ISSN 2330-717X

50 Years Of Russia-Bangladesh Bilateral Relations: Development, Assistance And Economic Ties – OpEd

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Russia is a true friend of Bangladesh. Diplomatic relations were established between Bangladesh and the Soviet Union on 25 January 1972. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the bilateral relations. Bangladesh has maintained bilateral relations with its successor Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. There is a Russian embassy in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, and a consulate-general in Chittagong. On the other hand, Bangladesh has an embassy in Moscow, the capital of Russia. At present Bangladesh has close military, economic and political relations with Russia. Bangladesh-Russia relations are long-standing. This relationship between the two countries is contributing to the development of politics, economy and culture.

Bangladesh’s relations with Russia are historic. Anyone from Bangladesh and Russia can recall Russia’s contribution to the great liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971. Bangladesh-Russia relations are historic. It would have been difficult to achieve independence without the cooperation of the then Soviet Union during the creation of Bangladesh. 

Russia’s cultural ties with Bengal were established in the eighteenth century. The first Bengali play was staged by Russian playwright and explorer Gerasim Lebedev With the help of local intellectuals, Lebedev also established the first European-style theater in Bengal.

In addition, Lebedev wrote a short Bengali dictionary, wrote a book in Bengali on arithmetic, and translated parts of the Anandamangal poem into Russian.

Both Bangladesh and Russia share the same ideals in various regional and international forums, including the United Nations, in maintaining global peace and security. Both the Government of Bangladesh and Russia take the existing bilateral relations with Russia to a unique height. Bangladesh has good relations with Russia since the creation of Bangladesh. Russia has helped Bangladesh get recognition. This has increased Russian investment in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has signed a number of agreements with Russia on various issues ranging from construction of nuclear power plants to trade, investment, education, culture and so on. Russia has been cooperating with Bangladesh for a long time to build a nuclear power plant at Rooppur in Bangladesh. Russia has also agreed to provide financial assistance to Bangladesh for the construction of this power plant. For the contribution of Russia, Bangladesh could join the nuclear club. The assistance of Russia in this regard brings international status and prestige for Bangladesh. Bangladesh is an energy hungry state now. There are many industries, companies and infrastructure in Bangladesh. To fulfill the demand of energy, this power plant will help Bangladesh hugely absolutely. Russia is financing multiple projects, including the Rooppur nuclear power plant. Bangladesh has also signed a 1 billion arms deal with Russia. This friendly relationship between the two countries is contributing to the development of politics, economy and culture. Russia has invested heavily in the country’s power sector and will continue to do so. Russia is investing 90 percent or 12 billion in the Rooppur nuclear power plant. Russia is also investing in Ghorashal and Karnafuli. During this time many agreements have been reached between the two countries.

Bangladesh has signed an agreement to buy arms worth about one billion dollars from Russia. The agreement was signed by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Russian President Vladimir Putin during her visit to Moscow. Bangladesh bought this weapon for its own needs. Bangladesh was buying the weapons with a state loan from Russia. 

Russia is one of the countries supplying arms and military equipment to the Bangladesh Armed Forces. In 2013, Bangladesh purchased the Metis-M tank-destroyer missile from Russia. In 2015 and 2016, Bangladesh purchased 17 Yak-130 training aircraft from Russia. In 2016, Bangladesh purchased 6 MI-161 SH helicopters from Russia.

This weapon is being bought for the purpose of modernizing the military of Bangladesh. Not only that, the country is cooperating with Bangladesh on various issues. Russia is also investing in other industries. In the future, Russia will be interested in investing in ICT, power and energy, pharmaceuticals and the military.These investment activities would be taken forward through good relations between the two countries.

Bangladesh has already shown interest and called on Russia to invest in reviving the Ishwardi airport. In the future, cooperation will increase in all fields including economic, social and cultural.

Russia has expressed interest in importing mangoes from Bangladesh. Russia’s Ambassador to Bangladesh Alexander V. Mantitsky expressed this interest during a meeting with Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzak at the Secretariat on August 20, 2021. Bangladesh wants to import DAP (di-ammonium phosphate) and potassium fertilizer from Russia. Russia has expressed interest in importing mangoes from Bangladesh. Bangladesh has expressed interest in signing a memorandum of understanding to import fertilizer from Russia. Bangladesh has been importing MOP fertilizer from Russia on GTZ basis since 2013. An agreement has been reached between the two countries in this regard.

According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the country produced about 1.5 million tonnes of mangoes last year, valued at about Tk 10,000 crore. Bangladesh now ranks seventh in the world in terms of produced about 1.5 million tonnes of mangoes last year, valued at about Tk 10,000 crore. Bangladesh now ranks seventh in the world in terms of production volume. However, exports lag far behind.

Last year, neighboring India exported 14 million worth of mangoes, while Bangladesh exported 50,000 dollars only. At present, Bangladesh’s bilateral trade with Russia is more than 2 billion, it is true that Russia is very important for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh does not produce much wheat in its territory. The climate of Bangladesh is not good for wheat production. But now the boys and girls of the new generation in Bangladesh eat a lot of wheat food. That is why Bangladesh imports wheat from Russia. Fertilizers are also imported from Russia, the use of a new fertilizer called DAPP has increased in Bangladesh. Where earlier 6 lakh tonnes of DAPP were used, now the demand has increased to 14 lakh tones. The purchase of this fertilizer from Russia has also been discussed with the ambassador.

A memorandum of understanding will be signed with Russia, government-to-government. Whether Bangladesh can bring DAP from Russia at a good price. Earlier, Bangladesh used to export potatoes to Russia.

Russia will also provide necessary assistance to solve the Rohingya problem in Bangladesh, said the Russian ambassador recently. Therefore, Russia can play a great role for Bangladesh in favor of Rohingya repatriation. In the interest of the country’s development, it is necessary to maintain good relations with Russia. Russia’s contribution to the development of Bangladesh is huge.

Russia has imposed a ban on potato exports from Bangladesh since 2014 due to the presence of brown rot disease in potatoes. Russia can reconsider the import of potatoes from Bangladesh to Russia. Bangladesh is now producing many high-quality potatoes. The Bangladesh government has taken many steps to make potatoes bactericidal and safe. Russia may re-import potatoes. Russian Ambassador to Bangladesh, Alexander V. Mantitsky said recently necessary steps would be taken to import potatoes in this regard.

In 2009, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina visited St. Petersburg and met with the then Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. In January 2013, Sheikh Hasina again met with Russian President Putin in Moscow. During the 2014 Crimea crisis, Bangladesh maintained neutrality without opposing Russia.

The Russian government is providing scholarships to Bangladeshi students. Many students from this country are going to Russia to pursue higher degrees; They are becoming proficient in various subjects including nuclear science. Hopefully, the Russian government will increase this opportunity in the future. It is also investing in various sectors including electricity and fuel; The Russian government has said it will increase further in the future.

At present, Bangladesh’s bilateral trade with Russia is more than two billion dollars or 16 thousand crore rupees. The two countries are holding high-level talks to increase trade. 

Russia is a close friend of Bangladesh. Russia’s cooperation in the great liberation war of Bangladesh should not be forgotten. Russia has long-standing economic and trade relations with Bangladesh. Due to some complications, trade between the two countries did not grow as expected. Russia has five countries, the Eurasian Economic Union.

No country can do trade alone. That is why Bangladesh has completed the preparation of signing an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Russia. A memorandum of understanding will be signed at the end of March to ease trade complexities. Banking channel will be launched through this. The market will be open for trade. Then there will be no more trade complications. 

There is a huge demand for Bangladeshi-made garments, seafood, potatoes, medicines, etc. in the Russian market. The signing of the MoU will create trade opportunities and open new horizons in Bangladesh’s trade with Russia.

Russia has a lot of investment in Bangladesh.  If the MoU is signed between the two countries next March, all trade complications will be removed. Russia is a big export market for Bangladesh. There is a huge demand in Russia for many products including Bangladeshi made garments, seafood, potatoes, medicines. Russia is interested in importing these from Bangladesh. If the MoU is signed, Russia’s economic and trade relations with Bangladesh will greatly increase. Trade will increase if traders from both the countries visit each other’s countries. Russia is interested in enhancing economic and trade relations with Bangladesh.

Russia agreed to provide and produce its Sputnik Covid-19 vaccine in Bangladesh. Counter terrorism approach, tourism, labors export are some areas of cooperation. There are many other fields to work each other. There are many potentials between Bangladesh-Russia relations.

Russia has shown interest to celebrate the ‘50 years diplomatic ties’. Bangladesh has also welcomed this. This tie is eternal. Only sky is the limit of Bangladesh-Russia ties. Russia and Bangladesh work together for the mutual benefits of their people.

The article was first appeared in Bangladesh’s leading daily “ Daily Independentbd”.

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Pathik Hasan

Pathik Hasan is a Dhaka-based NGO activist, researcher and freelance writer on contemporary international issues whose work has been published in many local and international publications. Academic background: BSS (Peace and Conflict Studies) and MSS (International Relations) under the University of Dhaka. He can be reached at [email protected]

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