cleric as his running mate. Sudarto has been repeatedly jailed for his activism, and was now again arrested for spreading hate speech. Chinese president Yinping jokingly called the New York Times the ‘New Vatican Times’ after it defended the Christian Sudarto, saying that ‘a country’s sovereignty should not be criticized by foreign press’.