3 High-Profile Visits: Rohingya, security issues to figure prominently
Dhaka will see three high-level visits from the US, France, and Russia this week and the next, and much of those will feature discussions on the Rohingya crisis, and security and defence cooperation.
The visits are considered significant because of the geopolitical competition among the global powers, which has intensified further since the Russia-Ukraine war and also ahead of Bangladesh's national polls.
Mira Resnick, deputy assistant secretary of the US Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, will arrive today and hold the ninth annual US-Bangladesh Bilateral Security Dialogue tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be visiting on September 7-8, just before joining the September 9-10 G20 summit in New Delhi. This will be the first visit by any Russian foreign minister to Bangladesh.
On the other hand, French President Emmanuel Macron will be visiting Dhaka after the G20 summit -- either on September 10-11 or September 11-12.
Foreign ministry officials of Bangladesh in Dhaka, New Delhi, and Paris are working to finalise the schedules.
DEFENCE AND SECURITY
According to a US Embassy note, the civilian-led security dialogue will include discussions on Indo-Pacific regional issues, security and human rights, military cooperation, peacekeeping, security assistance, and counterterrorism, among other topics.
It is to follow the bilateral defence dialogue held in Dhaka on August 23-24.
"The US and Bangladesh have a strong security partnership and share many interests in the Indo-Pacific region... Both countries share a vision to ensure the Indo-Pacific region is free, open, peaceful, and secure," the note said.
The US has been seeking to sign two defence agreements -- theGeneral Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement, which are foundational agreements fora closer defence relationship.
In 2021, Washington passed a draft agreement of GSOMIA, which Dhaka was examining, officials concerned said.
ROHINGYA AND ROOPPUR POWER PLANT
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov will hold a bilateral meeting with Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and make a courtesy call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Officials of the ministry concerned said Dhaka would urge Moscow to help solve the Rohingya crisis, as it has strong relations with Myanmar.
Moscow is a major arms supplier to Myanmar, which faces a myriad of sanctions from Washington for itsmilitary takeover and oppression of the civilians fighting for democracy.
"The Russia-Ukraine war is affecting us all badly. We will call for ending the war and going for negotiations," a foreign ministry official said.
Last week, Momen said Dhaka wouldrequest Moscow to ensure the timely implementation of the Russia-funded Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant project. The project faced challenges because of US sanctions against Russia.
Dhaka will also discuss the possibility of Moscow employing Bangladeshi workers in Russia's shipbuilding sector, an official said.
PARIS EAGER TO DEEPEN TIES
During his visit, French President Macron will hold bilateral meetings with PM Hasina.
Foreign ministry officials said Dhaka will seek increased trade and investment from France, while France wants to enhance its cooperation in the areas of aerospace, defence, trade, and climate change.
In November 2021, the two countries signed a letter of intent on defence cooperation as France is paying attention to improving relations with the Indo-Pacific countries.
Bangladesh's first-ever satellite, Bangabandhu-1, was made by the French company Thales. Paris made a fresh proposal to sell another satellite -- Bangabandhu-2 -- which Dhaka is considering.
France showed eagerness to set up a satellite manufacturing plant in Bangladesh. There were also talks about the country providing Rafale aircraft to Bangladesh.
Foreign Minister Momen said Bangladesh too wants to buy 10 planes, including two cargo planes, from Airbus -- a European plane manufacturer.
These issues will be discussed during Macron's meeting with Hasina in Dhaka.
Momen added Dhaka will ask the French President to help solve the Rohingya crisis and support Bangladesh in mitigating climate change impacts. France took the Loss and Damage Initiative, but its fund is not operational yet.
"We would ask the French President to make it operational and help rehabilitate Bangladeshis displaced by climate change."