PM Hasina is likely visit to Paris: French ambassador

PM Sheikh HasinaFile photo

Bangladesh and France are likely to see significant progress regarding purchase of 10 A350 from Airbus, having Dhaka's own sovereign earth-observation satellite and endorsing an adaptation pact aimed at supporting Bangladesh in adapting to the effects of climate change during forthcoming visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to France.

“A date is still being searched, because at that level, you have too many agendas. It's not something you do in five minutes. So there will be a visit,” French ambassador to Bangladesh Marie Masdupuy told the newspersons at her residence on Wednesday.

She said there will be ministerial-level visit before the prime minister’s visit to France and Bangladesh will receive a “large and important” delegation of business people from France probably in next fall. “So, this is also very encouraging.”

The French envoy said Airbus is actually in discussions on two different files – one is the aircraft with Bangladesh’s national flag carrier – Biman Bangladesh Airlines and the other one is about the satellite systems that Bangladesh would like to acquire for earth observation purposes.

“So both discussions are going on quite well. And we hope that soon there will be signatures and finalization of these,” said the ambassador who interacted with the journalists in two separate segments – France in its bilateral relations with Bangladesh as well as international issues of common interest.

Building on Hasina’s visit to France in November 2021, at her invitation, president Emmanuel Macron paid a bilateral visit to Bangladesh from 10-11 September 2023.

Both countries welcome enhanced cooperation in strategic sectors. France thanked Bangladesh for its commitment concerning the acquisition of 10 A350 from Airbus.

The two countries underlined as well the importance of continued cooperation on improved air traffic management in all airports of Bangladesh.

Likewise, as a contribution to the 2041 Vision of a Smart Bangladesh, the two countries welcome the conclusion of a space partnership between Airbus DS and Bangladesh Satellite Company Ltd. (BSCL) that will strengthen Bangladesh’s position as a Space nation after it masters its own sovereign earth-observation satellite.

Asked about Airbus further, the French envoy said, “We're very confident.” And on the satellite issue, she added, “I'm absolutely hopeful, completely hopeful because our French offer is the best. I have nothing to add.”

Economic opportunities

Responding to a question on the economic front, the ambassador said there are economic challenges, which are at the core of the graduation process, and post-graduation situation.

“We are aware of the efforts of your government to uphold a diversification of the economy in your country. So, the dependence on one main area of the industry is reduced compared to others because this will be key when it comes to transitioning out of the LDC status, and still getting access to special trade regimes, in particular with the EU,” she said.

So, she added, it is an economic challenge but it is also a human challenge because to see an economic boost, Bangladesh needs manpower.

The ambassador said the labour issue is very important. “So, I see these two aspects, diversifying the economy and upholding the situation of the workers in your country, this will help for the transition.”

In the economic and trade field, the two countries see a growing interest from Bangladeshi and French companies in various areas like energy, food, shipbuilding, engineering, etc.

“And we also started looking into possible investments by Bangladeshi companies in France, for example, in Pharma or RMG, retail and other areas,” she said.

On the Rohingya issue, she said they are quite worried by the deterioration of the situation, currently, within the camps in Cox’s bazar and the situation around on the other side of the border and the risks that are mounting.

The French envoy said they are confident that Bangladesh authorities are doing everything they can to maintain the security situation in and outside the area. “We will continue to support …we are always very grateful to your country's hosting the Rohingya people.”

She said repatriation of the Rohingyas remains the goal which means that the situation in Myanmar has to be changing and improving because in the current conditions obviously Rohingya people cannot go back to their country.

Asked about a disinformation spread on social media on visa issues, the ambassador said she never pays attention to this kind of disinformation efforts or whatever.

“But that time, I replied to the guy because it was completely a lie. If I remember correctly, we had not refused any visa because we did not receive any application. So how can you refuse something that you were not even asked for?” she explained.

Responding to a question, the ambassador said she will not go into details of what is actually in the discussions because for some reasons of confidentiality.

Highlighting the strategic issues, the envoy highlighted cooperation in the areas of aerospace connectivity, defense and digital and cyber issues.

Bangladesh an important partner

Bangladesh and France shared the same vision for a “free, open, peaceful, secure and inclusive” Indo-Pacific region, based on international law and with shared prosperity for all.

Taking note of the French and European strategies concerning the Indo-Pacific, both parties agreed to work towards promoting regional peace and stability and to explore further opportunities for cooperation in maritime security and the blue economy.

“Bangladesh is definitely a very important partner of France in this implementation of our Indo-Pacific vision. Because of the position of your country, because of your weight, in terms of population, economic growth, the perspective which is being outlined, it is very important that we have good connections, and that we understand each other's issues and try to support each other,” said the French ambassador.

She said France adopted its own Indo Pacific strategy long ago. “So, our view is a very cooperative approach when it comes to the Indo Pacific, recognizing the mounting importance of this region, in the economy of the world, in the human dynamics of the world, and also in culture and other areas.”

The envoy said they have a collaborative approach, meaning it is not a confrontational approach. “And we think that within that region there are important actors, like of course, China and India.”

In their view, she said maintaining dialogue and cooperation with everybody in the region is important.

“So, to support us in this approach, of course, we're very pleased to have other partners within the region,” she added.