Calling for international observers to monitor her country’s elections in January 2024 to ensure they are fair and democratic, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ended a 15-day trip to Japan, the United States, and the UK.
On 7 May 2023 in London, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland paid Sheikh Hasina a courtesy call, during which the Bangladesh PM asked for diversified election observers to oversee the general elections.
According to news reports Patricia Scotland, the UK wants to help the South Asian country hold fair, peaceful, participatory, and corruption-free elections. The Commonwealth Secretary-General accepted the invitation and offered to train Bangladesh elections officers at the district level as they have previously.
Also on Sunday, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair highly praised what he described as Sheikh Hasina’s tremendous economic advancement thanks to her dynamic leadership. They both met in a venue in London. Blair said he wishes to continue helping Bangladesh’s further development in various sectors.
“The current economy of Bangladesh is very attractive, and Bangladesh is doing very well economically,” Blair added. He also told Hasina he believed his good standing with Middle Eastern countries could help broker Gulf Cooperation Council-Bangladesh commercial accords.
Sunak and Hasina
After two weeks in three countries, the Prime Minister returned home with a series of praises from country leaders worldwide, who said her management of Bangladesh’s economy is admirable and inspirational.
“I’ve been following you for many years. You’re a successful economic leader,” Rishi Sunak told his Bangladesh counterpart, according to Bangladesh High Commissioner to the UK Saida Muna Tasneem. She said Sunak also told Hasina she is a “role model for development” and “an inspiration for us.”
Hasina thanked Sunak for lauding her efforts in favor of human rights and homelessness, her success in maintaining 6% economic growth despite the pandemic, and for providing shelter to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees. The Bangladesh PM also thanked Sunak for the UK’s support of the Rohingya plight, which she invited Sunak to see firsthand.
The UK and Bangladesh have shared a robust bilateral relationship since 1972. The United Kingdom was among the first European countries to recognize Bangladesh’s independence. The countries have since enjoyed beneficial relations, further strengthened in 2017.
Bangladesh’s top five 2022 export destinations were the United States ($8.7B), Germany ($8.3B), Spain ($3.6B), United Kingdom ($3.29B), and Poland ($2.94B), according to a The Observatory of Economic Complexity report.
On Saturday, 6 May, the Bangladesh High Commissioner to the UK, Saida Muna Tasneem, said, “All the heads of state and government who have spoken to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina showed appreciation for her continued leadership and the remarkable economic growth of Bangladesh under her leadership.”
During Charles III’s coronation ceremony, Hasina met with the presidents of Egypt and Rwanda, prime ministers of Sierra Leone, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Gambia, Namibia, and Uganda.
US praises Hasina hosting electoral observers
Before the UK, Hasina was in the US for meetings with World Bank leaders and top US officials in Washington. They praised her for her willingness to host international observers during the upcoming general elections.
The US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, met with Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary, Ambassador Masud Bin Momen. Nuland reiterated the importance of “free and fair” elections in the South Asian nation.
“As we deepen US-Bangladesh ties, I met Foreign Secretary Momen and reiterated the US commitment to promoting human rights and democratic values, including free and fair elections. We thank Bangladesh for its generosity in hosting Rohingya refugees,” Nuland stated.
Before that, Hasina met with top World Bank officials at their headquarters in the US capital to attend an event marking 50 years of partnership between Bangladesh and the multilateral lender.
That day, Bangladesh and the World Bank signed five loan agreements worth $2.25 billion, including a $500 million budget support.
Also, in Washington, Hasina met with the US-Bangladesh Business Council (USBBC) with a focus on US-Bangladesh Economic Cooperation.
“Bangladesh is one of the most exciting markets in the world right now and one of the most inspiring development stories of the past two decades,” said USBBC President Atul Keshap. He is also the president of the US-India Business Council.
Hasina kicked off her three-country tour to Japan. Both countries signed eight major agreements on agriculture, metro rail, industrial upgrade, ship recycling, customs matters, intellectual properties, defense cooperation, ICT, and cyber security cooperation.