Bangladesh and the UK have historic and traditional friendly ties that predate 1971. Regular contact between Bengal and Great Britain began in the 17th Century. In many ways, relations with Bengal-one of the most prosperous regions on earth at the time- were economically and politically important to Britain in the immediate aftermath of the preliminary phase of the Great Industrial Revolution. The relations also proved to be important to the region that constitutes today’s Bangladesh as it offered the population an opening to the West’s modern education, technology and ideas.
Support of the British people, government and the media during Bangladesh’s War of Liberation in 1971 forged the relations further and took it to a new height. The UK was among the first of the European countries to recognize Bangladesh on February 4, 1972. This greatly influenced quick recognition of Bangladesh by other Commonwealth and Western countries. Bangladesh became a member of the Commonwealth on 18 April 1972.
Bangladesh attaches great importance to the historic links binding the two important Commonwealth countries. Relations between Bangladesh and the UK are defined by their shared aspirations for democracy, development and human rights. A vibrant trade and economic partnership and the presence of a large Bangladeshi Diaspora in the United Kingdom (numbering about half a million) provide huge impetus to the burgeoning relations. The two countries have been maintaining excellent bilateral relations in all areas of mutual interest.
The two countries work closely in various international forums on a range of issues including MDGs, climate change, human rights and UN peacekeeping as well as on issues related to the LDCs. Bangladesh is the second largest recipient of British overseas development assistance after India. The depth of the Bangladesh-UK relations is also manifested in the number of bilateral visits that have so far taken place between the two countries at various levels including Heads of State. The frequent high-level contacts of recent years have come to characterise the forward looking, diverse and multifaceted relations. Starting from a level of mere aid centricity the two countries today look at the relations as a ‘new special partnership’ forged on ‘shared agenda’.
Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina paid an official visit to the United Kingdom on 26-30 January 2011. During the visit Hon'ble Prime Minister had bilateral talks with the British Prime Minister Rt. Hon David Cameron MP on 27 January 2011. During the meeting the Hon'ble Prime Minister discussed the entire gamut of issues of bilateral interests with her British counter parts. This was the first meeting between the two heads of Government since new governments assumed offices in both the countries. This visit contributed significantly in further enhancing bilateral cooperation.
Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, Princess Anne, visited Bangladesh in March 2011. This was her fourth visit to Bangladesh. During the course of her visit, Princess Anne met the Hon’ble President, Hon’ble Prime Minister, and the members of civil society.
In Bangladesh, the contribution of the British Council in cultural exchange, teaching and English language learning has enhanced these personal contacts. Every year, thousands of Bangladeshis also come to the UK to visit family, to study, travel and conduct business.
Climate Change cooperation has been an important element in the relationship between Bangladesh and the UK bilaterally as well as at international level. Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable to climate change given that it is a low-lying delta in one of the highest rainfall areas of the world.
The UK Government is a strong advocate for an environment-friendly global climate change regime. The British Foreign Secretary during his visit to Bangladesh in February 2008 showed deep understanding of the problem that Bangladesh was faced with due to climate change for which Bangladesh was hardly responsible. The British Foreign Secretary agreed to enhance cooperation with Bangladesh in this field.
Bangladesh supported a UK initiated debate at the UN Security Council on ‘Climate Change and Security’ in April 2007. Bangladesh deeply appreciates leadership displayed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown at global level on climate change issues and his interest to support the African and Asian LDCs in combating adverse impacts of climate change.
Bangladesh and the UK jointly organised the London Climate Change Conference held on 10 September 2008. The Conference was organized primarily to highlight Bangladesh’s strategic plans to mitigate climate change affects as well as to help bolster its adaptation programmes. The London Conference also established a Multi-Donor Trust Fund for Bangladesh. The UK pledged £75 million ( over five years) to support Bangladesh in adaptation programme in the face of adverse impacts of climate change . The bulk of our funding will go towards the Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund, which was signed between the Government of Bangladesh and other international donors. This will go some way towards protecting the lives and livelihoods of some 15 million people who live in the most vulnerable places of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has been campaigning for renewed efforts to promote ‘carbon-neutral’ economic growth and for setting up a Technology Transfer Board as part of the next agreement on climate change. Bangladesh feels that the LDCs would not be able to attain sustainable development without access to affordable, eco-friendly technologies.
DFID has been supporting the Government of Bangladesh for devising a comprehensive strategy and project plan for shorter and longerterm adaptation. It earlier announced a commitment of additional fund under the Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme to help build Bangladesh’s capacity in enhancing disaster preparedness, including building cyclone shelters and other infrastructures.
The UK has also been a direct victim of terrorist attack during London bombings in 7/7. Bangladesh and the UK enjoy close cooperation in this particular area. Both the Governments are working together to foster best possible cooperation in counter-terrorism measures.
UK-Bangladesh Joint Working Group (JWG) on counter-terrorism:
The first meeting of the Bangladesh - UK Joint Working Group (JWG) on Counter Terrorism (CT) was held in Dhaka on 28 June 2009. The concept of Joint Working Group is that of an “informal method of engagement” to facilitate dialogue between the two governments across agreed standards. The purpose of JWG is to identifying current areas of counter-terrorism cooperation and ways to enhance them, identifying new areas of CT engagement and sharing of views and experiences on best practice. The extent of Counter-terrorism cooperation includes training and information sharing.
Bangladesh High Commission in London plays a central role in adding speed and substance in the burgeoing relations. The High Commission takes a lead role in safeguarding and furthering the interests of Bangladesh as well as that of the community in Great Britain. The High Commission’s areas of activity include all major spheres namely political, economic, trade and investment.