The foreign policy of Bangladesh is tied closely to the realities of its economic condition. Since independence the country has required a great deal of foreign assistance in the effort to keep its people fed and to build, for the first time, a modern society. Under these circumstances, it has been important for successive regimes to seek good relations with all nations and to attract economic aid from every possible source (see Foreign Assistance, ch. 3). Bangladesh has therefore cultivated good relations with both the United States and the Soviet Union, and their respective allies, but it has remained unaligned with either superpower. In an attempt to stimulate regional development plans, Bangladesh has been instrumental in organizing regional economic cooperation in South Asia. It has also been active in international organizations, especially in those dedicated to solving the economic problems of the poorer countries of the world.
Despite its poverty and small military capability, Bangladesh has not hesitated to defend its sovereignty and to take strong stands on many international issues. Any hint that India might try to intimidate Bangladesh or encroach on its territorial rights has quickly elicited a powerful, nationalistic response from all levels of society. Furthermore, Bangladesh has annoyed both superpowers by standing against them on various major issues, and relations with both the United States and the Soviet Union have gone through difficult periods. A major component of Bangladesh's self-assertiveness has been evident in its efforts to focus on its Islamic heritage and its quest for fraternity with the worldwide Muslim congregation. The friendly relations it has enjoyed with Islamic nations have led to the receipt of economic aid from wealthy Arab countries.