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50 years of Dhaka-Moscow relations

Liberation War to Rooppur nuclear power plant

Published : 25 Jan 2022 10:59 PM | Updated : 26 Jan 2022 01:03 PM

During the war of liberation, Moscow provided support to Bangladesh. After independence, friendly relations developed between Bangladesh and Russia, and  have been continuing over the last 50 years.

Although the relationship deteriorated a bit for a temporary period, it has now improved a lot. Trade between Bangladesh and Russia is increasing.

After the birth of Bangladesh, the then Soviet Union recognized Bangladesh on January 24, 1972. The next day, January 25, diplomatic relations were established between the two countries. 

Analysts say that Russia is cooperating with Bangladesh in three main ways, which is helping to increase Bangladesh's economic potential. The first is the physical infrastructure sector which includes power and energy. The second is to increase the technical capacity for human resources development and the third is to help increase the defense capability. 

The superpower, the then Soviet Union or today's Russian Federation, took a stand condemning the genocide by Pakistani forces in 1971 and calling for an end to the genocide.

At that time, in the context of the bipolar world system, the Soviet Union took a stand against Pakistan-China and the United States. 

On March 25, 1971, the Soviet Union condemned the genocide carried out by the country's military in the then East Pakistan and called for an end to the genocide.

At the very end of the Liberation War, when India joined the Liberation War on December 3, the United States proposed a ceasefire in the UN Security Council. China also supported it, but the Soviet Union vetoed the proposal.

Analysts believe that if the ceasefire proposal had been passed at that time, Bangladesh would not have been able to emerge as an independent country on December 16 in 1971. If the ceasefire proposal was passed, the war would have been longer.

In March 1972, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founder and first President of Bangladesh, visited Moscow. A number of agreements were signed between the Soviet Union and Bangladesh during the visit. Some of these are still in effect.

From 1971 to 1975, the Soviet Union provided significant economic assistance to Bangladesh. As a part of this, Ghorashal thermal power plant was built with the participation of Soviet experts, which is one of the largest power plants in Bangladesh till date.

The country was involved in the reconstruction of war-torn Bangladesh from the very beginning to make the country's main seaport Chattogram reusable.

In 1972, at the request of the Bangladesh government, the Soviet Union assisted in the removal of Pakistani mines and ships sunk during the war from the port of Chattogram and the Karnafuli River. For about a year, 22 ships of the Soviet Pacific fleet operated to do the job. 

The work was successfully completed in spite of the particularly risky technical complexities, and this enabled the Government of Bangladesh to quickly restore the supply of food and other essential consumer goods to the war-torn country.

The Soviet Union then came forward with economic, educational and cultural cooperation. In an effort to deepen the relationship, the people of the two countries emphasized on people-to-people relations.

Bangladesh's military and air force are equipped with Russian-made military technology. More than 6,000 Bangladeshis have received higher education certificates from various institutions of the Soviet Union and Russia. In 2021, funds have been allocated from the Russian federal budget for 70 Bangladeshi students.

In a military coup in 1975, the founding President of Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated along with his family. Over the next few years, a series of military coups and power shifts turned Bangladesh's politics into a disaster. The country's foreign policy then shifted from the Soviet Union to China and the United States.

Analysts say Bangladesh's relations with the Soviet Union deteriorated at that time. Apart from the change in foreign policy, the political situation inside the country is also another factor.

In the early eighties, the political parties of Bangladesh started a united movement against the military government.

At the end of 1983, Bangladesh expelled nine Russian diplomats on charges of 'interfering in Bangladesh's internal affairs'. 

However, the Soviet Union divided in 1991, and the Russian Federation re-emerged. Bangladesh then recognized the Russian Federation. From that time on, the relationship started to get better.

In 2009, Bangladesh Awami League came to power under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh's bilateral cooperation with Russia gained new momentum.

Currently, the construction work of the country's first nuclear power plant is going on in full swing at Rooppur in Pabna district, with the support of Russian state-owned company Rosatom. Total capacity of the plant is estimated at 2,400 MW. The government believes at least 1,200MW units of electricity from the first nuclear plant will be added to the national grid by 2023. The second with the same amount of power will be launched by 2024.

Russia has already proposed to Bangladesh to build a 450-megawatt power plant at Ghorashal in the country.

In the 2019-20 fiscal year, Bangladesh exported goods worth about $490 million to Russia. In the same year, it imported goods worth $790 million from Russia. Currently, 79 products of Bangladesh are entering the Russian market with duty free facility.

Bangladesh is now seeking duty-free access to Russia for agro-processed products, pharmaceuticals, ceramics and leather products. At the same time Russia showed interest in importing fish, vegetables and potatoes from Bangladesh. There is a huge demand for Bangladeshi knitwear, medicines, shrimp and leather products in the Russian market.

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