September 8, 2023
DHAKA – Upon arrival in Dhaka yesterday evening, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would prevent any attempt to establish dictates and interference by the US and its allies in this region.
“If we look at the situation and analyse it, we can clearly see that the US and its allies are truly trying to promote their interests in the region by using the so-called Indo-Pacific strategy. Their goal is clearly both to counter China and to isolate Russia in this region,” he said.
Russia will work with its partners in the region to prevent any attempts to establish dictates and also attempts of those who, driven by their own interests, want to tell others what to do, he told a press briefing at the Hotel InterContinental Dhaka.
The Indo-Pacific strategy of the US and its allies is an “expansionist drive” on the part of NATO, he said.
Moscow appreciates that Bangladesh foreign policy is guided exclusively by its national interests despite pressure from the US and its allies, he added.
The Russian foreign minister arrived in Dhaka around 6:00pm after attending the East Asia Summit in Jakarta and held a bilateral meeting with Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen. He and Momen then held the press briefing.
This is the first time a Russian foreign minister is visiting Bangladesh. He will be calling on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today before leaving for New Delhi to attend the G20 Summit.
Lavrov’s Dhaka visit takes place at a time when the Russia-Ukraine war and subsequent sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and other western nations are disrupting global supply chains, causing price hikes, and putting countries like Bangladesh in a tight spot.
The global powers are also focusing on the Indo-Pacific, and Bangladesh, being at a key location in the region, faces a complex balancing act.
Meanwhile, the US sanctions on Rab and its officials and the visa policy as a tool to pressure Bangladesh for holding free and fair elections have also put the government in a tough situation.
At yesterday’s press briefing, Lavrov said, “The intention of the US and its allies in this region is to undermine the security architecture that has existed within the Asian format for decades.
“Those formats were equal… the decisions were made on the basis of the principles of consensus, but Washington and its ‘satellites’ were unhappy…”
Russia supported Bangladesh during the Liberation War in 1971. The bilateral trade between the two countries is about $3 billion. Bangladesh is also constructing its first nuclear power plant in Rooppur with Russian support.
However, making payments to Russia faced challenges because of US sanctions on Russian banks. Bangladesh early this year restricted 69 US-sanctioned ships from berthing in Bangladesh.
Lavrov assured of timely implementation of the project, saying, “We have assurances from both companies supplying in this project that this will be moving according to the schedule.”
The first shipment of nuclear fuel will arrive in Bangladesh in October, he said.
Regarding Bangladesh’s decision to use yuan, the Chinese currency, to pay back the loans for the power plant, he said, “We are moving very fast to use a variety of systems that would be based on the national currency and not of the currency of countries who use it as a weapon.”
Russia and Bangladesh have spoken about making a permanent deal regarding the possible supply of LNG, wheat and fertilisers from the former to the latter, said Lavrov.
Russia and China have been opposing UN resolutions on Myanmar over the Rohingya issue since the beginning of the crisis in 2017. Russia is also a major arms supplier to the Myanmar junta.
Lavrov yesterday announced Russia’s support for Bangladesh in the ongoing dialogue with Myanmar.
“Russia thinks that the Rohingya should go back to Myanmar. We believe that outside actors should limit themselves to simply creating favourable conditions for a mutually acceptable solution. This is exactly what the Russian Federation is doing in [this] context… and will continue doing so.
“However, certain outside players use these issues to exert pressure on one of the parties and to interfere in its domestic affairs. I believe that this is both counterproductive and unacceptable.”
When it was his turn, Foreign Minister Abdul Momen said, “There are challenges in doing business due to the Ukraine war. We also requested duty free quota access for our products.”
Bangladesh does not want any war and crises should be solved through dialogue and discussion, Momen said.
A journalist asked Momen why Bangladesh was neutral about the Russia-Ukraine war as Bangladesh too has been suffering from the US sanctions.
Momen replied Bangladesh has a foreign policy of “friendship to all and malice to none. We maintain a very balanced foreign policy. Our position is very simple.
“We don’t want to see any proxy war in this region.”