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Bangladesh an increasingly important strategic partner in Indo-Pacific region: UK

The Bangladesh-UK relationship is transitioning to a deeper economic, migration and security partnership, while helping to protect Bangladesh’s development gains, said the British foreign ministry.

The UK’s development offer in Bangladesh aligns with the UK government’s Strategy for International Development (IDS) and government of Bangladesh’s strategies and plans, UNB reports.

“Bangladesh is an increasingly important strategic partner for the UK in the Indo-Pacific region and it is a key player in upholding the Rules-Based International System (RBIS),” said the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office in a policy paper on UK-Bangladesh development partnership.

The Strategy for International Development (IDS) places development at the heart of the UK’s foreign policy.

It sets out a new approach to development, anchored in patient, long-term partnerships tailored to the needs of the countries.

This approach goes beyond aid and brings the combined power of the UK’s global economic, scientific, security and diplomatic strengths to development partnerships.

The Country Development Partnership Summary details how the IDS and IR23 will be put into practice with Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is a Lower-Middle Income (L-MIC) country with aspirations to become an Upper Middle Income Country (U-MIC) by 2031.

The United Kingdom and Bangladesh have a long-standing partnership built on shared economic, security, development and people to people ties.

The UK was one of the first countries to recognise Bangladesh and the countries celebrated 50 years of partnership in 2021.

Bangladesh has made significant progress on development and it will graduate from Least Developed Country status in 2026.

It was the world’s second-poorest country at independence and had a Gross National Income (GNI) per person of $120 in 1973. It is now the world’s 33rd largest economy with GNI per person of $2,570.

Annual GDP growth has averaged about 6% since 2011, except in 2020 because of COVID-19. Growth has been fuelled by the expansion of garment exports, overseas remittances, external support, and domestic consumption.

Bangladesh has a strong record on poverty reduction and improvement in a range of social indicators.

Despite this progress, Bangladesh faces a range of development challenges as it strives to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, said the British Foreign Ministry.

Bangladesh is highly vulnerable to the impact of extreme weather events.

The Global Climate Risk Index highlights that Bangladesh was the 7th most climate vulnerable country in the world in 2019.

It is one of the world’s most densely populated countries with more than one third of the population living in urban areas.

Decades of high growth and impressive human development gains in Bangladesh are set against governance and democracy challenges, said the policy paper.

To overcome these development challenges, the UK said, a number of key economic and policy reforms have been identified by both the government of Bangladesh and development partners.

The government of Bangladesh has outlined rapid and transformational shifts in agriculture, trade, education, healthcare, transportation, communication and in conducting business in the 2021 to 2041 Perspective Plan.

It also stressed the need for institutional and governance improvements to drive economic development.

The UK is increasingly providing expertise and knowledge to support Bangladesh’s development.

“We will continue to prioritise areas where analysis shows this is key to systemic change, whether economic – promoting trade and investment, political – supporting peaceful politics or social – women’s rights,” said the UK government.

A deeper and broader economic partnership will help Bangladesh access new sources of affordable finance for sustainable growth and build resilience against the impact of climate change, it said.

“We will use technical and diplomatic expertise to support long term economic reforms and boost investment,” it added.

The UK’s new Developing Countries Trading Scheme (DCTS) will boost trade and British Investment International (BII) will expand its impact investment portfolio.

The UK has six strategic goals in Bangladesh.

These goals bring together the strategic priorities and international objectives of the UK and Bangladesh to support progress on the SDGs.

They also align with the UK’s IR23 and the IDS.

Goal 1: Foreign policy and security

UK will develop and maintain a strong and productive network of contacts in Bangladesh to support a free, open, and secure Indo-Pacific region, that upholds the RBIS. UK will also support Bangladesh to remain a stable, reliable, and human rights compliant partner on UK national security interests and migration.

Goal 2: Democratic institutions and norms

UK will work with government, civil society, youth, political parties, and international partners to deliver this goal. UK will support Bangladesh institutions become more open, democratic, and inclusive, with greater transparency and accountability, respect for human rights, gender equality and ability to resolve conflict.

Goal 3: Women and girls and global health

UK will support government’s efforts to help ensure Bangladesh has the systems, policies, and practices in place that educates and empowers its people, especially women and girls, to protect their rights, fulfil their potential, and live healthy lives. UK will provide targeted technical assistance, combined with diplomatic lobbying, global, regional, and centrally managed programmes (CMP) and UK expertise to support this goal.

Goal 4: Economic reform, trade and investment

UK will support Bangladesh to deliver key reforms to help it reach upper middle-income status whilst building a closer economic and investment partnership. UK will deepen bilateral trade and investment partnership through better market access for British firms and the DCTS.

Goal 5: Climate change and environment

UK will ensure the partnership with Bangladesh delivers on climate change and environment commitments and contributes to the government’s efforts for a more climate resilient, less-carbon-intensive, and cleaner Bangladesh. UK will use targeted ODA programming, political engagement, centrally and regionally managed programmes, and UK technical expertise to support people to better adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Goal 6: Rohingya and disaster preparedness

UK will use its UN Security Council membership to continue to put pressure on Myanmar to resolve the crisis and call for accountability. UK will also deliver large scale life-saving humanitarian support to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and advocate for a more sustainable response to the protracted crisis. UK will also support Bangladesh to prepare and respond effectively to natural disasters across the country.