4/5/2023 - Politics and Society

Argentina and Bangladesh: A relationship that seeks to transcend its football component

By Juan Gentiletti

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Argentina and Bangladesh are two geographically distant countries with an abysmal cultural difference. However, as demonstrated during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, there is a common sports passion. The selected national Bangladesh never qualified for a World Cup, but its heart is in the albiceleste.

[caption id="attachment_8953" align="alignright" width="341"] Cases in Dacca[/caption]

This last FIFA championship, where Argentina was a winner, had an impact on Argentine foreign policy. The current Argentine Chancellor Santiago Cafiero traveled on February 27 to the capital of Bangladesh, Dacca, becoming the first of the Argentine foreign ministers visiting that country. Cafiero did not travel alone, but since Chancellor, he took advantage of the inauguration of the new embassy to carry out an official commercial mission. In the same way, national companies were involved in the development of the commercial pillar of the bilateral relationship.

Bilateral trade with Bangladeche has grown in recent years. In 2021, Argentina sold $876 million in soybean oil and flour, in addition to corn and wheat, with a commercial surplus of $862 million (The Country, 2023). In 2022, there was a trade surplus for Argentina of $720.8 million. The same year, the exchange with Bangladesh was $765 million. Argentine exports reached US$742.9 million and imports of Bangladesh totaled US$22.1 million (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Press Information No 088/23).

Previously, Argentina had had an embassy in Dacca, but its existence was ephemeral. The Permanent Diplomatic Mission had been authorized during the third government of Juan Domingo Masn in 1973 and officially inaugurated in 1974, but was promptly closed in 1978 by the military regime. Argentina had been one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh's independence, declared in March 1971.

In addition to consolidating Bangladesh as the Argentine export market (Bangladesh is the eighth most populated country in the world with 170 million inhabitants), it is sought to promote satellite cooperation in the sports field, humanitarian aid and disaster management.

To the surprise of many, the contact points between both peoples are prior to the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1972. In 1924, the winner of the nobel Rabindranath Tagore prize traveled to Argentina where he forged a friendship with Argentine writer Victoria Ocampo. Later, during the independence war of Bangladesh and Pakistan in 1971, the conflict echoed at the UN Security Council. At that time, Argentina occupied a seat as a non-permanent member and played an important role in preventing the conflict from falling under the east-west logic of cold war. The theme could finally be dealt with at the General Assembly in front of the blockade in the Security Council.

However, the key date in the history of friendship between both peoples was 1986 when during the FIFA World Cup in Mexico, Argentina faced England. It was the goal of Maradona known as "the hand of God" who aroused a strong effervescence in the Bangladesí people. The Indostan peninsula (conformed by the current India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, mainly) had been under the rule of the British Crown.

[caption id="attachment_8954" align="alignleft" width="344"] TV channel Bangladesh[/caption]

In this way, we can see how the Argentine contribution to end the war of independence in Bangladesh and the fervor of the people of Bangladesh after the English defeat in the 1986 FIFA World Cup, mark a bilaterally demanding relationship of the Third World, post-colonial solidarity and the principles of what we know today as “South-South cooperation” institutionalized. Cooperation between the two countries was framed within international forums such as the Non-Aligned Movement and the G-77.

As mentioned earlier, trade exchange with Bangladesh has experienced remarkable growth in the last decade and the projection of its potential is promising. The regions of South Asia and South-East Asia acquire dynamism and have seen the Argentine chancellor since at least the 1990s with a strong deployment strategy on these markets to increase Argentine exports. They are treated from highly populated countries, which have great internal supply needs. Argentina has a strong diplomatic presence in these countries. In Southeast Asia there are embassies in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam; while in South Asia there are missions in India, Pakistan, and since now in Bangladesh. Relations with these groups of countries are largely due to their commercial component. India and Vietnam are two major trading partners in Argentina, floating among the first 6 places annually. The Asiatic continent in general is not only the main export market for Argentina, but is also for Mercosur. 52% of the block's exports went to Asia, in front of Western partners ( 18% for Europe and 14% for North America) (Mecosur's Technical Foreign Trade Information, 2021).

As a conclusion, we are in a position to affirm that, the reopening of the Argentine embassy in Dacca, points to further strengthening the trade strategy for the asiatic market, taking advantage of something that, in the simple view, seems so alien to politics, as is the sports cheer. Bangladeche also allows Argentina to consolidate its presence in South Asia, expanding beyond India (previously, the designated ambassador in New Delhi was also a competitor in Dacca). It is in this region of the world, where the main maritime trade routes pass, and Argentina seeks to position itself more robustly.

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juan gentiletti

Juan Gentiletti

Hi, I'm Juan, I'm 24 years old, I'm Argentine and currently an advanced student of the career of International Relations at the National University of Rosario (UNR).

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