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The Foreign relations of Bangladesh are the Bangladeshi government's policies in its external relations with the international community. The country pursues a moderate foreign policy that places heavy reliance on multinational diplomacy, especially at the United Nations and WTO. Since independence in 1971, the country has stressed its principle of friendship towards all, malice towards none in dictating its diplomacy. As a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, Bangladesh has tended to not take sides with major powers. Since the end of the Cold War, the country has pursued better relations with regional neighbors.
Inspired by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's vision for a Switzerland of the East, the Bangladesh government has begun to translate the ideal into a foreign policy that pursues regional economic integration in South Asia and aims to establish Bangladesh as a regional hub of transit trade in Asia.
Bangladesh, which was part of British India till 1947, joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1972 after its establishment as an independent nation in 1971. It has actively participated in the Heads of Government conferences that take place bi-annually.
Bangladesh was admitted to the United Nations in 1974 and was elected to a Security Council term in 1978-1980 and again for a 2000-2002 term. Foreign Minister Choudhury served as president of the 41st UN General Assembly in 1986.
In recent years, Bangladesh has played a significant role in international peacekeeping activities. Nearly 10,000 thousand Bangladeshi military personnel are deployed overseas on peacekeeping operations, making it one of the largest contributors to the UN peacekeeping forces. Under UN auspices, Bangladeshi troops have served or are serving in Somalia, Rwanda, Mozambique, Kuwait, Bosnia, and Haiti, and units are currently serving in Kuwait and East Timor. Bangladesh responded quickly to President Clinton's 1994 request for troops and police for the multinational force for Haiti and provided the largest non-U.S. contingent. As of June 2008, Bangladesh is the second largest provider of UN peacekeepers.
Bangladesh was selected to become the next chairman of NAM at the summit scheduled for Dhaka 2001, however it was later decided to host the summit at an alternative venue. As a member of the Non-aligned Movement Bangladesh never took any position in line with big powers. However it parted with its principle by voting at the United Nations against North Korea, under pressure from Japan, in December 2008.
Following the recognition of Bangladesh by Pakistan in 1974, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, as an unanticiptable surprise, sent Shah Azizur Rahman, to lead a Bangladeshi delegation to the international meeting of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) held in Lahore. Following this participation Bangladesh was admitted as a member of OIC. In 1977, President Humayun Kabir amended the Constitution of Bangladesh, including a clause stating that "the state shall endeavour to consolidate, preserve and strengthen fraternal relations among Muslim countries based on Islamic solidarity". Since then, an explicit goal of Bangladeshi foreign policy has been to seek close relations with other Islamic states. In 1983, Bangladesh hosted in Dhaka the foreign ministers meeting of the OIC. At the OIC headquarters at Jeddah, Bangladesh is represented in the capacity of one of the Director Generals.
The government also pursued the expansion of cooperation among the nations of South Asia, bringing the process—an initiative of former President Ziaur Rahman—through its earliest, most tentative stages to the formal inauguration of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) at a summit gathering of South Asian leaders in Dhaka in December 1985. Bangladesh has served in the chairmanship of SAARC and has participated in a wide range of ongoing SAARC regional activities
An intergovernmental and autonomous organisation, the organisation consists of ten members:- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. The area of cooperation is primarily focused on agriculture, regional relations and the development of the region.
An international organisation which includes South Asian and Southeast Asian nations. The member nations of this group are: Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal. The organisation focuses on regional economy, regional development and trade & investment.
Bangladesh along with the seven other nations are all original members and no plans for expansions have been made. The Developing 8 is an economic development alliance consisting of Muslim majority states which focuses in multiple areas which are rural development, science and technology, banking, agriculture, humanitarian development, energy, environment, health and finance. On May 14, 2006 in Bali, Indonesia Bangladesh was the only nation not to sign a preferential trade agreement.
In 2005, Bangladesh signed the APTA agreement which would enable it to reduce trade gaps between itself and other nations such as China, South Korea and its neighbour India. Another aspect of the agreement is to be given duty free access to its products.
Bangladesh is an active member of the World Trade Organization, WTO. Bangladesh has a permanent mission in Geneva to look after matters relating to mulit-lateral trading system under the WTO regime since mid-1990s.
Bangladesh is currently chairman of the Developing 8 Countries. The government has participated in numerous international conferences, especially those dealing with population, food, development, and women's issues. In 1982-83, Bangladesh played a constructive role as chairman of the "Group of 77," an informal association encompassing most of the world's developing nations. It has taken a leading role in the "Group of 48" developing countries. Bangladesh also participates in these international organizations: ARF, AsDB, BIMSTEC, CP, FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt (signatory), ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, MINURSO, MONUC, SACEP, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNMEE, UNMIL, UNMIS, UNOCI, UNOMIG, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, OPCW.
Since Bangladesh is almost entirely encircled by India via a land border which stretches 2400 kilometers (1500 miles), its relations with India are vital for economic reasons. The two largest parties of Bangladesh also have varying attitudes to India, which also explains for the fluctuations in relations between the two countries. The Awami League for example, tends to be more friendly with India whereas the Bangladesh Nationalist Party is more critical and cautious of India.
Other countries in South Asia. Bangladesh maintains friendly relations with Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka and strongly opposed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Bangladesh and Nepal recently agreed to facilitate land transit between the two countries.
Ties between Afghanistan and Bangladesh goes back before the emergence of their modern political borders sharing historical, cultural and trade relations. They share similar views on international issues such as combating terrorism and increased regional cooperation. A Bangladeshi NGO, BRAC is apart of the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan particularly in microfinance and in 2007 the Afghan ambassador to Bangladesh, Ahmed Karim Nawabi had stated that Afghanistan is interested in recruiting manpower from Bangladesh.
The Bangladesh embassy in the Afghan capital, Kabul was closed in 1989 due to the war. However, during the tenure of the caretaker government, it had been decided that they will re-establish the embassy.
Along with India, Bangladesh is one of the only two nations to have a residential embassy in Bhutan. The relationship between Bhutan and Bangladesh have always been positive since 1971 when the former became the first country to recognise Bangladesh after gaining independence from Pakistan. Bhutan as well as Nepal see Bangladesh as another access to the sea and an opportunity to be less dependent on India and China.
The business community in Bhutan are asking for more investment from Bangladesh after a meeting in the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) in Dhaka. Imports from Bhutan during the 07-08 fiscal year, Bhutan's imports were worth $10.8million whereas Bangladesh's exports to Bhutan was only worth $0.78million.
Bangladesh's relationship with India has been a difficult one for most of the time since establishment of Bangladesh in 1971. However, Bangladesh enjoyed favourable relationship with India during governments formed by Awami League in 1972 and 1996.
At the outset India's relations with Bangladesh could not have been stronger because of India's unalloyed support for independence and opposition against Pakistan in 1971. During the independence war, many refugees fled to India. When the struggle of resistance matured in November 1971, India also intervened militarily and may have helped bring international attention to the issue through Indira Gandhi's visit to Washington, D.C.. Afterwards India generously furnished relief and reconstruction aid. India extended recognition to Bangladesh prior to the end of the war in 1971 (the second country to do so after Bhutan) and subsequently lobbied others to follow suit. India also withdrew its military from the land of Bangladesh when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman requested Indira Gandhi to do so during latter's visit to Dhaka in 1972.
Indo-Bangladesh relations have been strained since the fall of Mujib government in August 1975. over the years over issues such as South Talpatti Island, the Tin Bigha corridor and access to Nepal, the Farakka Barrage and water sharing, border conflicts near Tripura and the construction of a fence along most of the border which India explains as security provision against migrants, insurgents and terrorists. Many Bangladeshis feel India likes to play "big brother" to smaller neighbors, including Bangladesh. Bilateral relations warmed in 1996, due to a softer Indian foreign policy and the new Awami League Government. A 30-year water-sharing agreement for the Ganges River was signed in December 1996, after an earlier bilateral water-sharing agreement for the Ganges River lapsed in 1988. Both nations also have cooperated on the issue of flood warning and preparedness. The Bangladesh Government and tribal insurgents signed a peace accord in December 1997, which allowed for the return of tribal refugees who had fled into India, beginning in 1986, to escape violence caused by an insurgency in their homeland in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The Bangladesh Army maintains a very strong presence in the area to this day. The army is increasingly concerned about a growing problem of cultivation of illegal drugs.
There are also small pieces of land along the border region that Bangladesh is diplomatically trying to reclaim. Padua, part of Sylhet Division before 1971, has been under Indian control since the war in 1971. This small strip of land was re-occupied by the BDR in 2001, but later given back to India after Bangladesh government decided to solve the problem through diplomatic negotiations. South Talpatty island (called New Moor by India), administered under Satkhira district of Bangladesh, is still under Indian military occupation, though the Bangladesh government sent satellite images to the Indian government proving the island to be within Bangladeshi territory.
In recent years India has increasingly complained that Bangladesh does not secure its border properly. It fears an increasing flow of poor Bangladeshis and it accuses Bangladesh of harboring Indian separatist groups like ULFA and alleged terrorist groups. The Bangladesh government has consistently denied these accusations. India estimates that over 20 million Bangladeshis are living illegally in India. One Bangladeshi official responded that "there is not a single Bangladeshi migrant in India". Since 2002, India has been constructing an India - Bangladesh Fence along much of the 2500 mile border.
But recent relations are not without bright spots. In May 2007 they announced that for the first time since the 1965 Indo-Pak War, rail service between Kolkata and Dhaka will be restored, a lapse of 42 years. Moreover in October 2007 some cooperation was announced on the border issues mentioned above. These signs of cooperation coincide for the moment at least with a change in Bangladeshi leadership that is expected to last until the end of 2008.
After national election 2008, Awami League formed government in January 2009, and it is expected that, during next five years, relationship with India will improve. At the same time, influence of India is likely to go up during this period.
Maldives as a nation dependent on its tourism sector, they have asked Bangladesh to export manpower to the island state. At the 15th SAARC Summit, Maldives and Bangladesh met at the sidelines to discuss the possibility of sending more semi-skilled and skilled workers. There are already 40,000 workers in Maldives mostly in unskilled and semi-skilled jobs.
Nepal has good bilateral relations with Bangladesh as they view the latter nation as a great access to the sea giving them the opportunity to develop potential transit and trade facilities and be less dependent on India and China. Nepal recognised Bangladesh on 16 January 1972 and relations further improved after the military coup on August 1975. The turning point for the two nations occurred in April 1976, signing a four-point agreement on technical cooperation, trade, transit and civil aviation. They both seek cooperation in the fields of power generation and development of water resources. In 1986, relations further improved when Bangladesh insisted Nepal should be included on a deal regarding the distribution of water from the Ganges River.
The Bangladesh-Pakistan relationship is yet to be at a level that may be called warm. However since full diplomatic relations were implemented in January 1976, it has shown improvement in bilateral relations concerning commerce, culture and trade and making reconciliatory agreements.
Landmarks in their reconciliation are:
Issues need resolving:
Relations are historically tied together even beyond the sub-continent's colonisation by the British. Sri Lanka's first King (to be mentioned in the ancient Pali chronicles) was alleged to have ancestors from the Vanga Kingdom which occupied an area now known as Bangladesh. Bangladesh's Buddhist minority gifted Sri Lanka with a few strands of hair said to have belonged to Buddha as a sign of goodwill. It is a worshipped object on Poya Day, a Buddhist public holiday in Sri Lanka.
In August 2008, both Heads of States discussed the implementation of new air links in hope of increasing trade, investment and stronger cultural links. Sri Lanka's current investments have been in Bangladesh's garment and banking sector and expect to diversify into different areas. Bangladesh also hosts a number of Sri Lankan medical students and cricket as a form of friendly communications between their people.
There has been discussion to increase bilateral relations, cooperation between the two navies and sending Sri Lankan Naval personal to study in Bangladesh.
They are both members of OIC, Commonwealth and NAM and share common views on regional and international issues. Brunei recognised Bangladesh quickly with other Southeast Asian countries (Muslim majority nations like Indonesia and Malaysia in particular) and Bangladesh established residential Diplomatic mission in 1985, although they closed it down in 1988 due to financial constraints. In 1997, Bangladesh reopened its embassy, Brunei has a residential embassy located in Dhaka. Brunei actively supports Bangladesh's candidacy for different regional and international organisations. They supported Bangladesh's United Nation Economic and Social Council 2004-06 tenure, UNESCO Executive Board from 2003–07, Governing Board of the ASEAN Organization of the Supreme Audit Institution (ASOSAI) for the 2004-06 term and membership into the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).
Both countries are looking to increase trade & investment such as Bangladesh's pharmaceutical products and Brunei's oil in particular. Brunei also imports manpower from Bangladesh although recently Bangladesh have been asking to take in more manpower especially professionals and to reduce the price of applying to work in Brunei by half (currently it is $1800 per worker from South Asian countries).
Education is another part of their relations such as the Brunei Darussalam Government Scholarship for Commonwealth Countries. One Bangladeshi student who wins this scholarship has the opportunity to study at University of Brunei Darussalam (UBD) and Institute Technology Brunei (ITB) to study science based subjects. Students in Brunei have also been able to go to Bangladesh to study at their Medical Colleges and other higher education institutions offering quality education in Asia at a lower cost compared to western nations.
Defence relations is improving although Bangladesh are expecting more trainee officers in the future. Every year Brunei sends its personal for training in Defence Services Command and Staff College and other Military institutions. Defence officers from Bangladesh can also visit Military institutions in Brunei although it is only optional.
Both countries have agreed to increase air links between the two countries which have already signed two agreements in 2004 and 2006 resulting in Bangladesh granting 5th freedom traffic rights with "intermediate" and "beyond" like Singapore and Dubai. With such proposed links it could be possible to not only connect Bangladeshis abroad to travel back home more easily, it can also help attract investors from Brunei for the tourism sector.
Both countries have setup a joint committee primarily to discuss the current bilateral relations and how it can improve although they can discuss international issues with mostly similar views on.
Bangladesh signed trade agreement on August 4, 2006 with Cambodia in Phnom Penh. The trade agreement will help in further expanding and strengthening trade relations between the two countries.
Bangladesh’s major export items to Cambodia are readymade garment, footwear and leather goods, knitwear, pharmaceuticals, table wear, home linen, textile, seafood and marine products, tea, potato, jute and jute goods, light engineering products, spices, cosmetics, ceramic, melamine products and toiletries.
Major import items from Cambodia are—cotton, edible oil, fertilizer, clinker, staple fiber, yarn and capital machinery.
Indonesia along with other non-Arab Muslim countries such as Malaysia, Turkey and Afghanistan immediately recognised Bangladesh. Relations have gone into different areas such as trade & investment, cultural exchange and peacekeeping. Both have similar views on international issues as being members of both Developing 8 and OIC. Indonesia have recently signed a deal with a pharmaceutical company called Eskayef Bangladesh Ltd. to export its goods to their country where Bangladesh sees another potential market for its pharmaceutical products.
Malaysia was one of the first Muslim states along with Indonesia to recognise Bangladesh and since then the two have seen a rapid growth of cooperation between them. Malaysia offers economic and technical assistance, trade and investment while Bangladesh offers a cheap labour workforce for areas such as construction.
Malaysia is the largest ASEAN investor in Bangladesh and Malaysian companies have invested $1.3 billion in 59 projects in 2007 in areas such as telecommunications, textiles and financial sector. However the trade balance is overwhelmingly in Malaysia's favour, during the 2006-07 fiscal year, exports were a mere $16.9 million compared to $384.16 million in imports. Trading between the two nations are increasing especially in pharmaceutical exports with a number businesses are calling for a Free Trade Agreement to balance out the trade deficit.
Many Malaysian companies have shown keen interest to participate in infrastructure projects here such as power generation, sea port development, waste disposal system, construction of roads and highways as well as in the service sector such as education and healthcare. Malaysia said will continue to contribute positive efforts to promote and expand bilateral relations with Bangladesh , particularly in trade and investment. Pending projects like the Dhaka-Chittagong highway, worth $1.2 billion, power generation, port development etc would be completed.
Malaysia and Bangladesh recently agreed to signing a Memorandum of Understanding in a tackle against money laundering from Bangladesh to Malaysia. The signatories are the financial intelligence units of the central banks from both nations with one aspect of the deal being that any Bangladeshi comes under suspicion they will gain information from Malaysia freely.
Issue of labor force administration in Malaysia has somewhat strained the bilateral ties temporarily. In 2007 Malaysia banned imports of Bangladeshi workers into the country after hundreds of them were stranded at an airport because their employers failed to collect them. There were demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur by Bangladeshi workers demanding payments and better conditions. This created a crisis in the bilateral ties but issue has been resolved with the interference of the governments. The government had placed a similar restriction in 1999 but lifted the ban last year by approving an initial intake of 300,000 workers.
Bilateral ties with Myanmar are good, despite occasional border strains and an influx of more than 270,000 Muslim refugees (known as "Rohingya") from predominantly Buddhist Burma. As a result of bilateral discussions, and with the cooperation and assistance of the UNHCR, most of the Rohingya refugees have now returned to Burma. As of 2000, about 22,000 refugees remain in camps in southern Bangladesh.
At the 2008 ASEAN Regional forum summit in Singapore, Bangladesh and Myanmar have pledged to solve their maritime border disputes as quickly as possible especially that a UN deadline in claiming maritime territories will expire in three years time.
Both countries discussed the possibility of linking the two countries together in an attempt to boost their trade and commerce relations. The estimate to complete the 25 km highway is three years and at the cost of $20 million. Another aspect of this plan is to connect the highway to the Asian Superhighway which would connect the two countries to China.
Relations are considered close and cordial and have made strides to improve trade and investment between the two countries. Diplomatic relations were established on October 5, 1972 and Thailand opened its embassy in 1974 followed by Bangladesh setting up their own in Bangkok in the following year. The first visit between the two countries was President Ziaur Rahman's visit to Thailand in 1979 followed by Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanond in 1983. Other Heads of States like Ershad visited in 1985, 1988 and 1990 and Thaksin Shinawatra in July and December 2002 and January 2004. Thailand is a key country in Bangladesh's "Look East" policy and relations have begun to increase and diversify into different areas.
They seek not to intervene in each others internal matters as shown by their response to the events occurring in their own respective countries in 2006 such as the 2006 Thai coup d'état and 2006–2008 Bangladeshi political crisis. Both have considerable cooperation in summits organised by BIMSTEC and the ASEAN regional forum. Upper class and upper middle class Bangladeshis often go to Thailand for medical treatment and operations that the country's medical infrastructure cannot provide.
After Bangladesh gained independence in 1971, it had strongly supported North Vietnam's struggle with the US and strongly opposed the bombing of North Vietnam which was demonstrated by nation-wide movements. Bangladesh was the first South Asian and second Asian nation to establish relations with South Vietnam at an ambassadorial level. On 11 February 1973, both nations officially established diplomatic relations. In 1982, Vietnam closed its embassy in Dhaka for financial reasons and reopened it in January 2003. Bangladesh opened its embassy in Ha Noi in November 1993.
Relations between the nations are good and had been marked with several high level visits such as Khaleda Zia's visit in 2005 and President Tran Duc Luong in 2004. They maintain good cooperation on an international level in organisations such as the United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement and ASEAN regional forum. Bangladesh has supported Vietnam as a candidate for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council and requested Vietnam to support its participation into ARF, ASEM, EWEC, MGC.
Bangladeshi-Japanese relations were established in February 1972. Japan is Bangladesh's 11th-largest export market; imports from Bangladesh make up 26% of all Japanese imports from the least developed countries, second only to those from Cambodia. Common imports from Bangladesh to Japan include leather goods, ready-made garments, and shrimp. By 2004, Japan had become Bangladesh's fourth-largest source of foreign direct investment, behind the United States, United Kingdom, and Malaysia. Japan's political goals in its relationship with Bangladesh include gaining support for their bid to join the United Nations Security Council, and securing markets for their finished goods. Japan is a significant source of development aid to Bangladesh.
Due to their pro-China administration, North Korea did not establish ties until China recognised and established relations with Bangladesh in 1974. There is a North Korean embassy located in Dhaka although Bangladesh maintains a non-residential status. Instead communication between the Juche state and Bangladesh is with the latter's embassy in Beijing. Relations have only gone as far as recognition and neither nation has ever desired to progress this even further, especially due to the increase in military cooperation between Bangladesh and South Korea and North Korea's isolationist policies. In 2006, Bangladesh have used its ties with North Korea, urging them to comply with a UN resolution after North Korea's missile launch during a meeting with then Japanese Foreign Minister, Taro Aso.
Relations are considered to be productive and progressive. Their relations have gone on to expand in several areas such as defence and trade & investment. Bangladesh also sends a large number of skilled migrant workers to South Korea to work in the following sectors:- construction, manufacture, services, and agriculture, fisheries and livestock. Bangladesh and South Korea's Olympic organisations signed an agreement which would beneft Bangladesh's sports development. One aspect is to bring in highly skilled Korean coaches to train Bangladeshi athletes and exchange of sport teams.
South Korea and Bangladesh are also increasing military ties, such as joint military exercises, training of units such as special forces and building a submarine. Bangladesh has already procured a ULSAN class frigate from South Korea.
Early relations with the People's Republic of China were cold due to the rare use of China's veto at the United Nations Security Council to block Bangladesh's accession to the United Nations. Lately however China has made efforts to improve relations with many of its neighbors. Trade with China reached a record level in 2006 of $3.2 billion under the auspices of the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (AFTA). The trade balance between the two countries are in China's favour. China has also officially agreed to helping Bangladesh on developing their nuclear power plant. Bangladesh has also signed the Apsco convention with six other nations to form a pact with China on space exploration.
There is no choice available recognising both the PRC and ROC as legitimate nations, so Bangladesh opted to recognise the PRC. However, there is unofficial diplomatic relations with a ROC representative office in Dhaka. Although Bangladesh does not recognise the ROC (therefore illegal to travel there with a Bangladeshi passport), it quietly lifted a ban on flights between Dhaka and Taiwan.
Bangladesh established diplomatic relations with Kyrgyzstan immediately after the Collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. As Bangladesh had mutual relations with the Soviet Union, the former intended to increase cooperation after the collapse, especially amongst the new Muslim majority nations. As Bangladesh have begun increasing production of pharmaceutical goods, melamine, garments and jute products other nations have become increasingly interested such as Kyrgyzstan who's Ambassodor Orolbaeva Irina Abdyevna have said this could help strengthen bilateral ties. Other areas including education have been mentioned, with a demand of increasing educational exchange. President Iajuddin Ahmed had said with the increasing standards of higher education especially in engineering, medical, science and technology, he stated Kyrgyz students can benefit studying in Bangladesh's educational facilities. Kyrgyzstan's expertise in hydoelectricity can also help with Bangladesh's growing energy problem.
Bangladesh's presence in Africa is mostly due to their large contribution to the peacekeeping forces present around the continent such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Sudan (Darfur) and Somalia. Bangladesh can foster ties based on its history such as nations in East Africa where there is a South Asian population (whose ancestors immigrated there during the British Empire). In countries such as Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone, Bangladeshi peacekeepers have been honoured. In Sierra Leone, Bengali have been declared a state language. It is currently trying to increase ties with the southern economic bloc in Southern Africa with nations such as Zimbabwe.
Bangladesh and Egypt share views on international policies such as the occupation of Palestine and being members of D-8, OIC and the Like Minded Group have helped to strengthen relations. Areas which the two countries are involved in are primarily trade, agro-processing, pharmaceuticals, science, technology and tourism. There is also a number of Bangladeshi students studying in Egypt and Bangladesh have asked to accept more through its scholarship programme. Egypt also imports semi-skilled and skilled manpower from the South Asian country. However, along with increasing cooperation in education, they also want Egypt to accept more workers.
Relations between the two were non-existent due to the refusal to recognise Bangladesh and granting asylum to some of those who assassinated Sheikh Mujib. After Bangladesh began sending its diplomats to the Arab world such as Libya to explain their view of the war, they immediately recognised and established diplomatic relations with Bangladesh. Bangladesh opened its embassy in Tripoli on January 8, 1975.
Cooperation between the two countries are primarily in international foras such as the UN and the OIC. Both nations have a low-key relations but are generally good due to common grounds of social values and religion. They are now considering to increase trade ties such as importing Bangladesh's pharmaceutical products and Libyan oil. Bangladesh have asked Libya to ease visa restrictions for Bangladesh nationals and to take in more manpower. Apart from labourers there are also Bangladeshis working in professional occupations increasing people to people links. Bangladesh have also welcomed Libyan students to study engineering and medical degrees at their universities. There has also been discussion to set up a joint committee to increase bilteral trade.
Relations began during the inauguration of Nelson Mandela in 1994, and full diplomatic relations were implemented on 10 September 1994.
Due to the brutality and the White Supremacist ideology of the Apartheid regime, relations between South Africa and Bangladesh were non-existent until the collapse of white minority rule and Nelson Mandela's rise to power. There is a number of Bangladeshis which make up the South Asian community in South Africa and immigration still continues, although it has temporarily halted due to attacks against foreign workers.
Bangladesh exports its raw materials such as leather, finished jute and also garments and textiles. South Africa exports to Bangladesh are iron ore, steel, aluminium, infrastructure projects and machinery and equipment for railways.
Throughout the course of history, relations between Bangladesh and Sudan have been warm and smooth. Seeing as both nations share a common religion, relations are generally good, but only recently has cooperation began to increase between the two countries. In March 2008, both governments came to an agreement which would primarily allow Bangladesh to export semi-skilled and skilled workers and also the opportunity to allow Bangladeshi firms and companies to expand their operations to Africa's largest country by size which is now enjoying an oil boom regardless of the events occurring in Darfur since 2007. The relationship between Bangladesh and Sudan thickened as UN Peacekeeping Mission manned by Bangladeshi military started to work in Sudan in 2007.Bangladesh agreed to sending 1,600 of its personal and urgently needed helicopters to join the UN peacekeeping force in Darfur. As part of the growing relationship, Bangladesh will open a full-fledged Diplomatic mission in Khartoum. Relations have diverged into different areas such as education where Sudan has offered more scholarships to Bangladeshi students and recently Sudan has shown interest in importing pharmaceuticals from Bangladesh.
Like other countries in East Africa, they share historical and religious ties to the former British Indian nations such as Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Tanzania has a South Asian community due to the immigration of Indian clerical workers to Africa during the time of the British Empire.
Tanzania has recently decided to import pharmaceutical goods from a Bangladeshi company known as Square Pharma. Tanzania was originally heavily dependent on India and other MNCs for medicines.
It should be noted that during the Bangladesh Liberation War, West Pakistan began a domestic and international propaganda campaign about the situation whereas India began its own media campaign in defense of the pro-independence faction. Because India was considered a non-Muslim nation, the majority of conservative Arab nations were in support of Pakistan, although interestingly enough non-Arab Muslim nations such as Indonesia and Turkey sympathised and established relations quickly. In the present, Bangladesh maintains relations to the Middle East through many areas such as commerce, history, military and most importantly religious ties which enabled the two to cooperate more easily then compared to their Western or Far Eastern partners. Bangladesh supplies over 1 million guest workers to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and other Gulf countries. In turn most of Bangladesh's oil is imported from this region. Islamic countries and charities provide economic aid usually to advance the Islamic agenda, including funding mosques and madrassas.
During the Yom Kippur War, Bangladesh supported the Arabs and Palestinians and sent a medical team and relief supply which was appreciated. In return they enabled Bangladesh to become a member of NAM at the Algiers Summit in 1973 and pressured Pakistan into recognising Bangladesh in order to get Mujib to go to the 1974 OIC Summit in Lahore, as he stated that was his only condition.
Bangladesh also took active part in trying to broker a ceasefire between Iran and Iraq during their eight year war as a member of the United Nations Security Council and participating in the UNIIMOG mission which they became Acting Head of in the last few years before withdrawal. It later helped them to be elected into the OIC Peace Committee.
Bangladesh strongly opposed the Israeli bombardment of South Lebanon which killed approximately 1,191 civilians and described it as "State Terrorism" and a double standard conflict going into detail that a non western nation would have been labelled a terrorist and a western nation would have never been deemed a terrorist. They also temporarily contributed to the peacekeeping effort after the 2006 Lebanon War by sending in battalions of infantry. Shortly after they were asked to leave as Bangladesh was not considered neutral by the UN Peacekeeping criteria such as refusing to recognise Israel.
Like many other nations in the Middle East, Iraq followed the same stance in supporting Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 albeit they did so verbally and had not participated in transferring weapons to West Pakistan. After Bangladesh dispatched diplomats across the Middle East to explain their view of the conflict, Iraq became the first Arab nation to recognise Bangladesh in August 1972. Bangladesh and Iraq has missions located in Baghdad and Dhaka although Iraq closed theirs down after the Iraq War began but has expressed interest in reopening since last year.
Bangladesh and Iraq's ties are primarily based on common faith but there hasn't been much progression into areas such as trade and investment. Between 1980 and 1986, Iraq sent five officers to study in Bangladesh's military academy in Dhaka. The only notable visit between the two nations was Saddam Hussein's visit to Bangladesh in 1988. The height of Bangladesh-Iraq relations was during the 1980s due to Bangladesh's role in trying to call for a ceasefire between Iraq and Iran during their war and was apart of UNIIMOG. Relations quickly deterioated after Iraq invaded Kuwait sparking the Gulf War and a huge rise in oil prices. Bangladesh responded to the UN resolution demanding Iraq withdraw by the deadline or face military action. Bangladesh's other reasons for participation was because of the Bangladeshi community in Kuwait who some work on oil rigs and Kuwait is Bangladesh's oil supplier. Compared to Iraq's relation to its neighbours and the West, their relations with Bangladesh were considered satisfactory and this was displayed by deploying two engineer battalions rather than infantries to directly engage Iraqi troops.
Relations between Baghdad and Dhaka would later improve after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 when Bangladesh denied to send troops to Iraq despite America's persistance and stating that the UN should have had a primary role in solving the matter before the war. Currently they want a complete withdrawal from Iraq and has expressed support for reconstruction efforts. The public in Bangladesh have repeatedly held large demonstrations against the war.
Although the nations are vastly different in culture and history, relations are very positive due to the majority population in both countries adhering to Islam. Another aspect of their relation is their fluctuating and unstable relationship with Pakistan and the concern over India's growing influence in the region.
Immediately after the independence of Bangladesh, many non-Arab nations quickly recognised the new country. However, due to the strong pro-US attitude of the Shah and helping to transport weapons to West Pakistan during the Bangladesh Liberation War, relations did not occur until as late as 1979 after the Iranian Revolution which was greeted with unanimous support from Bangladeshis. Due to Ziaur Rahman's amendment in the constitution declaring to consolidate relations with Islamic states, relations have been progressive since and it has diverse into areas such as trade, investment and culture. A turning point in relations was during the Iraq-Iran War when Bangladesh as a UN Security Council member tried to broker a ceasefire between the nations and settle their disputes with dialogue. Eventually, Bangladesh would participate in UNIIMOG mission to observe that agreements such as a ceasefire had been honoured.
In 1995, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani became the first President of Iran to visit Bangladesh. The current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is looking to strengthen relations with countries in South Asia such as Bangladesh by increasing Iranian investment like building oil refineries. In return, Bangladesh supports Iran to have full membership in the SAARC and its controversial nuclear program saying it is for "peaceful purposes". In 2006, both countries signed a preferential trade accord which removes non-tariff barriers, hoping to take it further to a free trade agreement and in 2007, Bangladesh has requested Iranian assistance on building its nuclear power plant.
Both countries are members of Developing 8 Countries, OIC, Like Minded Group and SAARC (although Iran has observer status). They have generally similar views on world issues especially on the occupation of Palestine.
Israel is the only country in the world which is not recognized by Bangladesh. The latter has taken a similar stance with its fellow Muslim nations calling for the end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and an independent Palestinian state. Bangladesh is also the only Muslim majority nation to have a complete ban on Israel even though this is a direct violation under the WTO protocols. As Bangladesh does not have any diplomatic relations with Israel, it is illegal to travel to Israel using a Bangladesh passport, as noted with the arrest of Salah Choudhury who is an editor of a tabloid called The Weekly Blitz.
In the immediate aftermath of 2006 Lebanon War Bangladesh offered to send battalions of its infantrymen to help with the UN peacekeeping force, however Israel rejected it stating Bangladesh does not recognise Israel. Although Israel rejected the country's participation, Bangladesh Nepal were the first countries whose troops reached the shores of South Lebanon whereas the western nations such as the original leader, France, delayed their deployment. Immediately after setting ground for the other UN peacekeeping nations to work on, Bangladesh had to leave immediately as they were considered not to be neutral in the conflict based on the fact of refusing to recognise Israel and a comment made by Morshed Khan who described Israel's retaliation as double standard "State Terrorism".
Israel was one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh after it declared independence.
Relations between the two countries are considered strong based on common religion and values. A turning point in relations occurred during the Gulf War when Bangladesh sent a contingent of 2,300 personnel to monitor peace in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and a contributor to UNIKOM with a mechanised infantry battalion. Bangladesh sends guests workers to Kuwait to enable its citizens to work in higher paying jobs leading to remittances as well as a Bangladeshi community in the country. Relations between the two countries have even indulged into military ties since the 1980s and a deal signed in February 1, 2004 under which Bangladesh Armed Forces are to provide technical and vocational training to the Kuwaiti army for the next six years. Currently there is 4,000 Bangladeshi personnals operating in Kuwait.
Relations have been strained due to the mistreatment of Bangladeshi workers such as harsh working conditions, low wages (or not being paid for weeks or even months) and several human rights breaches such as chaining or brutally beating workers. There has been calls from the KSDD to replace the "sponsorship system" with the ones used in western nations to avoid restrictions of freedom on foreign workers, who the head of the organisation described as a form of slavery.
Although culturally different, ties between the two are based on common background such as religious tolerance, the need to tackle Islamic militancy, similar views on global events and common religion. Bangladesh opposed Israel's bombing of South Lebanon during the 2006 Lebanon War and offered to contribute approximately 2,000 troops to the peacekeeping force. However, after establishing UN mission on the ground they were asked to leave for not meeting the UN criteria of neutrality such as the non-existent relations with Israel.
Bangladesh like other South Asian countries also send workers to Lebanon to work in domestic and manual jobs, although many like those in the Gulf states complain of harsh conditions and low wages. During the 2006 Lebanon War, some of the Bangladeshis returned home but some went unpaid as their employers escaped the conflict by travelling abroad.
Relations between Bangladesh and Palestine are considered to be warm and cordial as Bangladesh advocates for an independent Palestinian state and an end to Israeli occupation. Bangladesh is one of the 93 countries to recognise Palestine as a state since the Palestinian Declaration of Independence on November 15, 1988. The first high-level meeting between the two was in 1974 at the second OIC summit in Lahore, Pakistan between Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Yasir Arafat. Since then there have been high level contact such as Yasir Arafat's visits in 1981 and 1987 who was warmly received by both former presidents Ziaur Rahman and Hossain Mohammad Ershad with favourable media coverage. Later when democracy returned to Bangladesh, Arafat was also received warmly by Prime Ministers Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina. There is a wide public support for an independent Palestine as the Government had reported in 1987 that 8,000 had volunteered for the PLO although there had never been any official moves to send weapons or personnel.. However, it has been reported that some Bangladeshis have travelled to Lebanon to join Palestinian battles against Israel. Since the 1980s, under IMET (International Military Education and Training) there have been development of military ties between the PLO and Bangladesh with the former attending one year courses at the Bangladesh Military Academy near Chittagong. Palestine are represented in Bangladesh by the Embassy of the State of Palestine that has been established in Dhaka. Bangladesh also provided material help to establish the diplomatic mission.
Early relations between Riyadh and Dhaka where somewhat dormant owing to the former capital's country's close bond with Bangladesh's historical oppressor, Pakistan. From mid-1970s onward Bangladesh was seeking closer ties with oil rich Arab states such as Saudi Arabia. After the 1982 coup by Ershad, he visited Riyadh to meet with the King. Nine months later a ten member delegation of the Saudi military arrived in Bangladesh to discuss possible military ties and inspect its facilities. There was a rumour persisting amongst the press that the Saudis were considering to station a division of the Bangladesh army in the Kingdom (15,000 personnel). It was reported as a proposal by Ziaur Rahman although both governments deny this, the rumour continued into Ershad's rule. Since 1981, Saudi Arabia has sent 77 officers to the Defense Services Command & Staff College in Dhaka, which is the college's largest number of overseas graduates from a single nation.
Bangladesh is seeking to increase economic ties with Saudi Arabia in order to reduce the trade deficit currently in the Kingdom's favour. One of their proposals is to export ceramics, leather and pharmaceutical products to the Kingdom as they are already doing with the western nations.
Australia and Bangladesh enjoy good relations since Australia was the first western nation and the fourth in the world to recognise Bangladesh opening its embassy in Dhaka in 1972. There is also a Bangladeshi community present in the country.
Relations between the two nations are friendly since 1971 with New Zealand amongst the few nations to quickly recognise Bangladesh. The trade balance between the two nations remains in New Zealand's favour. Bangladesh exports its raw materials such as jute, textiles and clothing whereas New Zealand invests in areas such as banking, education and infrastructure development. There is also a small Bangladeshi community in New Zealand.
European countries, particularly from Scandinavia, provide significant economic assistance to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh's relations with the European Union and its member states remained a priority area in the foreign policy context. A number of achievements were made in the economic field during that brief period. At present EU is the top export destination of Bangladesh's products (48% of the total product). International Jute Study Group is being established in Dhaka. Bangladesh successfully participated in World Apparel Fair, European Seafood Exposition, Bangladesh Trade Show in Moscow and Kiev.
France and Bangladesh share an amicable relationship. In 1991, France cancelled Bangladesh's public debt (FRF 598M) as a gesture of goodwill. Trade between the two remains in Bangladesh's favour with France being its fourth biggest customer in 2005 (5.9% of Bangladeshi exports). France has many direct investments in the country such as the Lafarge cement plant in Chatak and has recently shown interest in aiding Bangladesh with the development of a nuclear power plant for civilian purposes.
After the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, Germany was one of the first European countries to officially recognise Bangladesh in 1972. Bangladesh also warmly greeted German reunification. As an economic power as well as an important member of the European Union (EU), Germany is a reliable partner of Bangladesh in development cooperation. Since independence, German churches and numerous non-governmental organisations (NGOs) made tremendous efforts to promote the social and economic development of Bangladesh. German assistance to Bangladesh is received in the form of development efforts, trade and cultural cooperation. Both countries have a long and successful bilateral relationship on most international issues. Germany always emphasises the democratic characteristics, governance issues and development process of Bangladesh.
After establishment of diplomatic relations, the bilateral relations between the two countries began to grow steadily. Between the start of development cooperation in 1972 and the end of 2005, Bangladesh received approximately € 2.3 billion in commitments from Germany as part of bilateral financial and technical cooperation, in addition of the funds provided by the German churches and NGOs. At an intergovernmental negotiation in 2005, Bangladesh received € 14 million in new commitments from Germany. Since 1978, all German funds provided as part of government level cooperation have been in the form of non-repayable grants.
Bangladesh is a priority partner country of German Development Cooperation (GTZ). By an agreement between both the government adopted in May 2004, the activities of the GTZ focus on three priority areas such as healthcare including family planning, economic reform and development of the market system through promotion of private sector, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and renewable energies. Among the other ongoing projects the promotion of legal and social empowerment of women in Bangladesh is also to be mentioned. The sustainable economic development programme of GTZ in Bangladesh contributes to the competitiveness of the readymade garments (RMG) sector, as well as other export-oriented sectors like silk, leather and jute.
In trade with Germany, Bangladesh has for years recorded a large surplus. Germany is the second largest export market of Bangladesh after the US. Bangladesh exports in Germany in 2006 amounted to € 1.56 billion as compared with Bangladesh imports in the same period of only € 305 million. About 94% of the exports from Bangladesh to Germany are RMGs and Bangladesh imports mainly comprising machinery, chemical and electrical goods, and medicines. A German-Bangladeshi investment promotion and protection agreement has been in force since 1986 and a bilateral double taxation accord since 1993. So far German direct investments in Bangladesh are almost € 60 million. The Bangladesh-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BGCCI) acts as a business platform and mediator between both the countries.
The cultural relationship of both the countries is very strong. The cultural cooperation between them is mainly channeled through the Goethe Institute that work on developing the cultural ties between both the countries by sponsoring local and German cultural activities. Bangladesh has traditional and historical connection with Germany. There is a century-old exchange between German and Bengali people. German interest in the culture of Bengal dates back to the visits to Germany by the Bengali national poet and Nobel laureate for literature Rabindranath Tagore in the 1920s and 1930s. Many Bangladeshi intellectuals take a keen and informed interest in German literature, art, architecture and philosophy. In Bangladesh Goethe Institute is the main meeting place for all those interested in Germany.
Goethe-Institute Dhaka with headquarters in Munich offers a broad variety of cultural events to present the German culture in Bangladesh through its main activities by film-workshops, film-presentations, seminars and lectures on socio-political subjects as well as on aspects on contemporary arts, theatre performances, and exhibitions of German and Bangladeshi artists.
Bangladesh has traditional and historical connection with Germany, and both the countries enjoy closest ties. There are increasing contracts amongst German and Bangladeshi artists, primarily in the fine arts, photography/film and theatre. Bangladeshi artists have been able to exhibit in German galleries and museums. A number of visual artists from Bangladesh have also made Germany their new home. Germany continues to promote the restoration of historical monuments, archaeological research and the unique legacy of the Bengali catamarans. Since 1981, a cooperation agreement has been in place between Radio Bangladesh and Deutsche Welle (DW).
The bilateral commercial and trade interests of both the countries are continuing, although there is considerable scope for greater engagement. Bilateral relations got some momentum by several high level visits, contracts, and political and economic dialogue. In December 2000, the then head of the government of Bangladesh officially visited Germany. In February 2004, a German nine-member parliamentary delegation also visited Bangladesh.
Both Germany and Bangladesh share common views on various international issues and work together in the UN and in other international forum. They have maintained and developed close and friendly relations in a wide range of field. The two countries are harmonized together by their commitment to various sectors mutually agreed upon, which is expected to be strengthened further in future.
Relations are primarily based on the Roman Catholic community in Bangladesh who claim to have at least 221,000 adherents out of the total 600,000 Christians living in the country. Relations are good and some Bangladeshis travel to Vatican City especially on special occasions such as the inauguration of the new Pope. The Holy See has a Nuncio (sort of an Embassy) located in Bangladesh's capital city, Dhaka.
Relations can be traced back to 1971 during the independence war when the Soviet Union sympathised with the Mukti Bahini cause and offered their assistance in the conflict. Although the start of their relations were very favourable, Bangladesh and Russia's relations have fluctuated greatly from extremely warm during the early 1970s to an all time low during the 1980s (attributed to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan). After the collapse of the Soviet Union Bangladesh established ties with all the former Soviet Republics including Russia and began diversifying into other areas such as education, cultural, military and energy.
Relations have been excellent since Turkey recognised Bangladesh soon after independence. The trade volume between the two countries have grown as did Bangladeshi exports and has been in Bangladesh's favour throughout their economic relationship. Bangladesh was one of the only six countries to support the Turkish invasion of Cyprus during a UN vote on the matter. On the issue of Cyprus, Bangladesh at multilateral organisations such as the UN, use this as an opportunity to defend the rights of the Turkish minority. They also supported the creation of the Developing 8 Countries with six other nations with large Muslim populations.
The ties between Britain and Bangladesh date back to the British Raj. During the Bangladesh Liberation War Britain offered shelter to diplomats and people who escaped the conflict. The government, politicians and the media were also critical of the atrocities and shown empathy for the Mukti Bahini. On February 4, 1972 Britain recognised Bangladesh, this eventually lead to recognition from other European and Commonwealth nations and Bangladesh's induction into the Commonwealth on April 18, 1972. Britain holds the largest Bangladeshi diaspora in the western world, now numbered at around 500,000, most of them can trace their ties to the region of Sylhet. Britain also holds the largest open air Asian festival in Europe called Baishakhi Mela, a Bangladeshi event held in London.
There has been numerous delegation visits since Foreign Secretary Sir Alec Douglas-Home visited Bangladesh in June 1972. The first visit by a prime minister was James Callaghan in 1978. Other prime ministers who had visited Bangladesh are John Major in a 3-day visit between 10–12 January 1997 and Tony Blair in 2002. Presidents and Prime Ministers of Bangladesh such as Sheikh Mujib, Ziaur Rahman and Fakhruddin Ahmed have visited the UK.
In March 2008, Fakhruddin Ahmed had visited Number 10 to discuss increasing British investment and cooperation in defence and trade, especially on counter-terrorism and duty-free access for LDCs. Britain is the largest foreign investor in Bangladesh and the third biggest export destination for Bangladeshi goods after USA and Germany.
At the 7th ISS Asia Security Summit (also known as Shangri-La Dialogue) in Singapore, Bangladesh's Foreign advisor Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury met with UK's Defence Minister Des Browne at the sidelines to discuss security and defense relations between the two countries. Browne says he hoped that Bangladesh's modernising values can reach the Bangladeshi diaspora in the UK.
Relations between the two countries are positive and there is approximately 24,595 Canadians of Bangladeshi origin living in Canada.
The United States is an aid donor to Bangladesh. It provides assistance during natural calamities. In the post 9/11 scenario, American policy-makers expressed support for moderation in Bangladesh. The US State Department voiced support for free elections before 2008 ends. Approximately 150,000 citizens are of Bangladeshi origin with the majority in professional jobs. Before the 63rd UN General Assembly, Bangladesh's foreign minister had met with James F. Moriarty who is continuing his lobbying for Bangladesh's recognition of Kosovo and not to recognise the break-away regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury has replied that Bangladesh will consider its national interests and decide what course of action they'll take.
Bangladesh's only embassy in South America is located in Brazil. Trade is the primary part of their relations exporting raw materials such as metals from its open mines and importing pharmaceutical products from Bangladesh.
Bangladesh and Venezuela have maintained good ties as both nations have begun increased communications with each other. On August 2006, Venezuela had asked Bangladesh for support for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council although Venezuela was not successful due to the repeated deadlocks in the 2006 UN Security Council election. While hosting the NAM summit on July 2, 2008, Bangladesh and Venezuela agreed to strengthen diplomatic ties. Congressman Monga and Montiel had met with Bangladesh's Minister of Information Jamil Osman discussing media access for third world nations and receive advice in setting up a news station. Osman also requested the incorporation of news produced in Bangladesh in Telesur, Venezuelan TV station.