Canadian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Lilly Nicholls on Monday said her country is committed to remaining a friend and partner of Bangladesh.
“We know that Canada and Bangladesh are both diverse countries; both champions of multilateralism, and both are trading nations and interested in maintaining a rules-based international order,” she said.
As more and more countries think about the Indo-Pacific region as a strategic priority, the high commissioner said Canada is here to cooperate with and support Bangladesh as it graduates from LDC status.
Nicholls said she looks forward to having a discussion about the ways that they can expand that cooperation, and the ways in which Canada’s vision of a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific will include a vibrant, growing and open Bangladesh.
The envoy was speaking at a plenary session on “Defining Competition in the Indo-Pacific”, moderated by Zillur Rahman, executive director of Centre for Governance Studies and chairman of Bay of Bengal Conversation.
US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas, Australian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Jeremy Bruer and British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Sarah Cooke, also spoke at the event.
Talking about Canada’s Indo Pacific Strategy, she said the region is home to 65% of the world’s population and is rapidly becoming the global centre of economic dynamism.
“And we know that our security and our social and economic prosperity are intertwined with the Indo-Pacific, so Canada is taking action to make sure that Canadians will play a vital role in what we believe is becoming the most significant and strategic region in the world,” said the high commissioner.
Canada recently launched our Indo-Pacific Strategy just short of a year ago, last November, and it is a “veritable game-changer” for Canada’s role and position in the region.
“Our strategy is supported by dedicated new investments across the region totaling nearly $2.3 billion. This will enable unprecedented engagement by departments and agencies across the Government of Canada,” Nicholls said.
Canada’s vision for the Indo-Pacific is founded on values that are universal. Many of them fall in areas where Canada and Bangladesh are already natural partners: peace and security; economic growth that benefits everyone; a sustainable future; and people-to-people ties that build friendship and mutual understanding.
The high commissioner said Canada will continue to stand with Bangladesh to respond to the Rohingya crisis, including through our engagement with ASEAN and other Asian nations and by working towards accountability for those in Myanmar responsible for the refugee crisis.
“In fact, our Indo-Pacific Strategy specifically states Canada will fully implement the next phase of Canada’s Rohingya Strategy, while also supporting peace building in Myanmar and seeking accountability for human rights violations in that country,” she said.
Canada also recently co-hosted a conference on Peacekeeping here in Dhaka.
“We are both peacekeeping nations, and we want to continue working with Bangladesh on regional peace and security. This increased stability will pave the way for economic growth and prosperity,” she said.
By 2040, the Indo-Pacific region will account for more than half of the global economy. Over the last several years, the region was responsible for almost two thirds of global growth.
“We recognize that Bangladesh has been a part of this with over 6% annual growth most years since 2005,” said the envoy, adding that no region will be more consequential to Canada’s prosperity than the Indo-Pacific, and its importance to Canadian trade, investment and economic security will only continue to grow over time. Canada-Bangladesh trade has grown to $4 billion and has the potential to become more diversified and grow much further.
As part of the Indo-Pacific Strategy, she said, Canada will contribute to infrastructure investment in region, helping to mobilize Canadian institutional investors, as well as deploy Canadian firms and technologies in the region.
“We know that connectivity and infrastructure are key parts of Bangladesh’s Perspective Plan 2041, and our new strategy provides some tools where Canada and Bangladesh can cooperate on building the economy of tomorrow,” said the High Commissioner.
Approximately 60% of international students studying in Canada come from the region and there are about 10,000 Bangladeshi students living and studying in Canada every year.
Students come to study in Canada and often stay to work, to contribute and to join Canadian society. Those who return home forever carry with them the knowledge and experiences gained in Canada.
Like Bangladesh, the high commissioner said, Canada is not a superpower, nor do they strive to become one.
“Ultimately, cooperation is how Canada stays competitive and it defines our vision for the Indo-Pacific,” she said.
Nicholls said they will continue to pursue this as they always have – as a friend and partner committed to mutual respect; as a proudly diverse country; and as a champion of multilateralism motivated by the idea that our future security and prosperity is best served when all countries – large and small – abide by global and regional rules and respect national sovereignty, the rule of law, democracy, and human rights.