Turning bilateral relations between the UK and Bangladesh into strategic ones

50 years ago, diplomatic relations were established between the UK and Bangladesh on February 4. The United Kingdom has played an important role in the history of Bangladesh. Before Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman set foot on the soil of independent Bangladesh, during his historic visit to the United Kingdom in January 1972, he struck up a new friendship with the then British Prime Minister, Edward Heath, who which accelerated the recognition of Bangladesh as an independent country. This historic visit encouraged other Commonwealth countries to recognize Bangladesh as an independent country.

With the establishment of a British High Commission in the capital of independent Bangladesh in 1972, then British Foreign Secretary Sir Alec Douglas-Home visited Bangladesh. Since then, the UK has been a committed partner in research, healthcare, social development, disaster risk reduction, poverty reduction, improving education, life expectancy of women and children and the empowerment of women. All of this has contributed to significant progress in Bangladesh over the past 50 years. The UK has helped build the capacity of Bangladeshi army, police and government officials.

Queen Elizabeth II visited Bangladesh in 1973. During this visit, she traveled by train in Bangladesh to visit an ideal village 35 miles south of Dhaka. In recent decades, the Prince of Wales, the Princess Royal, Prime Ministers John Major, Tony Blair and David Cameron have traveled to Bangladesh to witness an emerging nation. Throughout this period, Bangladesh and the UK have worked together to combat poverty, floods and severe cyclones, which has deepened the relationship between the two countries.

The first two-day Defense Dialogue between Bangladesh and the UK continued at the Armed Forces Division in Dhaka Cantonment from March 2-3, which will provide an opportunity for in-depth bilateral defense discussions and military cooperation.

A 24-member Bangladeshi delegation led by Brigadier General Hussain Muhammad Masihur Rahman, Director General of Operations and Planning of the Armed Forces, participated in the Defense Dialogue. Brigadier General Mohammad Mahabubur Rashid, Defense Attaché of the Bangladesh High Commission in the United Kingdom, took part in the dialogue as a guest.

A five-member delegation led by Ms. Trish Wilson, Head of International Security at the UK Ministry of Defence, took part in the Defense Dialogue. His Excellency Robert Charterson Dixon, UK High Commissioner in Dhaka was present on the occasion.

The British High Commissioner in Dhaka, who took part in the dialogue, issued a statement. There, High Commissioner Robert Chatterton Dixon stressed that the Indo-Pacific issue was also on the defense dialogue. According to the High Commissioner, Britain and Bangladesh both want a free, open, peaceful, secure and inclusive Indo-Pacific. “We are delighted to be able to launch the Defense Dialogue between the UK and Bangladesh,” he said in a statement. “When Bangladesh gained independence 50 years ago, the foundations of our bilateral defense relationship were laid, which have only grown stronger day by day. The dialogue has provided us with an important opportunity to develop and to further expand this relationship over the next 50 years. We discussed peace and security there. That is why I am happy. In the defense dialogue, we have identified many areas for our future and our cooperation.These efforts will make important and indispensable contributions to global peace and security.

Meanwhile, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said it was the first defense dialogue between Bangladesh and the UK that would allow for a broader discussion on bilateral defense and military cooperation.

According to the ISPR, defense and security cooperation between Bangladesh and the UK is warm and intense. It was clear that the UK would continue to support the Bangladesh Armed Forces in defense development and training. Every year, many members of the Bangladesh Armed Forces are trained in various institutions in the UK. The armed forces of both countries have worked together on UN peacekeeping missions and the war on terrorism. The exchange of military visits by senior officials between the two countries is a unique example of military cooperation. According to the ISPR, this is the first military dialogue between the two countries, which is a milestone. It will accelerate military and defense cooperation on global and regional security, technology, defense equipment, disaster response, peacekeeping operations, etc., and defense cooperation in training, training , inspections, joint exercises and deployments, workshops, etc.

The defense dialogue could be considered a major step forward in establishing multidimensional and strategic relations. The UK wants to see its presence in the Indo-Pacific on a larger scale and wants Bangladesh to be a partner in the region. Bangladesh is currently the chairman of the Indian Ocean Rim Association, which has further increased its importance

According to media reports, Robert Dixon, UK High Commissioner in Dhaka, said earlier that the Eurofighter fighter jet was a good investment to protect the country’s sovereignty. Again, modern technology vessels like Offshore Trovas are effective vessels for the protection and extraction of marine resources from Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal. The High Commissioner also added that after the settlement of the Bangladesh maritime dispute, the protection of marine resources and the development of the blue economy are very important in the Bay of Bengal. The UK is keen to supply these modern technology weapons if Bangladesh wishes.

Calling for further strengthening of bilateral relations between Bangladesh and the UK, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, said earlier: “It is time to rebuild the bilateral relations between Bangladesh and the UK. We need to change our traditional approach to partnership. The Prime Minister made the remarks while addressing a feature titled ‘Bangladesh at 50: The Resilient Delta’ on the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence in the British Parliament during his visits to the UK November 3-9. “Relations between the two countries must be truly strategic and cooperate in the areas of peacekeeping, counter-terrorism, maritime and air security,” she said. The Prime Minister hailed UK interest in partnerships in education, culture, research and innovation.

Sheikh Hasina noted that the UK’s role in resolving the Rohingya crisis is still important. She said, “Since August 2017, Bangladesh has stabilized the region by coping with the crisis on its own. But the security problems at Cox’s Bazar are getting worse. These challenges may soon extend beyond the region’s borders. Recalling the responsibility of the international community, Sheikh Hasina said, “The international community has a responsibility to ensure the safe and dignified return of the Rohingya people to their homeland.

Bangladesh would buy five warships from the UK, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told a virtual UK press conference on November 5. Dr Momen said the UK wanted to send warships to Bangladesh. The final decision in this regard will be made at a later date. But we agreed in principle to take five ships. Of these, three will be made in the UK and the other two will be made in Bangladesh.

According to media reports earlier, the Bangladesh Air Force purchased five C-130G Super Hercules military transport aircraft from the Royal Air Force, three of which have already been handed over. In Cambridge, Marshall Aerospace and Defense Group is building two more aircraft. They will be delivered by April 2022.

Bangladesh ranks 20th to 30th in the world for arms imports. China is still a major source of weapons and military equipment in the armed forces. Recently, Bangladesh also imports equipment from Turkey. Dhaka also brings equipment from Italy, Russia, UK, USA, France and Germany.

Defense links between Bangladesh and the UK are growing. As a key member of NATO, the UK has experience building weapons. Bangladesh has the defense capability and the UK is interested in the Bangladesh Forces 2030 target. The UK was the latest country to offer defense supplies to Bangladesh during the fourth strategic dialogue between the two countries in London on September 9.

The Defense Dialogue was organized to create opportunities for broader discussions on bilateral defense and military issues, including deployments, defense supplies and procurement. The UK wants “a structured discussion” on defense issues.

It is also important for Bangladesh to significantly increase the capacity of its armed forces to secure its borders, both land and sea, and airspace in line with the 2030 forces objective. Holding defense dialogues with the armed forces powerful countries is important for Bangladesh as security issues become multi-dimensional with the inclusion of countering terrorism as well as violent extremism on the agenda,

The defense dialogue could be considered a major step forward in establishing multidimensional and strategic relations. The UK wants to see its presence in the Indo-Pacific on a larger scale and wants Bangladesh to be a partner in the region. Bangladesh is currently the chairman of the Indian Ocean Rim Association, which has further increased its importance.

The UK has its own Indo-Pacific strategy. Through this dialogue, both parties had the opportunity to hear each other’s views on the issue.

So the UK needs alternative markets. The UK needs Bangladesh to sell its military gadgets. The recent Defense dialogue between France and Bangladesh is just one example to understand this.

Bangladesh is one of the countries most affected by climate change and the UK has always supported the issue of justification for overcoming the damage. Apart from that, London has supported Dhaka in various forums including the UN Security Council on the Rohingya issue.
The dialogue could bring the UK and Bangladesh closer together in the security, trade and defense sector.

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