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Saturday, November 27, 2021

PM seeks ‘reset’ in Bangladesh-UK relations

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called for a “reset” in Bangladesh-UK bilateral relations as she addressed the British Parliament.

“Indeed, it is time for a ‘reset’ in Bangladesh-UK bilateral relations. We need to change the traditional lens we use to view our partnership,” she said, reports BSS.

The Prime Minister also sought an active role of the international community to send back the Rohingyas to their homeland Myanmar in safety and dignity. She also said the role of the UK to this end remains critical.

She was addressing a program titled “Bangladesh at 50: The Resilient Delta” at the State Rooms, Speaker’s House, Westminster in London on Wednesday.

Rushanara Ali, MP, and Member of the House of Lords, Lord Jitesh Ghadhia received the Prime Minister on her arrival at the Webminister.

The Prime Minister said that engagements of the two countries should now be truly strategic, and draw on their cooperation in peacekeeping, counter-terrorism, maritime and aviation security.

She said that the vibrant British-Bangladeshi diaspora must remain at the centre of partnership of the two countries.

“We take pride in our diaspora. I am pleased to see their growing representation at the Westminster – all five of them women at the moment! I am confident that there will be more of them in this great parliament of diversity,” she said.

Referring to Rohingya crisis, Sheikh Hasina said that the UK’s role in finding solution to the Rohingya crisis remains critical.

Since August 2017, Bangladesh has given stability to the region by containing the crisis, she added.

“But the security challenges in Cox’s Bazar are getting more and more acute. These challenges can soon spread to the region and beyond,” she said, adding that the international community has a responsibility to make sure that the Rohingyas can soon go back to Myanmar in safety and dignity.

“Keeping the crisis alive can only be a zero-some game for all concerned,” she opined.

Describing Bangladesh as a land of opportunities and promise at its 50 years of independence, Sheikh Hasina said, “It draws strength from its resilient past. It stands ready to seize opportunities in the present. It looks to the future with a mission and a vision.”

The Prime Minister briefly spelled out Bangladesh’s extraordinary achievements and developments in various sectors including economy, infrastructural development, power and energy and digitisation.

She said that Bangladesh’s economy has been growing at an average rate of over 6 percent, with 8.15 percent in 2018-19 fiscal year.

The premier continued that Bangladesh’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) grew by 243 percent from 2008 to USD 310 billion US dollars in 2021 and the Bangladesh economy is now the world’s 41st largest in nominal GDP.

She said that the government has reduced poverty from 31.5 percent to 20.5 percent during the last one decade while life expectancy has reached to 73 years.

The per capita income has increased three-folds from 2008 to USD 2,227 this year whereas the foreign currency reserve jumped seven-folds to USD 48 billion in 2021, she continued.

“Our pledge to build a ‘Digital Bangladesh’ has been a game-changer. Our government provided the backbone, and our people carried it forward,” she said.

The Prime Minister mentioned that nearly a million people have been given decent houses during the last one decade as the government is committed to keep no one homeless.

She said that the government put in place a smart fiscal and social safety package and it helped the country grow by 5.24 percent in 2020, the highest in Asia.

Referring to COVID-19 outbreak, she said, “Our pandemic management again tested our resilience.”

“We had one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates in South Asia. We are ready to do our part to ensure global vaccine equity,” she added.

Sheikh Hasina went on saying that the government is moving ahead with its mega-infrastructure projects – many of them with own finances.

The Padma Multipurpose Bridge will be one of the longest in the world, she mentioned.

Besides, she said, “We are working on harnessing the Bay of Bengal resources. We have stepped into the outer space with Bangabandhu-I satellite.”

The Prime Minister said that this year, Bangladesh got qualified to graduate from the Least Developed Country status.

She noted that Bangladesh ranks top among those on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

“We remain committed that no one is left behind. We must join hands to ‘build back better, stronger and greener’ to offset the pandemic impacts,” she said.

Mentioning that Bangladesh is one of the most climate vulnerable countries, she said, “We are, however, recognised as a role model in disaster management. We are also a global leader in climate adaptation. We are now working on climate resilience. We have recently terminated our plans for ten coal-based power plants.”

The Prime Minister said that Bangladesh Delta Plan-2100 is a blueprint for building a resilient and prosperous delta in the long term.

“Our government keeps investing in our biggest asset – our human capital. We have demography on our side for another two decades,” she said.

The Prime Minister observed that a key to Bangladesh’s forward march is unlocking the potentials of our women and girls as women comprise 42 percent of the workforce, with nearly 80 percent in the apparel sector.

Sheikh Hasina told the British Parliament that women’s participation in education and politics has increased in Bangladesh over the years.

“I envision a society where there will be no discrimination against girls and women,” she said.

The Prime Minister said that Bangladesh holds on to its founding principles of democracy and secularism.

She said Bangladesh shares with the UK its abiding commitment to fundamental rights and freedoms.

She mentioned that with Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s brutal assassination in August 1975, Bangladesh was led to a different direction.

It took more than two decades of political struggle to restore the basis for parliamentary democracy, she said.

About communal forces’ engagement, the premier said, “The communal forces that were rehabilitated in politics still continue to disrupt our social fabric. Their toxic narratives now pervade the cyberspace. It is an uphill struggle against these forces. But, we remain determined and focused.”

She said the culture of impunity had to destroy for ensuring justice for past crimes, including the killing of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib along with most of his family members.

“Bangabandhu gave us political freedom. We are on our way to attain economic emancipation,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said that she dedicated her life and politics to build a peaceful, just, prosperous, secure and inclusive nation by establishing ‘Sonar Bangla’ as envisioned by the Father of the Nation.

“Bangladesh at 50 is still an unfolding story. The upcoming chapters will be even more exciting. I urge you to stay tuned and join us in the venture,” she added.

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