The route of bilateral Bangladesh-France relations began from the 14e February 1972, when France recognizes Bangladesh as a sovereign state. On March 17, 1972, Bangladesh opened its resident diplomatic mission in Paris. France provided valuable support to the government and people of the French Republic during the war of liberation in 1971. The people of France spontaneously came forward, under the leadership of the famous French thinker and philosopher André Malraux, to mobilize the international public opinion in support of the war of liberation in 1971. Since then, relations have gone through a solid basis of mutual cooperation involving high-level political visits and mutual understanding. Responding to the invitation of the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina paid an official visit to France from November 9 to 14, 2021. The visit came as the bilateral relationship is ready to pass at the higher level taking into account the stakes and the evolution of the engagement with progress in the fields of economy, trade as well as perspectives of defense cooperation.
In particular, bilateral trade between Bangladesh and France continues to grow. Bilateral trade amounts to nearly 2 billion US dollars, France is now Bangladesh’s 5th export destination. Ready-made clothing alone accounts for around 90% of Bangladesh’s export earnings from France, and French exports to Bangladesh include parts for airplanes and ships, as well as warships. In South Asia, Bangladesh is the main beneficiary of AFD (Agence France Développement) support. Moreover, the visit was remarkable when European countries namely Britain, Spain, Germany, Italy, Netherlands flock to strike defense cooperation and France demonstrated enthusiasm after the formation of AUKUS on the one hand, and Bangladesh is moving forward to define its cooperation in defense and security through technology transfer, development of local defense equipment capabilities. It was also marked as a change in the approach to Bangladeshi foreign policy.
The Defense Arrangement
France and Bangladesh are now highlighting their common desire to develop and deepen all aspects of their partnership, from economic security to strategic security. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit shows how the two countries are emphasizing the transformation of traditional relations into defense cooperation. After giving a warm welcome to the Elysee Palace on the first day of her five-day visit to France, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held talks with her French counterpart Macron to accelerate the current pace of relations. The 9e In November 2021, the two leaders signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) to mark defense cooperation reaching the next level. The LoI includes a) capacity building, b) technology transfer, c) training facilities and d) provision of defense equipment according to the needs expressed and the capacity of each party to respond to them. To this end, the two countries agreed to strengthen the dialogue and continue their cooperation which was initiated during the visit.
In addition, the Bangladesh Civil Aviation Authority has signed an agreement with the French Civil Aviation Authority to strengthen cooperation in knowledge sharing and employee training. He will thus help to organize various events including aviation safety which is a notable progress in the field of civil aviation in Bangladesh. As Bangladesh prepares to develop aviation and aeronautical capacity building to advance local defense and military equipment, the defense accord marking technology transfer, knowledge sharing as well as capacity building will be of great importance to Bangladesh. Moreover, it is also a remarkable achievement of Bangladesh’s foreign policy in concluding such an ambitious and daring agreement with France.
Importance of defense cooperation
The recent defense and security agreement between Bangladesh and France signifies deep importance with regard to political orientations, geopolitical dynamism, geostrategic calculations and global foreign policy movements. First, the defense agreement denotes the growing political importance of Bangladesh on the world stage, as world power like France attaches priority to Bangladesh in South Asia and the Bay of Bengal region. In particular, the warm welcome of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Elysee Palace is a timely recognition of Bangladesh. Second, from a strategic point of view, the agreement stipulates the growing geopolitical importance of Bangladesh in the context of a shift in the center of world power from Europe and North America to the Asia-Pacific region where Bangladesh is. at the strategic junction in the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean region. (IOR). The momentum was created for at least two reasons: The emerging economies and flourishing markets of the region are turning the global market and the supply chain into a lucrative market to flock here.
Thirdly, it should be noted that the major powers of the world, including Europe, have attached increasing importance in recent years to defense cooperation with Bangladesh. Germany, France, Italy and Spain showed increasing interest in the supply of high-tech weapons when Bangladesh took the initiative to modernize its armed forces through the “”Objective of the Forces-2030“program. During the Prime Minister’s visit to France, Eric Trapier, CEO of Dassault, discussed the sale of Dassault Rafale, a French twin-engine multirole fighter aircraft. Fourth, as the common objective of the two countries is to maintain Regional peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, defense cooperation will thus promote shared principles. The two countries therefore jointly expressed their support for the counterterrorism efforts and agreed to strengthen their cooperation. has been more salient as the South Asian security architecture undergoes constant change following the fall of Kabul to the Taliban. The deal aims to counter the growing upsurge in terrorist threats as Bangladesh’s political priority is to stop the spread of terrorism.Finally, defense cooperation as well as the LoI will have positive impacts on the future development of non-tradable security. iteration such as climate change, traffic and socio-economic and commercial engagement.
Facing a new era of geopolitics
First of all, going beyond the traditional approach of economic diplomacy, this visit ushered in a new era of foreign policy by initiating the foundations of defense diplomacy. He proved that Bangladesh is emerging as a middle power with its increasing importance in the world order. Second, as economic development extends political focus to defense engagement, the visit therefore demonstrated that Bangladesh is seen as the rising economic power leading the way in consolidating its position in the world. Thirdly, Bangladesh’s global recognition as a crucial partner in regional and international arena has also been proven by it. Today the world recognizes Bangladesh as an important player in global politics and diplomacy that was once ridiculed by some Western powers. Fourth, it has facilitated bilateral engagement with powerful states and, obviously, it will expand interests when the joint declaration stipulates the very nature and development of bilateral relations in the fields of economy, business and investment. .
Fifth, significantly, Bangladesh can use the opportunity created by the visit to continue its policy of repatriating the Rohingya as France extended its warm hands to Bangladesh. In the joint statement, the two states underscored the need to secure funding for the United Nations Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya in Bangladesh and enable their voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return to Myanmar as soon as possible. In particular, in response to Bangladesh’s request to bring the Rohingya issue to the UN Security Council, France assured that they would remain alongside Bangladesh until the final solution of the Rohingya crisis. This is an exceptional achievement of Bangladesh’s diplomatic maneuver.
Sixth, Bangladesh as a geopolitically and geostrategically important country in the Indo-Pacific region, has once again been proven, when world powers attempt to woo Bangladesh by engaging in the Indo-Pacific alliance and France is no exception. . Seventh, the defense agreement proves that Bangladesh has changed its political guidelines by diversifying its defense equipment exporters, which signifies Bangladesh’s political autonomy. It can be argued that when there are greater options, there are greater opportunities, which means the effectiveness and sustainability of policies in strategic maneuvers. Finally, in the midst of great power competition in the region and in particular in the Bay of Bengal, defense cooperation will hold deep significance for Bangladesh as it signals something to other powers in the region. In short, the visit will facilitate cooperation in other areas like economy, trade, climate change, counterterrorism, while Bangladesh’s foreign policy priorities focus on economic diplomacy, climate cooperation, sustainable development, maritime security, the attraction of FDI as well as the stimulation of trade.
In conclusion, we can say that this visit will open a new chapter in the strengthening of the bilateral partnership between France and Bangladesh. As more and more European powers – France, Germany, Italy and Spain want the benefits of economic diplomacy using defense channels as well as economic sectors, Bangladesh can seize the opportunity. This visit will open new avenues to increase cooperation and take Bangladesh-France relations to a new height. This will be beneficial for both countries, given the changing geopolitical realities and economic goals. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit reflected the changing dynamics of Bangladesh’s foreign policy priority with a timely emphasis on defense cooperation given strategic, geopolitical and economic perspectives.