Book review: Imtiaz Hussain (ed.). 2019. South Asia in Global Power Rivalry: Inside-out Appraisals from Bangladesh

AuthorRyan Shaffer
Date01 April 2022
Published date01 April 2022
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews 169
Imtiaz Hussain (ed.). 2019. South Asia in Global Power Rivalry: Inside-out
Appraisals from Bangladesh. Palgrave Macmillan. Xiii + 320
pp. (Hardcover). ISBN: 9789811372391.
DOI: 10.1177/23477970221076766
Imtiaz Hussain’ recent anthology, South Asia in Global Power Rivalry, explores
Bangladesh’s position in the ongoing competition for influence in South Asia.
Surrounded by larger regional and global powers, Bangladesh is ‘re-emerging’ as
a geostrategic country, which, according to the book’s contributors, gives it a
unique perspective on international politics. The anthology has its origins in a
2017 conference in Dhaka with the book successfully shedding light on
Bangladesh’s bilateral relations, regional competition and economics. Hussain’s
introduction lays out the book’s theoretical framework contrasting the ‘outside-in’
and ‘inside-out’ perspectives, writing ‘those who believe national interests to be
the critical determinant rally to realism theory (the “inside-out” view)’ and ‘those
who believe the global power distribution system to be that determinant embrace
neo-realism (the “outside-in” counterpart)’ [emphasis in original] (p. 3). He
describes how the chapters employ three different theoretical ‘families’—realism,
liberalism and mixed—and concludes that in the book ‘liberalist boundaries have
themselves been very loose historically, dynamics in this area slide into the mixed,
with fewer caveats than from realism’ (p. 23). Additionally, Hussain describes
bilateral relations as concentric circles centred around Bangladesh from the most
important to least, but all having levels of significance.
The book’s first half explores the ‘innermost circle’ countries with attention to
bilateral relations and international tensions. M. Ashab Uddin examines
Bangladesh–India relations in the policy realm by focusing on geostrategic, trade,
border management, transit, terrorism and drug trafficking issues. He concludes
that Bangladesh ‘needs to showcase its progress and indispensability so that India
can feel the growing importance of its neighbor’ and provides eight
recommendations, such as expanding Track II diplomacy, to improve Bangladesh–
India relations (p. 44). Next, Manzurul Mannan surveys Bangladesh’s new
economic connections with China in the context of historical ‘footprints’ and
focuses on boundary-defying subaltern groups. He surveys the ancient and
modern Silk Roads, finding the new transport and communication connections
will, in part, ‘transform major ethnic and terrorist groups into allies against the
states’ that ‘will create conditions for the disintegration of South Asian states’ as
subversive groups form alliances that could demarcate political borders (p. 70).
Also looking at a contemporary political and security issue involving Bangladesh,
Hossain Ahmed Taufiq analyses China, India and Myanmar’s strategic interests
surrounding the Rohingya crisis. He describes China and India’s competing
agendas for resources in Myanmar that will likely cause political and diplomatic
challenges for Myanmar’s government in the future.
Turning to comparative analysis and trade, the authors examine ‘mid-stream
circle’ countries with analysis about trade and gender relations. Imtiaz Hussain
delves into China’s agreements with South Asian countries, discussing the

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