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Dhaka Tribune

Shahriar: Success in achieving Sonar Bangla, Global Britain depends on how Bangladesh and UK choose to cooperate

A free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific is essential for peace, security, stability and growth, says the minister

Update : 21 Jun 2023, 11:08 AM

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam on Tuesday said Bangladesh and the United Kingdom (UK) have robust cooperation both bilaterally and under the Commonwealth umbrella.

“Our successes in achieving our respective goals of Sonar Bangla and Global Britain will depend on how we choose to cooperate,” he said.

The state minister said Bangladesh-UK partnership is based on progressive values of democracy, secularism, and inclusive societies and they believe that the Indo-Pacific priorities must emanate, primarily, from the Indo-Pacific region.

He was delivering the keynote speech at a roundtable on Bangladesh's Indo-Pacific Outlook and emerging partnership with the UK at the British Parliament.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, UK Prime Minister's Special Representative for Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict and FCDO minister of state (Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and United Nations); Lord Rami Ranger, vice chair of UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Indo-Pacific; members of UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Bangladesh; members of UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Indo-Pacific; and members of both the houses of the UK Parliament were present at the event.

Bangladesh High Commissioner Saida Muna Tasneem was also present on the occasion.

“The Indian Ocean and greater Indo-Pacific region is critically important for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's vision to build a smart and knowledge-based developed Bangladesh by 2041, which we call Smart Bangladesh, and to realise Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's friendship to all and malice towards none foreign policy dictum,” said the state minister.

This has been the core inspiration behind Bangladesh government's Indo Pacific outlook, he said.

A free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific is essential for peace, security, stability and growth, Alam said.

The region hosts more than half of the global population, 65% of whom are young.

Soon, more than half of global production and GDP will also come from this region. The region is also at the centre of technological dynamizm and climate action.

In April this year, Bangladesh unveiled its Indo-Pacific outlook to pursue its foreign policy, economic and maritime security interest in the region as well as to pursue its global aspirations for shared prosperity for all.

“Bangladesh IPO sees opportunities for everyone in the Indo-Pacific region through collaboration, partnership and collective action founded on the already universally accepted global principles enshrined in the UN Charter and other international legal documents,” he said.

The state minister said Bangladesh remains committed to working with regional and international partners to address the challenges of climate change and maritime security to ensure sustainable development and connectivity.

“We are working towards becoming a regional connectivity hub, which will help Bangladesh as well as other neighbouring countries,” Alam said.

Emerging Areas of Partnership

The state minister shed light on the emerging areas of Bangladesh-UK partnership under the Indo-Pacific outlook of Bangladesh:

“We must also build strategic investment partnerships with Indo Pacific partners such as the UK and double UK's DFI into Bangladesh from the present 2.7 billion USD and extend it to green, sustainable, digital and innovative Smart Bangladesh,” he said.

During Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to the UK in May this year, two governments signed a Joint Communique on Aviation Trade and Investment Partnership encompassing the acquisition of passenger and cargo aircraft from Airbus. 

“We believe Bangladesh-UK aviation partnership would be instrumental towards realising our ambition to be a regional air connectivity hub,” Alam said.

Bangladesh and the UK are excellent climate partners and are working closely as founding members of several UK-led climate alliances including the Adaptation Ambition Alliance, Global Ocean Alliance 30/30, High Ambition Coalition for nature and people (HACNP).

The two governments signed the Climate Accord in March this year. 

“Hopefully, it will help to strengthen our climate resilience and prosperity partnership,” said the state minister. 

He said Bangladesh also places top priority on ensuring sustainable use of marine resources, maintaining biodiversity, and marine pollution control. 

“We look forward to having meaningful partnership and cooperation with the UK with the shared goal of having an international ocean governance mechanism,” he said. 

Bangladesh and the UK can work together to unlock the potential of Blue Economy of Bangladesh. 

“On this, we urge the UK's technical support for Bangladesh for ensuring maximum use of our marine resources, keeping our oceans healthy,” he said. 

The two countries recently introduced direct shipping line between the Chittagong port in Bangladesh and Liverpool port in the UK. 

Similar interest is being expressed by other ports in the UK and across the European continent. 

“These are all promising signs that we can definitely broaden our conversation in the connectivity domain,” said the state minister.

He said Bangladesh-UK defence and strategic cooperation have also grown from strength to strength over the past years. 

Bangladesh has procured five C130 J aircrafts from the UK for its Air Force between 2019 and 2022. The first ever Defence Dialogue between the two countries took place in 2022. 

Bangladesh is also cooperating closely with UK and other partners not just bilaterally but in the multilateral context, especially on a number of non-traditional security issues, including counterterrorism, preventing violent extremism, combating trafficking of all sorts, including human trafficking, and combating cybercrimes, said the state minister. 

These all demonstrate a mature security and strategic partnership between Bangladesh and the UK, he said. 

The state minister thanked the UK's continued diplomatic leadership at the UN Security Council on the Rohingya crisis, including its leadership role in the adoption of the first-ever resolution 2669 on situation in Myanmar.

“We look forward to continued meaningful engagement of the UK to resolve the crisis for the sake of peace and stability in the region,” he said.

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