Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero travelled to Dhaka this week to reopen Argentina’s Embassy in Bangladesh, 45 years on from its closure by the 1976-1983 military dictatorship.
Cafiero landed last Sunday with an entourage of government officials and a delegation of business leaders. Argentina’s Ambassador to Bangladesh Hugo Gobbi, the minister’s Chief-of-Staff Luciano Tito, and Undersecretary for Trade and Investment Promotion Guillermo Merediz were among the representatives who travelled.
The trip is part of a government-led move to capitalise on the passionate scenes of Bangladeshi supporters cheering on Argentina that circulated online last December during the World Cup. Officials believe there is potential to deepen trade and cultural ties.
“We are fulfilling a moral, ethical and historical duty by reopening our Embassy in Bangladesh,” said Cafiero, who became the first foreign minister from South America to visit Bangladesh in an official capacity.
An inauguration ceremony, led by Cafiero, took place at the new Dhaka embassy on Monday, with dulce de leche, alfajores and yerba mate given pride of place.
Local Bangladeshi fans performed ‘Muchachos,’ the song that praises the Argentine national football team, at the event. The musical number was another nod to the immense support Bangladeshi fans gave the Albiceleste during the tournament in Qatar.
Bangladesh has strongly championed Argentine football since Diego Maradona led the nation to their historic win against England, Bangladesh’s former coloniser, at the 1986 World Cup. The fervour of the fanbase during the most recent World Cup was a catalyst for opening up a dialogue between the two nations, officials acknowledge.
During his state visit, Cafiero met with representatives from the Bangladesh Football Federation.
“What the love Bangladesh showed towards Argentina exemplifies is that in this time of uncertainty, where the world is debating war, we must strengthen the bond of the global south,” said Cafiero.
Argentina was among the first nations to recognise Bangladesh as an independent country. Early diplomatic representation was authorised by then-president Juan Domingo Perón in October 1973. The Argentine Embassy in Dhaka was then opened in January 1974.
“Just a few years later, the Embassy was closed by a military dictatorship that wanted to erase the traces of many compatriots in our country, and also the traces of sister nations,” Cafiero recounted during his inauguration speech.
After the inauguration, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abulkalam Abdul Momen hosted a meeting with Cafiero on Monday evening to discuss bilateral trade and cooperation, including links with the Mercosur trade bloc.
Bangladesh has a market of 170 million inhabitants. Argentina currently exports US$742 million in goods and services to the Asian nation, with imports totalling just US$22 million.
Most Argentine exports are centred around oils, cereals, meals, and soybean pellets. Business executives from Marolio, Ecofactory, Vetanco, Lipotech, Luna de los Andes, Letis, Santo Pipó, the National Institute of Yerba Mate (INYM), The Halal Catering Argentina HCB, Havanna, Arcor, Baltazar-Alfa Pampa, Suplefeed, Ronaldb, Club Atlético River Plate and Cargill travelled to Dhaka to take part in talks.
Trade was not the only focus. Cafiero also spoke with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Commerce Minister Tipu Unshi on Tuesday, the United News of Bangladesh reported.
Officially, the government’s aim for the new embassy is to build a platform for government officials to promote consistent dialogue and cultural exchange.
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“That’s why we humbly came here to repay the love that our country received. It’s a beginning to bring together two culturally different peoples, geographically distant, but with shared feelings,” said Cafiero.
Footballing ties between the two nations are also expected to deepen. River Plate club official Sebastian Perez Escobar, the president of the club’s chain of football schools, also took part in the state visit, Bangladeshi outlet The Daily Star said.
Escobar expressed to the media on Monday a desire to send technical advisors and experts to train talented Bangladeshi football clubs, an ode to the connection that re-sparked relations.
The government also announced that Jamal Bhuyan, the 32-year-old captain of Bangladesh's national men's football team, is joining Viedma-based side Sol de Mayo, who are seeking promotion to Argentina's top flight.