Bangladesh is seeking partnership with Switzerland in new areas as Dhaka believes the narrative of the bilateral relations is “shifting” by the day.
Dhaka thinks cybersecurity, anti-trafficking, the fight against corruption, migration, skill development, IT, SME development and climate change could be some new areas of “strategic collaboration” between the countries.
Bangladesh expressed its intentions when the newly appointed ambassador of Switzerland, Siegfried Renggli, paid his maiden courtesy call on State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam on Thursday and Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen the day before.
“The narrative of bilateral relations between the two friendly countries has been gradually shifting from development assistance-driven towards strategic partnership following Bangladesh’s rapid economic development,” said the foreign secretary.
Switzerland and Bangladesh established diplomatic relations in 1972 and have been strengthening and broadening bilateral ties ever since. Since 2013, the two countries have conducted biannual political consultations on the entire spectrum of bilateral relations, including on policy, trade and human rights.
Meanwhile, the state minister stressed the need for the continuation of Swiss duty-free quota-free (DFQF) market access for Bangladesh till 2032, further collaboration between the two countries on SMEs and businesses, technology transfer, skilled migration, climate change, and direct air connectivity, according to the foreign ministry said.
He referred to the recent visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Geneva on June 13-16 and her “fruitful” meeting with Swiss President Alain Berset.
Shahriar also recalled the Swiss president’s visit to Rohingya camps in 2018, where he accompanied the latter.
He mentioned Bangabandhu’s vision of transforming Bangladesh into “Switzerland of the East” and highlighted Bangladesh’s remarkable infrastructural developments, attainment of food sufficiency, stronger social safety nets, and successes in health and education sectors.
Terming Bangladesh the “land of opportunity,” the foreign secretary expressed hope that as an expert in the trade and economic sector, the new ambassador would contribute towards enhancing bilateral trade and Swiss investment in Bangladesh, particularly in agro-food processing and dairy sectors.
The Swiss Ambassador congratulated Bangladesh’s graduation from the LDC status, praised its enormous socioeconomic developments, and noted the need for strategic and economic cooperation between the two countries.
“The media in Bangladesh is very active,” he commented, before conveying concern about global warming and the impacts of climate change.
He expressed his hope to visit Cox’s Bazar Rohingya camps soon and acknowledged the need for global attention and humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya crisis, in the face of the Russia-Ukraine war.
The Swiss ambassador also emphasized bilateral trade and Swiss investment in Bangladesh.
To the foreign secretary, he expressed keenness to hold political consultations between the two foreign offices at an early date to discuss and explore further areas of cooperation, particularly on trade and investment, SMEs, pharmaceuticals and climate change.
The ambassador acknowledged the need for the attention of the global community and the continuation of humanitarian assistance to the forcibly displaced Rohingyas in Bangladesh.
The foreign secretary highlighted the importance of regional connectivity in South Asia, Bangladesh’s geo-strategic location and Indo-Pacific Outlook, and apprised the ambassador of ongoing mega projects.
He briefed the new Ambassador in detail on the Rohingya crisis and highlighted that repatriation of the forcibly displaced Rohingyas to their homeland Myanmar was the only solution to this crisis.
The two sides also discussed political developments in their respective countries and hoped that the upcoming general elections in Bangladesh would be free, fair and peaceful.
The state minister stated that the government would welcome foreign observers to observe the upcoming general election.