Bangladesh, UK heading towards strategic partnership

Sheikh Shahariar Zaman
Published : 07:30, Apr 25, 2019 | Updated : 07:30, Apr 25, 2019

Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque presented a picture of rickshaws to UK Foreign Ministry Permanent Under Secretary Sir Simon McDonald at the end of the 3rd UK/Bangladesh Strategic Dialogue.Bangladesh and the United Kingdom are heading towards strategic partnership in two years’ time, said UK Foreign Ministry Permanent Under Secretary Sir Simon McDonald.

His remarks came during a lecture at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies Wednesday (Apr 24) after the third strategic dialogue between the two countries in Dhaka.

“We think this (strategic dialogue) is a strong basis and if we follow through with even 50 percent of the things that we have agreed on today, we will legitimately claim that it is a strategic partnership that Bangladesh has achieved with the UK,” said McDonald. 

“So I look forward to celebrate that strategic partnership in Dhaka in two years time when my next visit is due in Bangladesh,” he said.

Bangladesh has strategic partnership with only India and China and is at present negotiating with the United States to elevate the current relationship.

Simon said Bangladesh is a country whose economy is growing very rapidly and very consistently and that interests the UK for both the current economic and historic reasons.

“After leaving the European Union, we will no longer focus principally on the regional organization and immediate neighbourhood. We will have more time and more resources for the rest of the world,” he said adding, “Bangladesh is absolutely included.”

He said, “Our objective as we look at our new relationship to roll over all the benefit of the existing relationship, to maintain the openness of our market to Bangladeshi industry and to Bangladeshi products, and to build on that.”

Over 6,00000 Bangladeshi origin people are now living in the UK and we have deep understanding and knowledge about each others’ affairs, he said.

Strategic Dialogue

At the dialogue, Sir Simon led a 21-member delegation comprised of representatives from trade, defence, home, civil aviation, DfID and British Council.

At the beginning, they observed one-minute silence to show respect to the victims of Sri Lanka bomb attacks which happened last week. Citizens of both countries lost lives in the attack.

Shahidul Haque and McDonald discussed 17 issues under five broad categories namely political, economic, regional, global, and defence and security cooperation.

All the three dialogues were co-chaired by them and they have good chemistry to move forward the bilateral relationship, said Bangladesh High Commissioner to UK Saida Mona Tasneem.

Political relations, trade and investment, Rohingya, education and skills, good governance and human rights, the future development partnership, migration and security, and defence cooperation, and regional and global issues of mutual interest were discussed in the meeting, a joint press release issued after the meeting stated.

“The meeting began with both sides welcoming the progress made in bilateral relations. Both sides briefed on their countries’ political developments domestically and internationally,” said the press release.

Both sides stressed the importance of good governance, human rights and media freedom for any functioning democracy and also for Bangladesh’s economic and social development.

“The UK expressed its appreciation of Bangladesh hosting over one million forcibly displaced Rohingya refugees while Bangladesh welcomed the UK’s efforts in playing a leading role at the UN Security Council.

Bangladesh “requested the UK’s continued global leadership in ensuring international efforts in all facets of this crisis including accountability on the part of Myanmar for alleged atrocities committed against the Rohingyas.”

About visa, McDonald highlighted that the number of visa applicants from Bangladesh is increasing every year with an average approval rate of around 70 percent in 2018 – up to nearly 10 percentage point from 61% in 2016.  The UK welcomed Bangladesh’s continued commitment to take back its citizens who no longer have the right to remain in the UK, and welcomed progress in this regard.

About education, both sides discussed the proposed cross-border Higher Education Rules, which if implemented, will allow UK universities to operate in Bangladesh.

“Bangladesh proposed to open a dialogue in this regard. Both countries also agreed to consider further ways in which Bangladeshi students could be encouraged to study in the UK.”

Dhaka highlighted concerns of the British curry industry, on the shortage of skilled workers and the proposed wage structure as part of the future immigration white paper, whilst recognising their significant contribution to the British economy.

Bangladesh informed the UK it will host a ‘Bangladesh Trade and Investment Expo’ in London in October or  November this year and the UK welcomed efforts in this regard to promote commercial links and investment flows.