In the first ever Bangladesh-UK Strategic Dialogue in Dhaka on 28 March, the UK and Bangladesh agreed to build shared prosperity through widening and deepening the existing excellent bilateral relations for the benefit of both countries. During the Dialogue they also celebrated the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
Sir Simon McDonald, Permanent Under-Secretary and Head of the Diplomatic Service for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Md. Shahidul Haque led their respective sides in the talks.
Sir Simon conveyed the good wishes of the British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary to their Bangladeshi counterparts on Bangladesh’s Independence Day. The UK congratulated Bangladesh on the impressive socio-economic development achieved in recent years, including in the empowerment of women and appreciated Bangladesh’s important contribution to UN Peacekeeping operations.
The Strategic Dialogue involved a productive exchange on political and bilateral issues, economic and development cooperation, security and defence cooperation and current global issues. A joint statement will be issued in due course.
Both sides valued the deep historic ties between Bangladesh and the United Kingdom. The UK highlighted the valuable contribution made by the large British-Bangladeshi community to British society and the economy. Both countries noted the election of three members of the community to the British Parliament and the appointment of one member as the UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh and the UK condemned the recent terrorist acts in both countries and expressed sympathy for the victims. Both sides agreed that countering terrorism required global collaboration to address the root causes and to uphold respect for the rule of law and international human rights commitments.
Recognising the importance of aviation security, the UK and Bangladesh will continue to work closely to further strengthen security at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka. The UK reaffirmed its willingness to provide necessary assistance and both sides agreed to carry out a Joint Assessment to identify the remaining improvements needed and draw up an action plan. Once these necessary improvements are in place, the UK agreed to take steps for the resumption of cargo on UK-bound direct flights from Dhaka.
The Dialogue confirmed a shared commitment to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The UK, as Bangladesh’s largest bilateral grant development partner, assured of its continued commitment to this development.
The UK appreciated the huge burden that Bangladesh has been bearing in hosting a significant number of Muslims of the Rakhine State of Myanmar/Burma. Both countries agreed to work together to find a permanent solution to the problem in Myanmar/Burma.
Both Bangladesh and the UK agreed to strengthening bilateral trade and to work together to encourage more foreign direct investment. Sir Simon reiterated that after Brexit, the UK will remain outward looking and a champion for free trade, and is determined to renew and strengthen relations with long-standing friends like Bangladesh.
Recognising the importance of the visa relationship between the two countries, both sides agreed to maintain an efficient and high quality visa service for Bangladeshi nationals. The UK agreed to expand the criteria for 3-5 day priority visa services for Bangladeshi applicants from June 2017. The UK confirmed that all visa decisions are taken by British staff and added that decision making on settlement visas for Bangladeshi nationals was being moved from New Delhi to the UK.
The UK welcomed Bangladesh’s commitment to take back its citizens who no longer have the right to remain in the UK and Bangladesh gave an assurance that it will take practical steps to expedite their return.
The UK Permanent Under-Secretary and Bangladesh Foreign Secretary began the session with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding confirming the UK and Bangladesh’s intention to hold annual Strategic Dialogue alternately in Dhaka and London. The next Strategic Dialogue meeting will be held in London in the first half of 2018.
Foreign Secretary Md. Shahidul Haque said:
Bangladesh attaches great importance to its relations with the UK. Bangladesh and the UK enjoy long-standing historic ties, which are based on shared values and common aspirations of peace and prosperity. I am delighted to host Sir Simon McDonald for the first Bangladesh – UK Strategic Dialogue. This platform would offer us an opportunity to regularly exchange views on a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues of common interest and shape the future of our bilateral cooperation.
The Permanent Under-Secretary and Head of the Diplomatic Service for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Sir Simon McDonald, said:
I am glad to be in Dhaka for the first Bangladesh-UK Strategic Dialogue. The UK and Bangladesh have a close relationship and annual Strategic Dialogues will allow us to deepen our cooperation across security, prosperity and economic development. As the UK prepares to leave the EU, our relationship with Bangladesh will matter even more. I look forward to welcoming Foreign Secretary Md Shaidul Haque to London next year.