Prospects for Bangladesh-Russia cooperation

On January 25, 2022, the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and the Russian Federation mark a remarkable date: on this day, 50 years ago, less than a year after Bangladesh’s declaration of independence, our countries established diplomatic relations.

Recognition of Bangladesh by the Soviet Union made direct bilateral political dialogue possible. In March 1972, the founder and first president of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman visited Moscow, where he met with General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Leonid Brezhnev, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet Nikolai Podgorny, Chairman of the Council of Ministers Alexei Kosygin, and other officials. During the trip, the intergovernmental agreements were reached on economic and technical cooperation, on the provision of free assistance for the restoration of navigation in the seaports of Bangladesh, and on air services, trade, agreements on the commercial representation of the USSR in Bangladesh, as well as on culture and scientific cooperation. Some of the treaties signed at the time are still in force.

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At the request of the Government of Bangladesh, in April 1972, Special Expedition 12 of the Soviet Navy was sent to the Bay of Bengal. She was given the task of clearing the port of Chittagong of mines and shipwrecked people left after the end of the liberation war in December 1971. Despite the extraordinary technical complexity, she was accomplished, allowing local authorities to quickly ensure the vital supplies. food and other necessities for the war-torn country. Unfortunately, it was not without losses: on July 13, 1973, a senior sailor of the PM-156 floating workshop of the Kamchatka Flotilla, Yury Redkin, was killed in the line of duty. He was buried in Chittagong with military honors on the territory of the Naval Academy.

It is gratifying that after half a century, Bangladeshi friends continue to cherish the memory of the feat of Soviet sailors. Such a delicate attitude towards our common history deserves respect.

In 1971-1975, the USSR provided Bangladesh with significant economic aid. In particular, Soviet specialists took part in the construction of Ghorashal TPP, which still remains one of the largest in the country.

On December 29, 1991, Bangladesh recognized the Russian Federation as a successor state to the USSR. A new impetus for bilateral cooperation was given by the advent of the Awami League government in Dhaka in 2009, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who followed the cooperation policy with Russia of his father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

In 2010, on the sidelines of the International Forum for Tiger Conservation, a meeting took place between Sheikh Hasina and Vladimir Putin, then President of the Government of the Russian Federation. In 2013, the Prime Minister made an official visit to Moscow. In 2016, she met Dmitry Medvedev, President of the Government of the Russian Federation, at the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit in Ulaanbaatar. These contacts have defined the key orientations of our bilateral cooperation for the years to come.

The heads of our foreign ministries have also organized a number of meetings. The recent talks between Sergei Lavrov and Dr. AK Abdul Momen, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, took place in July 2021 in Tashkent, on the sidelines of the international conference “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity, Challenges and Opportunities”. The two ministries also have bilateral consultation mechanisms on international issues and the fight against terrorism.

Contacts have been established between our supreme legislative bodies. The participation of Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury in the 2nd International Forum of “Development of Parliamentarism” in June-July 2019 and the 3rd Eurasian Women’s Forum in October 2021 are the most significant recent events in this field. Since November, a parliamentary friendship group on relations with the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation has been functioning in the parliament of Bangladesh.

Our countries share the attachment to the fundamental principles of international cooperation set out in the Charter of the United Nations. The proximity and often the similarity of approaches to topical issues on the global and regional agenda guarantee the successful coordination of our efforts within the UN and other multilateral structures. For example, Bangladesh and Russia jointly oppose the glorification of Nazism, the placing of weapons in space and the use of ICTs for criminal purposes.

The Rosatom State Corporation contributes significantly to the development of the energy sector in Bangladesh. It participates in the implementation of the largest joint project, the construction of the Rooppur nuclear power plant (NPP) in Pabna, financed by the state credit granted by Russia. Last October saw the installation of the reactor pressure vessel for unit 1 of the plant. Typically, two units with a total capacity of 2,400 megawatts should be commissioned. The current experience of cooperation in the peaceful use of atomic energy can serve as a basis for further cooperation, if the Bangladeshi side decides to start construction of the second nuclear power plant.

Bilateral trade turnover is constantly growing. In 2020, despite the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, it reached $2.4 billion. The statistical data for the first half of 2021 gives hope that this bar can be exceeded. Supplies of wheat (in 2021, 400,000 tonnes) and fertilizers (180,000 tonnes), metals, machinery and equipment form the basis of our exports, while clothing, knitwear and seafood are the major items of Bangladeshi imports.

The Intergovernmental Commission for Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, created in 2017, has streamlined our economic ties.

Russian-made military equipment is in service with the Bangladesh Army and the Bangladesh Air Force. Our partners purchased the Yak-130 combat training aircraft, Mi-17 and Mi-171 helicopters, BTR-80 armored personnel carriers, MiG-29 combat aircraft and other special equipment .

More than 6,000 citizens of Bangladesh have graduated from Soviet and Russian universities. Today, they are employed in almost all spheres of economic and social life in their country and hold leadership positions in government agencies, private companies and cultural associations. Our bilateral cooperation in the field of education is still valid today, in particular thanks to the continuous training of qualified personnel for the operation of the Rooppur nuclear power plant. In 2021, Russia granted 70 scholarships under its government quota to Bangladeshi students.

The Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia, also known as RUDN University, is a traditional partner of foreign educational organizations. In March 2021, RUDN University and University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote cooperation in the humanities and natural and social sciences. Negotiations between Tyumen State University and Dhaka University Institute of Modern Languages ​​on cooperation in teaching Russian as a foreign language through advanced teaching methods have reached their final stage. It should be mentioned that Bangladeshis are showing a growing interest in learning Russian. For example, approximately 200 students attend Russian courses each year at the Russian House in Dhaka.

Bangladesh and Russia have similar positions on inter-religious dialogue and the fight against religious extremism, which is manifested in our cooperation under the auspices of the Russia-Islamic World Strategic Vision Group.

Cultural exchanges, more than anything else, promote affinity and better mutual understanding between our peoples. Unfortunately, over the past two years, the Covid-19 pandemic has hampered activities in this area. Nevertheless, this work is still in progress. On November 4, 2021, the Russian Embassy in Dhaka hosted a concert by the Moscow Cossack Choir on the occasion of National Unity Day, as well as the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence and the 100th anniversary of the birth of its founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

The People’s Republic of Bangladesh is an important partner of Russia in South Asia. Our relationships are strong and their potential is immense. All the conditions are met to fully exploit it.

Igor Morgulov is the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

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