Indo-Pacific strategy not meant to be confrontational but to enhance cooperation in the region, she says

Newly appointed Ambassador of France to Bangladesh Marie Masdupuy has said she will focus on three priority areas during her tenure in Dhaka to take the relations to a new height that include to "maintain and boost" political relations which can be translated in many different ways.

"Bangladesh and France have a very old political relationship. Even before the Liberation of Bangladesh, France gave very important political support internationally. We were at the forefront of the Bangladesh cause. This is the imprint that we all bear in our minds," she told UNB in an interview.

Sharing her three-fold priorities, Ambassador Masdupuy said the two countries can lead joint initiatives in the area of climate change, noting that France and Bangladesh are both champions in this area.

France is a champion in promoting multilateral initiatives to give a better framework to the international community about climate change issues while Bangladesh is a champion in terms of being one of the most vulnerable countries in the world when it comes to dealing with climate change impacts, the French envoy observed.

Highlighting the trade and investment issues, Ambassador Masdupuy said there are not enough French companies in Bangladesh.

There were more before Covid-19 and some of them left during the pandemic. "We need to attract them back. This must be done through joint efforts by both countries," said the ambassador.

"We want to bring in many more French companies," said the ambassador, recalling her visit to Chattogram, which she finds to be a thriving region of Bangladesh.

She said the prospect of Chattogram is very encouraging and contribution of Chattogram division to Bangladesh's national economy is huge, and the port itself is making huge contributions and efforts to get an international level of competition. "This is very encouraging."

Talking about the CMA CGM, a French container transportation and shipping company, the ambassador said it is already the second largest freighter to and from Chattogram and they are looking forward to become more important as much as the port itself will technically adapt to their requests and needs and to get to the level of Colombo and Singapore.

Indo-Pacific Region

France and Bangladesh share 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 countries agreed to work towards promoting regional peace and stability and to explore further opportunities for cooperation in maritime security and blue economy.

"You know, France in the European Union (EU) was the first country to offer all European partners a strategy for the Indo-Pacific region. This strategy was adopted with some small differences and it was made an EU strategy," said the ambassador.

Responding to a question, the French envoy said, "This strategy is not meant to be confrontational. It was meant to enhance cooperation in the whole region which is one of the largest trade regions and human exchanges regions of the world."

So, she mentioned, it is not meant to be confrontational with any country of the bigger region.

Highlighting their commitment to fully observing the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as well as the peaceful settlement of disputes, refraining from any threat or use of force, Bangladesh and France stated the importance of maintaining security and freedom of navigation and overflight in all seas and oceans.

Defence Cooperation

Ambassador Masdupuy said France is a world leader in terms of defence equipment and military equipment of high quality.

"Bangladesh is a country which already has various defence partners who have very strategic positions in South Asia," she said, adding that any important country has to protect itself from all sorts of threats that they are facing today.

She said France is a world leader in terms of procurement and is, of course, ready and available to propose various equipment which would answer the particular needs of Bangladesh.

During Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's state visit to France in November 2021, the two countries stated their will to further develop the defence and security component of their partnership.

To that end, both countries agreed to strengthen dialogue and continue their cooperation, in particular the area of training, which was launched during the visit.

Furthermore, they committed to stepping up cooperation in the area of defence equipment based on the needs expressed and each party's ability to respond to them, including through capacity building and potential technology transfer.

In this regard, both parties welcomed the signing of a Letter of intent on defence cooperation.

GSP Plus

Bangladesh is currently enjoying trade facilities under the EBA (Everything but Arms) regime and the EBA regime will change as part of a technical measure.

"It will change once Bangladesh graduates as a developing country which is scheduled to happen in 2026. The friends of Bangladesh will look for ways and accompany during the transition period. We hope that the measures taken by your government will no doubt be adaptive to the situation. Your country will eventually take advantage of this new regime. It just needs a few adaptive measures."

Airbus and Thales

Ambassador Masdupuy is thinking in particular of two important companies for greater engagements which are very actively involved currently on projects - the first being Airbus.

European aerospace giant Airbus is a leader in aviation and airspace while another company Thales is a major player in the high-tech industry in France.

Friendship based on Strong Bonding

Reflecting on 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the ambassador said, "It is true that the 50 years period is coming to an end soon. But we will have another 50 years event in April this year when we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Andre Malraux's visit to Bangladesh."

Andre Malraux, the famous French litterateur and politician, wanted to join the Bangladesh Liberation War and take over a military command.

Once Bangladesh was liberated, Malraux did not miss the opportunity to visit the newly liberated country. Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman personally invited Malraux in recognition of his contribution to Bangladesh's liberation.

Two years into the country's independence, Malraux came to Bangladesh on 21 April, 1973.

During his five-day visit, Malraux traveled from Rajshahi to Chittagong and met freedom fighters, young university students, and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman twice.

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