After being closed for 45 years, Argentina’s embassy in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka reopened on Monday, symbolizing a fresh beginning in bilateral relations prompted by the unity of football. Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam inaugurated the new Argentine embassy in the Banani neighborhood of Dhaka, in front of a huge audience.
“It’s a momentous and joyous moment. It’s not just a diplomatic gesture. It’s an emotional moment,”Md. Shahriar Alam
State Minister of Ministry of foreign affairs of Bangladesh
The current situation was defined as a “stepping stone to make better and stronger relations between the two countries” by the Argentine foreign minister.
A Supporter of Bangladesh since 1971
Argentina has been a reliable ally to Bangladesh right from the start. During the stormy months of Bangladesh’s independence war, Victoria Ocampo, Jorge Luis Bergs, Reverend Father Ismael Quiles, and other notable intellectuals, scholars, lawyers, and novelists motivated and urged the intelligentsia of Argentina and Venezuela to protest Pakistan’s barbaric activities and seek assistance for war refugees. In 1972, Bangladesh and Argentina established official diplomatic relations with the opening of a diplomatic mission in Buenos Aires.
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The golden phase, however, abruptly ended in 1978 when the Argentine embassy in Dhaka was closed by the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina at the time. Since then, Bangladeshi nationals had to travel to New Delhi, India in order to secure Argentine visas, as the Argentine Embassy in India was also responsible for managing Bangladeshi relations.
The tale of unity through football
Bangladesh has always been a die-hard Argentina supporter, but the world witnessed the Bangladeshis’ passion towards the team during Qatar World Cup 2022. Thanks to social media, the world got to learn about their craze for the argentine team. It all started when the official FIFA Twitter account uploaded a video of joyful Bangladeshi fans applauding Messi’s goal against Mexico.
The tale of Bangladesh and Argentina soon became viral and started being trending on online. The Argentine media also covered the news. Later, the national football team of Argentina tweeted about Bangladesh with a message stating: “Thank you for supporting our team!! They are crazy like us!”
Along with the media and journalists, Argentine natives also expressed their gratitude for Bangladesh via social media. In response to Bangladesh’s eternal enthusiasm for the Argentine football team, an Argentine social media fan group was created for the Bangladesh national cricket team. Both the countries have been sharing a strong mutual feeling bonded with football and cricket from then.
Right after the World Cup, Santiago had posted on twitter “Argentina will promote the project to reopen the Embassy in Bangladesh, closed since 1978”. He had expressed his wish to travel to Bangladesh to finalize the details after taking part in the G-20 Foreign Ministers’ Summit in India in 2023. He arrived in Dhaka on Monday, 27th February (yesterday).
Argentina reopens the embassy
It is one of the rarest moment in history, where any embassy got reopened through the craze over football fans! According to Argentina, reopening the embassy is practical and in line with foreign policy directives for “political, strategic, and commercial” factors.
“This is the stepping stone to strengthen bilateral relations between the two nations, not only diplomatically but also culturally,” Santiago remarked.
On Monday, the Argentine minister arrived in Dhaka to launch the new Embassy and strengthen commerce and cultural connections. “We are happy to reopen the embassy in Bangladesh. The emotions for football reunited both countries. For this, I thank the people of Bangladesh,” Santiago said following the inaugural ceremony at the new Argentine embassy. “Our bilateral relations will be stronger. Both countries will work together to overcome global economic challenges. We will work together also for the development of football in Bangladesh,” he added.
The football cooperation agreement
During Santiago’s visit, a number of agreements were inked, including one on football cooperation. “We can say that our love for Argentine football accelerated the opening of the Argentine embassy in Dhaka,” said Muhammad Mozammel Haque, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s South America wing. “The last World Cup brought the two nations very close. Under the football cooperation agreement, Argentina will provide training to Bangladeshi coaches and young footballers,” Haque said.
Abdus Salam Murshedy, a politician and senior vice president of the Bangladesh Football Federation, described the period of football cooperation with Argentina as a “very special moment.”
“Argentina is the defending football champion, and there are millions of fans in our country. Since they love football, they love Argentine football,” Murshedy said. “We will have all the technical support from them for developing the quality of football in Bangladesh,” he added.
Trade, investment and other agreements
Foreign Minister Momen met with his Argentine counterpart in the state guesthouse Jamuna to address matters related to trade and investment. Following the bilateral discussions, Momen also hosted a dinner for the Argentine foreign minister.
Santiago was also scheduled to meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi.
“There is also the possibility of signing visa exemption agreements on diplomatic and official passports, MoUs on cooperation in agriculture and diplomatic training academies of the two countries,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Seheli Sabrin remarked recently.
“The two countries are working on a memorandum of understanding on football related matters as well,” she said.
In addition to the import of soybean oil and wheat from Argentina, the two parties will likely discuss Bangladesh’s entry into the strong economic bloc Mercosur in South America. Mercosur, or the Southern Common Market, is an economic and political bloc comprised of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
The reestablishment of relations will also benefit Bangladesh’s leading export industry, textiles. Bangladesh is already a global leader in sportswear production and a supplier to multinational brands like Nike, Adidas, and Puma.
“Very easily, our manufacturers will be able to export jerseys for the Argentine football team and fans as well,” Murshedy said. “The new Argentine mission in Bangladesh will increase our textile export potentials to this market. Earlier, they didn’t have much idea about Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi football fan base for Argentina amazed them at the last FIFA World Cup,” he added.
“We have been waiting for a long time for such an auspicious moment,” Murshedy believes.
Tapping the untapped market
The two nations have finally barely begun to explore of the entire possibilities of their developing partnership. The value of Argentine exports to Bangladesh climbed from $450 million in 2020 to $791 million in 2021–2022. Wheat, soy meal, and soy oil were the leading exports of Argentina to Bangladesh. As the world struggles with rising prices and inflation, Argentina may become a viable alternative market for Bangladesh.
In contrast, Bangladesh sold $17.3 million worth of commodities to Argentina in 2020. From a low foundation of $3.61 million in 1995, Bangladesh’s exports to Argentina have increased by 6.46 percent per year over the past 25 years. As mentioned earlier, the majority of Bangladesh’s exports to Argentina were knit sweaters, knit T-shirts, and non-knit men’s outfits. In FY2021-22, the ready-made garment industry generated more than 88 percent of exports.
With the reopening of embassy and new bilateral agreements, the both countries are expected of having greater advantages than ever.