French president Macron arrives today

Emmanuel Macron

President Emmanuel Macron of France will arrive in Dhaka today, Sunday, after participating in the G-20 summit held in the Indian capital Delhi. During his less than 24 hour trip, he will hold bilateral talks with prime minister Sheikh Hasina. Bangladesh hopes to strengthen political and strategic ties with this European country though the visit.

According to diplomatic sources in Dhaka, generally speaking the heads of state or government of any European country do not visit any country where the government is approaching the end of its term. That is why Macron’s sudden Dhaka visit is generating interest. French president Mitterrand had visited Bangladesh in 1990.

Also, the present circumstances are quite different from that of 33 years ago. Bangladesh’s importance has increased due to the geopolitical competition in the Indo-Pacific and also its economy. Again, with military coups taking place in several African countries like Burkina Faso, Mali and Gabon, the influence of the former colonial power France is waning in that region. That is why France is turning towards Asia to create a position here by consolidating ties in the region.

Two MoUs

Officials of the foreign ministry have said that the French president Emmanuel Macron will hold an official meeting with prime minister Sheikh Hasina at her official residence Ganabhaban on Monday morning.

Foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen, speaking to Prothom Alo, said that the visit of a French president to Bangladesh after almost three decades is very significant. Alongside discussions on various bilateral issues, two MoUs will be signed regarding a satellite and aircraft with Airbus and one regarding funding for local government project.

During the visit of the French president, an MoU will be signed for the launching of a new satellite. Named Bangabandhu Satellite-2, this will be an Earth observation satellite by which basically Bangladesh’s land and maritime territory can be observed. France will manufacture a radar and two optical radars for the satellite.

Speaking to Prothom Alo on condition of anonymity, a senior diplomat of Bangladesh said that after the proposal was made to sell Airbus aircraft and the satellite, Bangladesh raised the issue of technology transfer. Later the Airbus proposal said that they would manufacture a radar for the satellite. And a plant would set up in Bangladesh to manufacture the remaining optical radars.

When asked about the matter, Bangladesh Satellite Company Ltd’s chairman Shahjahan Mahmud on Saturday afternoon told Prothom Alo, “Photographs will be taken of the Earth and sent down to Bangladesh by Bangabandhu Satellite-2. This will provide the entire picture of Bangladesh’s land and ocean surface. This will step up surveillance and also make it easier to determine what measures need to be taken and when.

Alongside the satellite, Airbus for quite a few years now has been keeping up contact regarding selling of aircraft. As part of this effort, in May this year a joint declaration was signed between Bangladesh and UK regarding the purchase of 10 aircraft. An MoU in this regard will be signed during President Macron’s visit.

Possible agenda

Diplomatic sources say that during Macron’s visit, a proposal may be made by France regarding a second nuclear power plant in Bangladesh. Other issues that may be discussed include climate change, regional stability and arms sales. In 2021 a defence cooperation protocol was signed between Bangladesh and France. This included advanced training and technology transfer to increase the efficiency of Bangladesh armed forces.

According to diplomatic experts, while trade, technology and economic issues will feature in the talks between the prime minister and the French president, this visit is “extremely significant” due to Bangladesh’s election and the geopolitical competition. This visit will enhance the opportunity for Bangladesh to set up strategic relations with a powerful European country. This may also create opportunity for Bangladesh to gain benefit in the global contest by means of strengthening economic ties.

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