Russia and Bangladesh mark 50 years of friendly relations. By Jubeda Chowdhury
The close friendship between Dhaka and Moscow continued uninterrupted into the post-Soviet era
Bangladeshi women work at a garment factory in Gazipur on the outskirts of Dhaka on February 17, 2018. Bangladesh wants to export more ready-made garments and other products to the Russian market. Photo: AFP / Mehedi Hasan / NurPhoto
January 25, 2022 marked the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s diplomatic relations with Russia. Since Soviet times, Russia has been a close friend of Bangladesh. The USSR played an important role in supporting Bangladesh during its struggle for independence, and Russian friendship continued in the post-Soviet period.
Russia has therefore been a true friend of Bangladesh since its inception. It would have been difficult for Bangladesh to achieve independence in 1971 without the support of the Soviet Union on the international scene.
On January 24, 1972, the Soviet Union recognized Bangladesh, and on January 25, the two countries officially established diplomatic relations.
Although India directly cooperated in the Bangladesh Liberation War internationally, the Soviet Union played an indirect role. He took strong action in the UN Security Council for the independence of Bangladesh. Largely due to Soviet actions, the United States was forced to withdraw naval support to Pakistan from the Bay of Bengal in December 1971.
In addition to cooperating militarily in the war of liberation, the USSR played an exemplary role in clearing mines and debris from the port of Chittagong in the post-independence period.
As is known, at that time the world was mainly divided into two camps. One side was led by the United States and the other by the Soviet Union. The USSR directly or indirectly supported the liberation struggles of different countries for political reasons. Bangladesh was one of them.
In a message sent to then Pakistani President Yahya Khan in the aftermath of the March 25, 1971 genocide, Soviet President Nikolai Podgorny expressed concern over the massacres, persecution and arrest of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and other political leaders in East Pakistan. He called on Yahya to find a way to a peaceful political solution by ending the crackdown. Such a message from such an important country gave life to the war of liberation.
The Soviet Union played an important role when an all-out war between the joint Indo-Bangladeshi forces and the Pakistani army broke out on December 3, 1971. The next day, December 4, the United States offered a ceasefire -fire at the UN Security Council. in anticipation of Pakistan’s defeat. The Soviet Union vetoed the proposal, calling it “one-sided”.
The following day, eight other members of the Security Council submitted similar proposals, and for the second time the Soviet Union vetoed them. Pakistan and the United States have repeatedly called for a ceasefire and troop withdrawal before the UN General Assembly, after the two Soviet vetoes in the Security Council. The resolution was adopted by the General Assembly, despite opposition from several countries, including the Soviet Union.
Ignoring the ceasefire offer, the joint Indo-Bangladeshi forces continued to fight. The unwavering support of the Soviet Union contributed to this.
Ties with the Russian Federation
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Bangladesh recognized the Russian Federation as its successor and continued diplomatic relations. Russia is now one of the main suppliers of arms and military equipment to the Bangladesh Defense Force, including anti-tank missiles and armored vehicles, fighter trainers and cargo helicopters.
Bangladesh has many opportunities to increase its trade with Russia, although it has not been able to develop to the desired level due to obstacles in banking channels and some tariff complications.
There is a huge demand in the Russian market for various products made in Bangladesh, including clothes. Due to various complications, Bangladesh is forced to export ready-made garments and other products to the Russian market via other countries. In the commercial interests of both countries, it is important to resolve these issues through bilateral talks and diplomacy.
In the financial year 2020-2021, Bangladesh exported goods worth US$665.31 million to Russia and imported goods worth US$466.70 million.
In 2012, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Moscow and Dhaka to help develop nuclear energy in Bangladesh. In 2013, Russia pledged to build a 2,400 megawatt nuclear power plant at Rooppur in the Pabna district of Bangladesh. The total cost of the project is estimated at 12.85 billion dollars, 90% of which will be financed by the Russian government.
Construction of the power plant began in 2016 and two units are expected to be completed by 2024, each with a capacity of 1,200 megawatts. The first unit is expected to go into production this year and the second unit in 2023.
Since independence in 1971, the mainstay of Bangladesh’s foreign policy on the international stage has been “friendship with all, not enmity with anyone”. As a non-aligned state, Bangladesh refrained from favoring influential countries during the Cold War. Being a Muslim-majority country, it has strong diplomatic and trade relations with other Muslim countries.
After half a century of diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and Russia, it is hoped that their friendly and strong ties will continue in the future.