After almost 33 years, the French President Emmanuel Macron visited Bangladesh on 10 September 2023 which elevated Dhaka-Paris ties in a new height. This write-up focuses on the implications of Macron’s visit to Bangladesh-France relations. First, as an outcome of the visit, Bangladesh and France signed two bilateral instruments (agreements/MoUs) to enhance cooperation in different fields, including infrastructure and satellite.
More specifically, A Credit Facility Agreement between Economic Relations Division (ERD), Bangladesh and the France Development Agency (AFD), France on ‘Improving Urban Governance and Infrastructure Program’ has been signed which is expected to improve cooperation on infrastructure sector with a long-term benefits to the people of Bangladesh.
Second, a Letter of Intent (LOI) on Cooperation between Bangladesh Satellite Company Limited (BSCL) and Airbus Defence and Space SAS, France related to Bangabandhu-2 Earth Observation Satellite System has also been signed. This satellite cooperation will also have far reaching implications.
Third, the emerging role of Bangladesh in global diplomacy has also been recognized because of this important visit. President Macron has said that ‘Bangladesh is progressively retrieving its place on the world stage’. Macron reiterated that France respects Bangladesh’s policy independence. In addition, according to the Élysée Palace, the president’s official residence, France views Bangladesh now differently ‘which is experiencing rapid economic development.’
Fourth, the visit will work as a foundation to elevate Dhaka-Paris ties to a new height. New areas of cooperation will be explored and harnessed. For instance, due to the consistent efforts of the Sheikh Hasina regime (2009-present), Bangladesh-France trade ties has been improved. For instance, the volume of total trade between Bangladesh and France soared from 210M€ to 4.9 billion€ today with France being the 5th largest country for exports. After this visit, one can expect that economic ties between Bangladesh and France will be strengthened in the days to come.
Fifth, the role of Bangladesh and France in promoting global peace and stability has also been reiterated. For instance, the new ‘strategic move’ by Bangladesh and France ‘will play an effective role in establishing regional and global stability and peace’, as Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said.
Sixth, Bangladesh and France enjoy strong cultural ties. The visit of President Macron has strengthened the cultural ties. During Hasina-Macron meeting, there have been effective discussions on educational, cultural and linguistic exchanges. In addition, President Macron also visited Bangladesh’s folk singer Rahul Ananda’s residence which underscores Macron’s love and respect to Bangladeshi culture. Macron also experienced an ‘unscheduled’ Turag river cruise which also showed his deep respect to Bangladeshi culture.
Finally, one should note the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman laid down the foundation of Bangladesh-France relations in 1972. The year 2022 marked fiftieth anniversary in Bangladesh-France relations. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited to France in 1999, 2011, 2017 and in 2021 to deepen Bangladesh-France relations in a new height. This visit of President Macron is the outcome of the consistent efforts of the Sheikh Hasina government. However, taking this visit as a reference point, the partnership between Dhaka and Paris needs to be deepened in the new areas of blue economy cooperation, migration cooperation, maritime cooperation and promoting a humane world order.
– Dr. Md. Shariful Islam is a Research Fellow at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA). He is also an Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Rajshahi.