50 years of Bangladesh-Russia ties: Focus should be on trade, connectivity

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Published on February 10, 2022
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Barek Kaiser:

The diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and the Soviet Union were established on January 25, 1972. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, bilateral relations with Russia have improved remarkably. There is an embassy of Russia in Dhaka. Also, Bangladesh maintains an embassy in Moscow.

Currently, the two countries share close military, economic, political and cultural relations. On January 25 this year, the relations between two countries marked 50 years. A new era of Dhaka-Moscow alliance has been dawned with the signing of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant collaboration agreement.

The relations date back to the days of our War of Liberation. Russia helped Bangladesh clinch the victory in the War of Liberation by preventing the arrival of the US Navy in the Bay of Bengal. In the wake of our independence, the Russian Navy played a special role in freeing the Chittagong Port of mines, and thus, reviving its economic activities.

In retrospect, the relations could have expanded and cooperation deepened, had the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman been not killed on August 15, 1975. The relations began to sour after the incident.

Bangladesh currently has a $5 billion arms deal with Russia. Recently, the sovereignty of Bangladesh has been recognised in the vast area of Bay of Bengal, paving the way for harnessing an immense potential of vast marine resource.  Russia has hundreds of years of experience in marine resource management. It can offer its experience and expertise to help Bangladesh.

As the government has emphasised on rail connectivity throughout the country, it will help foster the economic development. Russia is also skilled in developing and managing railways and has the expertise to offer in this regard, too.

In the gas sector, cooperation has already started. It is an area that offers immense possibilities. For Bangladesh, the market of Russia and the Eastern Europe has a huge potential. Bangladeshi exporters are yet to touch this vast area. Bangladesh's garment market, for example, can make a few billion dollars by exporting their quality products. Russia and Eastern Europe produce wheat, cotton, sugar, fertiliser, chemical and mineral items, which Bangladesh can import.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Russia in 2013 when she met with the Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. In 2009, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had visited St. Petersburg and met with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. During the 2014 Crimea Crisis, Bangladesh adopted a neutral stance, when Western countries were fiercely opposing Russia.

Russia has expressed interest in importing mangoes from Bangladesh. Russia's Ambassador to Bangladesh Alexander V.Mantytskiy expressed this interest during a meeting with Agriculture Minister at the Secretariat on August 20, 2021. Russia has expressed interest in importing mangoes from Bangladesh. Bangladesh has expressed interest in signing a memorandum of understanding to import fertilizer from Russia. 

The Russian government is providing scholarships to Bangladeshi students. Many students from this country are going to Russia to pursue higher degrees; they are becoming proficient in various subjects including nuclear science. Hopefully, the Russian government will increase this opportunity in the future. 

Minister-Counsellor of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Bangladesh Ms. Ekaterina A. Semenova said, today while paying respect to our past and its achievements, we are enthusiastic and full of ideas for the future. Rooppur nuclear power plant constructed by the Russian Rosatom company is going to be a game-changer in the country's socio-economic scenario. When finished, it will add 2400 MW to the national power grid and enhance the Bangladeshi environmental agenda. Gazprom has been drilling well across the country thus contributing to the energy security of this country. 

Minister-Counsellor also said, our trade turnover has been hitting records reaching $2.3 billion dollar in 2020 and already exceeding $2.6 billion in January-November 2021. Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation serves as a major vehicle for exploring and implementing new promising areas of cooperation.

Minister-Counsellor said, Mutual trust, respect and equality have always been integral elements of Russia-Bangladesh ties. Dhaka remains our trusted partner in the international arena where we cooperate on a broad variety of issues crucial for global stability and prosperity. We share approaches towards multilateralism, fair global financial and economic architecture and the dialogue of civilizations.

The cultural link between Russia and Bengal dates back to the eighteenth century. Aside from the political and economic diplomacy, the importance of cultural diplomacy is immensely needed in this world. Cultural contact and communications are essential to maintaining a close and warm relation between two countries.

Likewise, the friendship between Bangladesh and Russia will only be strengthened through cultural engagement. In 1972, Russia signed a cultural agreement with Bangladesh. In accordance with the agreement, Bangladesh celebrated the Russian Cultural Day in 2014. The next year it was Russia that celebrated Bangladesh's Cultural Day. The signs of the warmth in relations are already here.

Writer: PhD Researcher at Peoples' Friendship University, Moscow, Russia

Source: Bangladesh Post