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Malice towards None?

Bangladesh is making efforts to work with its Asian friends in the present dark times.

By Duncan Bartlett | March 2021


Covid-19, the global economic crisis and the effects of climate change have left their mark across the world, including South Asia, of which Bangladesh is an intergral part. In 2019, the Bangladesh economy was the fastest growing in the region, with a record growth of more than 8.9 percent, according to the United Nations. Yet, since the start of the pandemic, Bangladesh has been severely affected by a slump in demand for its exports – particularly clothes manufactured by its garment sector – and by a drop in the value of remittances sent home by Bangladeshis working abroad. Despite these difficulties, several reasons can be perceived for cautious optimism, especially if Bangladesh can cooperate with other nations in addressing common problems.

Controlling Covid
One reason to be hopeful is that Bangladesh has not been as badly affected by the pandemic as some other countries, despite crowded living conditions and limited sanitation. According to the Dhaka Tribune , by mid-February 2021, the total number of deaths in the country was just over 8,000. However by that stage, the daily death toll from the disease had fallen to its lowest level since May 2020.

A vaccine programme is now underway and more than half a million people have already been inoculated against Covid-19. This is an impressive achievement, especially given that many countries in the world have not yet started vaccinations. There are ample supplies of Oxford’s AstraZeneca vaccine still to be distributed, thanks to the support of the Indian government. The vaccine, known as Covishield in India, is being mass produced by the Serum Institute of India.

At the end of last year, there were some arguments about how much vaccine should be exported from India to Bangladesh but fortunately these disagreements appear to have been resolved satisfactorily. The two nations are running vaccination programmes simultaneously – a sensible approach, given that the virus has no perception of national boundaries.

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The writer is the Editor of Asian Affairs magazine and a Research Associate at the SOAS China Institute, University of London. He can be reached at

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