Sunday, 1 October, 2023

France Strengthens Bangladesh More

Jayanta Ghoshal 

After attending the G20 Summit in Delhi, French President Emmanuel Macron left for Bangladesh, where he was rolled out the red carpet by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. After the visit, Jasmine Lorge, a well-known personality of the GIGA Institute for Asian Studies, said that the French President's visit to Bangladesh is not only historic but also opens a new horizon in world politics. Let us analyse the visit of the President of France.

During the visit, Emmanuel Macron said that when world politics were overshadowed by Russia's invasion of Ukraine and when China and the United States were at loggerheads, France was seeking to build bonds of friendship with which it had an old love affair. At present time, France is trying to revive the relationships his country had with undivided India, with New Delhi after 1947, with Dhaka after 1971 and with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the architect of the independent Bangladesh.

A defence deal is in the offing so as an agreement on climate change and a trade deal. Among all of these, the biggest thing, however, is that Bangladesh is trying to develop its lot amidst these tense situations with the status of an independent sovereign state and France is also appreciating that. So, France and Bangladesh are coming closer. India is also considering this development positively since India has also given a lot of importance to France at the G20 summit. Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted the G20 summit, bringing together the European Union on one side and the African Union on the other. The prime minister invited his Bangladeshi counterpart to his residence for dinner. US President Joe Biden met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at Bharat Mandap and took a selfie. Hasina's daughter, the official advisor to the Bangladesh prime minister during the visit, was seen beside her. Therefore, her presence in every bilateral meeting was quite noticeable. Hasina's sister also accompanied her on the trip. Modi also insisted Biden for a meeting with the Bangladesh prime minister. All in all, the tone set in Delhi at the G20 was replicated during Macron’s Dhaka visit.

After the summit, when Biden went to Vietnam, an anti-China state, France wanted to maintain good relations with India and Bangladesh despite having good relations with Ukraine. This visit to Bangladesh has been very fruitful with a lot of negotiations and agreements. Let's take a look at what was discussed there.

According to the news published in Bengali daily 'Kaler Kantha', the geo-political competition has started centring Bangladesh, where the global powers – the United States, China and Russia – are trying to draw Bangladesh to their side. The competition has now reached such a level that if Bangladesh’s relationship with one side warms up, the other side becomes angry. In such a situation, France wants to be a safe alternative force for Bangladesh. French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his interest on the last day of his two-day visit to Dhaka.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's future plan is to build a smart Bangladesh. French President Emmanuel Macron assured his country's full support to Bangladesh in this regard.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and French President Macron addressed a joint press conference after the meeting and signing ceremony at the former’s office. In his speech, Macron highlighted the geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly in the Indian Ocean. He expressed his keenness to enhance defence cooperation with Bangladesh. Besides, articulating his dissatisfaction over external pressure on an independent country, Macron emphasised the commitment of the two countries to democratic values, human rights and the rule of law and said, “Without them, sustainable development is not possible”. In addition, the French president invited Bangladesh to a conference that will be held in Paris next month with the participation of more than 80 countries to help school students with lunch. Moreover, he assured to strengthen cooperation in various fields, including satellite, energy, defence, culture and heritage.

Sheikh Hasina also acknowledged having a fruitful discussion with President Macron in a very cordial atmosphere and said in the context of ongoing geo-political turmoil and economic uncertainty, France respects and supports Bangladesh's policy-making sovereignty. “We both hope that this new strategic partnership will play an effective role in establishing regional stability and world peace,” she added. The premier hoped that Bangladesh and France would play a leading and responsible role in ensuring geo-political stability in the Asian and Pacific region. Highlighting their partnership for strategic autonomy, peace and security, Bangladesh and France reaffirmed their unwavering commitment to international law and the UN Charter, in particular the principle of peaceful resolution of conflicts, and their abiding faith in multilateralism.

After the meeting with Sheikh Hasina, America has moved away from its visa policy, in which America had blamed Bangladesh. The meeting changed the whole situation. India was a strong critique of this policy. By taking a third position, France, however, strengthened Bangladesh. France did not say anything about the way America is stuck with human rights and election-centric visa policy. In contrast, they stand by Bangladesh, making an epoch of bilateral relations.

Elections are going to be held in Bangladesh soon. Before January, Sheikh Hasina hopes to capitalise on the success of the G20 and this new agreement with France to pave a new path in the coming days.


The writer is a senior Indian journalist.

Translated by Md Joynul Abedin