What is the Importance of PM Sheikh Hasina’s Participation in the Munich Security Conference 2024?

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After assuming office following the landslide victory in the 12th parliamentary election on 7 January 2024, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina departed for her first official foreign tour in Germany. The reason of this three days official visit was to attend the Munich Security Conference 2024, the leading forum to discuss security issues in the world, held in Munich, Germany. During her visit, Sheikh Hasina also attended bilateral talks with global leaders. Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Germany has significance from various aspects such as global peace, security, political, economic and environmental. This piece focuses on the importance of this visit.

First, this maiden visit of Sheikh Hasina provided a great opportunity to deepen Bangladesh’s relations with European countries. For instance, Bangladesh Prime Minister had a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on 17 February 2024 on the sidelines of the Conference. At the meeting, German Chancellor congratulated Bangladesh Prime Minister on her re-election. Both sides discussed cooperation in trade and investment, climate change, renewable energy and hydrogen technology, and skilled migration. The two leaders also shared their views on the wars in Ukraine and Gaza. Bangladesh Prime Minister also had a meeting with the German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development H.E. Svenja Schulze on the sidelines of the Conference. At the meeting, both sides expressed intention to enhance cooperation in trade and investment including EU’s GSP+ trade preference and German investment in Bangladesh’s renewable energy and IT sectors, and climate resilience including mitigation and adaptation. The two sides also shared views on contemporary global issues and their economic ramifications. Thus, this visit will play crucial role in deepening Bangladesh’s economic and political ties with the European countries.

Bangladesh Prime Minister also had a bilateral meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on 17 February 2024. At the meeting, Dutch Prime Minister also congratulated Bangladesh Prime Minister on her re-election. The two leaders expressed their intention to intensify cooperation in Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 implementation, knowledge-technology-innovation in agriculture and IT sectors.

Another notable achievement is that the British Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Rt Hon Lord Cameron paid a courtesy call on Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 17 February 2024. At the meeting, British Secretary of State congratulated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on her re-election and conveyed UK Prime Minister’s best wishes to her. The two sides discussed bilateral cooperation in trade and investment including aviation partnership, migration and mobility, Rohingya crisis as well as shared views on the wars in Ukraine and Gaza and situations in Myanmar and Red Sea.

Thus, this visit worked as a forum for Bangladesh to discuss various bilateral and multilateral issues with European countries which will be imperative to deepen ties in the days to come.

Second, Sheikh Hasina attended at a panel discussion titled ‘From pocket to planet: Scaling up climate finance’ during the Munich Security Conference 2024. During the discussion, Sheikh Hasina put forward six proposals and called on world leaders to release climate funding for countries affected by climate change and to cease arms races in order to allocate funds to climate-related issues. Sheikh Hasina’s six points are: unlock climate finance, peace and conflict resolution, address imbalance in financing, access to climate funds, reformation of the global financing architecture, and mobilization of private capital flow. Hasina also reiterated the necessity of fulfilling the commitment of mobilizing US$100 billion climate finance by the developed nations.

Third, Sheikh Hasina reemphasized her stance regarding global peace and security. In the bilateral discussions with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Sheikh Hasina urged for the cessation of conflicts, specifically mentioning the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the assault on Gaza. In this regard, many countries showed a division. For instance, there are states supporting the cause of Ukraine whereas they tend to blind in the case of Gaza. In an interview with the Turkish news agency, Sheikh Hasina boldly mentioned the act of Israel in Gaza is a genocide which needs to be stopped. This demonstrates Sheikh Hasina’s bold stance in favor of just cause. While many counties are silent with regard to raising voices in favor of Gaza people, Sheikh Hasina put an equal concern for both Ukraine and Gaza issues by implying utmost significance to the proliferation of peace across the world. This, in turn, strengthens Bangladesh’s position regarding global peace.

Fourth, Sheikh Hasina utilized the visit to enhance economic cooperation with India. On the sideline of the Munich Conference, Sheikh Hasina attended a meeting with the Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar. During her discussion with the External Minister, Sheikh Hasina emphasized the use of Taka (Bangladeshi currency) and Rupee (Indian currency) while doing business between the nations. This a prudent step of Sheikh Hasina in the realm of complex ‘US dollar dependency’. Sometimes, due to external political and economic changes, Bangladesh faced dollar shortage which affected export-import. If the use of local currency could be increased, then it would help to reduce sole dependency on US dollar. Thus, Sheikh Hasina utilized the platform and induce an economic diplomacy with India, which is an example of Hasina’s visionary leadership.

Fifth, during her visit to Germany, Sheikh Hasina once again presents Bangladesh as a norm maker by providing her six points proposal. In general, the third world countries expect to take norms created by the first world countries. However, Sheikh Hasina remains an outlier in this case by introducing her culture of peace concept in the global arena. Similarly, Hasina provided the six points proposal and reiterated Bangladesh’s position on norm making.

Finally, the visit of Sheikh Hasina to the Munich Conference 2024 proves Bangladesh as an important player in the global political arena and a promoter of global peace and security. Therefore, Bangladesh gained global presence and prestige because of this visit.

In fact, after some tumultuous events prior to the election, Bangladesh successfully organized the election and the people elected Sheikh Hasina as their Prime Minister. Sheikh Hasina’s government also gained global recognition and the visit to Germany is a testament to that. This visit is, therefore, a crucial one for Sheikh Hasina and her government. On the other hand, the visit proved to be significant from issues that range from global peace to climate justice and bilateral economy.

– Dr. Md. Shariful Islam is an adjunct Research Fellow at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs, (CBGA), Dhaka. He is also an Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Rajshahi, Bangladesh.

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