With Sheikh Hasina’s reelection in 2019, Indian ventures have seen a sharp decline in Bangladesh. The strain on their long-standing diplomatic relations welcomes doubts about the seemingly irreplaceable role that India had enjoyed. This creates room for Pakistan, with the support of China, to create a new, and perhaps more powerful, regional economic bloc, offering insurmountable benefits to all stakeholders.

After allotting India’s airport terminal contract to a Chinese company, refusing to set an appointment with Indian officials and labelling their immigrants as illegal, it is safe to say that Bangladesh’s dealings with India have taken a nosedive. In this vacuum, it is imperative to make decisions that will present the CPEC-dominated bloc as an attractive alternative to years of Indian backing.

Already, the first trade deal, pertaining to supply of onions, took place between Bangladesh and Pakistan after 15 years. Similarly, the meeting between the Pakistan’s High Commissioner and Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister alluded to the possibility of a long-term relationship—augmented by Chinese-supported development—between the two countries. These are steps that have been taken in the right direction. Promoting bilateralism between the two countries would allow for PM Hasina to neutralise her pro-Pakistan political opposition, the Bangladesh National Party (BNP). Not only would independent Chinese-funded development take place, like it already has through projects like the Belt and Road Initiative, but Bangladesh would also benefit indirectly through CPEC and other regional trading agreements. Even the slightest support from all states involved in this partnership will allow for both countries and the rest of the region to capitalise on their untapped strengths and improve their standing in the region. That looks like a win-win situation.

Expanding from pre-existing economic holds and constraints will aid both the developing economies of Bangladesh and Pakistan as they branch out. For India, both friend and foe alike have had enough with its grand designs if becoming a regional power. It is time for them to join hands and work together; the only way India would get a seat at this table is if it starts respecting neighbours.