Bangladesh The Superpowers

Bangladesh Country Studies index

Bangladesh - The Superpowers

The superpowers

Relations with the Soviet Union were cordial in the years immediately following independence. The Soviet Union supported Indian actions in aiding the war of independence, and after the war the Soviet Navy sent a floating workshop to Bangladesh for clearing Pakistani mines from the Chittagong and Chalna harbors. Mujib visited Moscow in 1972, and high-level officials from both countries made numerous reciprocal visits until 1975. The Soviets supported the socialist programs of the Mujib government and its close ties with India. Early Soviet aid was limited, however. During the first four months of its existence, Bangladesh received economic aid worth US$142 million from India, but only US$6 million from the Soviet Union.

After the 1975 coup, relations with the Soviet Union rapidly cooled. The military regimes of Zia and Ershad deemphasized socialist policies and encouraged closer ties with the United States, Arab states, Pakistan, and China--all of which were politically distant from the Soviet Union. Bangladesh condemned Soviet support for Vietnam's occupation of Cambodia and Soviet military actions in Afghanistan. A low point in Bangladeshi-Soviet relations came after the expulsion of nine Soviet diplomats from Dhaka in December 1983 and January 1984. Moscow, in turn, refused to accept the new Bangladeshi ambassador and canceled a Bangladeshi trade mission visit to Moscow.

Bangladeshi-Soviet relations rapidly improved in 1984 and regained a level of cordiality in the mid- and late 1980s. In 1985 the Soviet Cultural Centre reopened in Dhaka. In 1986 a Soviet special envoy visited Dhaka, and later the Bangladeshi foreign minister visited Moscow. Although Soviet aid to Bangladesh was still small compared with assistance from Japan, the United States, or even China, by 1987 Bangladesh had entered into sixteen different economic accords with the Soviet Union. Soviet assistance has concentrated on the energy sector, especially several power plants at Ghorasal, near Dhaka.

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