Australia respects the foreign policy of Bangladesh - friendship to all, malice to none - set by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and will never ask Dhaka to make a choice when it comes to regional geopolitics.
High Commissioner Jeremy Bruer in Dhaka on Thursday made the comment when asked about the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) of US, Japan, Australia and India, which is being seen as an effort to contain China in the region.
Bangladesh, however, maintains that it will not tilt to any grouping which has military ambition.
“We welcome that approach. We greatly respect Bangladesh's independent foreign policy approach introduced by Bangabandhu. We would never ask anybody to make a choice,” Bruer said while interacting with the diplomatic correspondents under the Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh’s (DCAB) flagship ‘DCAB Talk’.
He, however, said Quad is not an alliance, but a forum to share ideas for the prosperity and resilience of the region. Issues related to Covid cooperation, vaccination, and other regional challenges are being discussed at present.
He said Australia has previously benefited from China's economic growth and hopes that all countries of the region can do the same.
He said Bangladesh and Australia can work together to harness the possibilities of the vast sea resources both countries share.
The DCAB Talk was held just a day after Bangladesh and Australia signed the Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement (TIFA), the first of this kind between the countries in the last five decades.
It is expected to provide a platform for institutionalised economic interactions and to open newer opportunities for trade and investment between the countries.
Asked whether Australia has any plan to share Covid-19 vaccine doses with Bangladesh, the High Commissioner said their focus is on the immediate neighbourhood apart from extending cooperation through the COVAX facility.
Australia’s contribution of $130 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment also supports the vaccine needs of Indonesia and other eligible countries.
In addition, Australia has a commitment of $100 million contribution to the Quad Vaccine Partnership with the United States, Japan and India.
On Rohingya crisis, he said they remained “strongly committed” to help Bangladesh’s efforts towards a solution.
The High Commissioner highlighted Australia’s commitment in humanitarian and disaster response, and said since 2017, Australia has provided over $270 million in humanitarian assistance to Rohingya and host communities in Cox’s Bazar.
“We provided $79.7 million last year [2020-21], including $10 million in emergency assistance following the recent fire in the camps”.