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Russian envoy: Dhaka, Moscow working to take ties to next level

  • Published at 01:41 pm February 4th, 2017
  • Last updated at 09:32 pm February 4th, 2017
Russian envoy: Dhaka, Moscow working to take ties to next level
Russian Ambassador to Bangladesh Alexander Ignatov has said Bangladesh and Russia are working on a package of documents, covering many issues, including economics, migration and energy to elevate the ties between the two countries to a new level. "Our focus is bilateral trade. Its volume is growing. Last year, it hit a historical high of $1.6 billion – a 40% increase in just one year. Quite a jump! And we expect further growth this year," the ambassador told UNB in an interview on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between Russia and Bangladesh. Describing the current Dhaka-Moscow relations as booming and very smooth, Ignatov said, "We are quite satisfied with the way our relations are developing. After all, there are no major problems or unsettled issues. This is very positive and gives us a sense of assurance," he explained. The ambassador said the basis of cooperation between the two countries is very solid. "I can say this from my own experience as I came here in 1977 for the first time and can judge the relations at their initial stage. I saw a close rapport between the then Soviet Union leaders and Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman." Russia in the Bay of Bengal The ambassador said Russia is ready to develop economic cooperation with Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal. "I discussed with Bangladeshi authorities the ways to strengthen the legal framework of cooperation and prospects of Russia's participation in priority development projects of Bangladesh, including Russia's involvement in construction and equipment of deep-sea ports," he said. The ambassador said Bangladeshi side is now reviewing Russia's proposal to sign an agreement on sea shipment cooperation. "In a broader perspective, we're interested in the balance of relations and balance of powers in the region." Addressing Global Threat of Terrorism The ambassador said Russia is happy to note that the authorities of Bangladesh are actively dealing with the threat of terrorism. "These efforts already gave results." At the same time, he stressed that only through united efforts it is possible to defeat terrorism. Responding to a question, the Ambassador said that Russia has "the necessary legal basis to develop cooperation with Bangladesh in this sphere and assist it in fighting terror". During the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Moscow in January 2013, Russia and Bangladesh signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Counter-Terrorism that is fully relevant nowadays. Moscow-Washington Ties When asked about Moscow's relations with Washington under Donald Trump administration, the ambassador said they are waiting to see Donald Trump's first steps towards Russia. "President Trump is a successful businessman, and I expect him to be realistic in his policies. But we are cautious in making forecasts. Hopefully, he will not make big mistakes, though, like his predecessor," said the ambassador. Speaking about the US sanctions to punish Russia, Ignatov said these did not and will never work. "Actually, they have led to contrary results. Now Russian producers make a variety of products, and we've reached self-sufficiency almost in everything." Russia has substituted imported food products with their own. European and American sanctions created necessary incentives to apply modern agro-technologies and grow almost everything the year round. "Our relationship with the United States and Europe could be mutually beneficial. But relations should be built on equality, first and foremost," said the Russian envoy. The ambassador said the main principles of Russian foreign policy are that countries should take each other's interests into account and not interfere in each other's internal affairs. "For example, we have never interfered in the internal affairs of Bangladesh. We have never told your government what it should do. We respect your nation and its sovereignty." Rooppur NPP Describing Rooppur NPP as the major bilateral project, the Ambassador said Russia has provided an almost 12 billion USD credit to Bangladesh for this purpose. "Not too many countries do we give such big credits. Russia has its own development tasks inside the country, but we trust Bangladesh and we trust its leadership," he commented. The ambassador reiterated that RNPP is being built with the top of the line technology like in India. "And we are paying a lot of attention to the safety aspects of this project. Quite a number of Russian experts will take part in the top phase of the RNPP construction. This is the biggest project in the history of Bangladesh," he said. Regarding the questions raised by some quarters that Russia will not take back wastage from the RNPP plant, the Ambassador said this information is "completely baseless and misleading." He said the spent-fuel, all of it, will be taken back to Russia. "We are expecting to sign - hopefully in March this year - an agreement especially on the spent fuel that will be taken back to Russia." Focus on Trade The ambassador said strengthening trade ties will be one of his priority areas during his tenure here. For example, Russia is interested in increasing its agro-export to Bangladesh. In December 2016, the G2G contract to supply 200 metric tons of the Russian milling wheat to Bangladesh was concluded between the JSC "Foreign Economic Corporation "Prodintorg" and the Directorate General of Food of the Ministry of Food of the People's Republic of Bangladesh. "We expect these supplies to grow to almost 1 million tons per year. We have a great potential here as the quality of Russian wheat is recognized to be the best," the ambassador said. Gazprom to open office in Dhaka The ambassador said a special focus is made on energy sector as it is Russia's strongest point and it has the best energy specialists in the world. Taking into account that Bangladesh badly needs electricity, the envoy said, it is quite logical that his country is paying major attention to the development of energy and gas sector here. He said Russian company Gazprom is going to open its office in Bangladesh soon, which is a positive development also. "It demonstrates that we are serious about dealing with your country in this particular field." Direct Currency Exchange The Russian envoy finds improvements in business environment. "At the same time, my personal view is that in banking sector the foreign currency regulation should be more flexible." He said it is crucial that Russian and Bangladeshi banks have direct dealing facilities. "Then our economic relations will grow much faster. Russian rouble and Bangladeshi taka should be exchanged directly, not trough dollar or any other currency."