Roundtable with HE Mohammad Sufiur Rahman
The Perth USAsia Centre hosted His Excellency Mohammad Sufiur Rahman, High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Australia for a private roundtable on Wednesday, 1 June 2022.
The High Commissioner’s appearance in Perth comes as Australia and Bangladesh mark 50 years of diplomatic relations. The roundtable facilitated frank discussion involving representatives of government, industry, academia, and other sectors on the future of the bilateral relationship, Bangladesh’s ongoing growth and development, and its place in the evolving Indo-Pacific.
The roundtable began with observations of the remarkable milestones Bangladesh has already achieved or is soon due to. These include overtaking fast-developing neighbours such as India in per capita income and life expectancy and remaining on track to overtake Australia on aggregate GDP term in the next decade or two.
Bangladesh has also been able to avoid the intensity of economic and political crises now roiling other South Asian countries, such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka. One suggested reason for this was its penchant for moderation and maintenance of an independent and inclusive developmental pathway. This reflects its desire to avoid too much dependence on external partners.
Another major topic was the centrality of Bangladesh’s Indian Ocean region – specifically the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea – to the future of Indo-Pacific economic and strategic interactions. This stemmed from factors including high volumes of trade that passed through these waters and rising maritime security threats.
Bangladesh has also been critically affected by regional humanitarian challenges, including the cross-border spill-over of Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis.
Despite these opportunities and challenges, participants noted that the Australia-Bangladesh relationship had not received anywhere near the attention of other key regional partnerships. They sought to identify solutions to this, focusing on areas including trade and investment, energy security and climate, aid and development, education, institution building, and defence and security.
Specific future priorities identified for Australia were expanding its regional diplomatic focus beyond India and furthering progress on the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement.
The discussion followed a public event which the Perth USAsia Centre hosted with the High Commissioner earlier in the day.