Rooppur NPP is opening a window to the world of modern technologies in Bangladesh
Alexander Vikentyevich Mantytskiy, Russian Ambassador to Bangladesh is an exclusive interview with the Security World has said that Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant is opening a window to the world of modern technologies in Bangladesh.
Ambassador Alexander Vikentyevich Mantytskiy
The Ambassador, a seasoned, sagacious and modest diplomat has started his career since 1984. Before Bangladesh, he has served many countries like Nepal, India and Afghanistan as Diplomat, Consul General, and Ambassador.
On May 19, 2021 Alexander V. Mantytskiy was appointed as the Ambassador extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Bangladesh of the Russian Federation.
The Ambassador talked on several contemporary issues including diplomatic ties with Bangladesh, defence cooperation, trade, Rohingya and nuclear energy.
The interview is as follows:
How do you see the current relations between Bangladesh and Russia?
The relations between Russia and Bangladesh have always been constructive and cordial. The foundations of our friendship were laid during the Liberation War, when the erstwhile USSR rendered support to the Bangladeshi people's rightful struggle for freedom in the international arena. On January 25, 1972, the Soviet Union recognized Bangladesh as an independent state and then, during the 1970s, significantly contributed to the economic restoration of this country, for instance, by demining and clearing the port of Chittagong of sunken ships to restore its capacity. In March 1972, high-level political dialogue was launched as Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman visited Moscow to meet the Soviet leadership. A number of crucial bilateral agreements, some of which are still in force, were signed during that visit.
The formation of the government led by H.E. Sheikh Hasina in 2009 gave a new impetus to the Russian-Bangladeshi ties. The meetings of the Hon’ble Prime Minister with H.E. Mr Vladimir Putin in 2010 and H.E. Mr Dmitry Medvedev in 2016, as well as her official visit to Moscow in 2013, outlined the directions of bilateral cooperation for the years ahead. Currently, we have sustainable political contacts, for instance, regular meetings between our Foreign Ministers and the mechanism of Foreign Office Consultations.
The legislative bodies of our two countries also maintain dynamic dialogue. In October 2021, H.E. Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Hon’ble Speaker of the Parliament of Bangladesh, visited Russia to take part in the 3rd Eurasian Women's Forum. Last November, a Bangladeshi-Russia friendship group was established in the Parliament of Bangladesh.
It is heartening to witness proximity or similarity of our positions on the key issues of international agenda, such as countering terrorism, cybercrime and glorification of Nazism, preventing arms race, including in outer space, cooperation in tackling climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. The Russian Federation fully supports the culture of peace consistently promoted by the People's Republic of Bangladesh and highly appreciates your country's remarkable contribution to the UN peacekeeping operations.
On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Russia and Bangladesh, which will be celebrated on January 25, 2022, I look forward to further strengthening of our bonds of friendship as well continuous development of mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields.
Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.
How do you evaluate Bangladesh and Russia economic relations amid the COVID-19 pandemic and pre-COVID period?
Economic cooperation is one of the pillars of Russian-Bangladeshi relations. The upward trend in the bilateral trade, which took shape in the early 2010s, has proven to remain in place even during the pandemic. For the last 10 years, the turnover between our two countries has increased more than six fold. Moreover, in 2020 it reached an all-time height of 2.4 billion USD. According to the current statistics, for the first 10 months of 2021 it has already exceeded the mark of 2.3 billion USD. Therefore, the previous record is likely to be broken this year. The key items of the Russian exports are machineries, technical equipment, vehicles and metals. The supplies of milling wheat and mineral fertilizers from Russia to Bangladesh are also growing steadily, amounting to 400,000 MT and 180,000 MT this year, respectively. At the same time, more than 600 Bangladeshi companies are exporting high-quality readymade garments, apparel and knitwear to the Russian market.
The cornerstone of our economic relations is the long-standing cooperation in the energy sector. Despite the hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the “Rosatom” State Corporation is successfully implementing a flagship bilateral project – the construction of the “Rooppur” nuclear power plant. Last October, the reactor pressure vessel at Unit 1 was installed. When inaugurated, the NPP will add 2400 megawatt to the power grid of Bangladesh ensuring the national energy security and self-reliance.
The Russian companies are working on the modernization of the “Siddhirganj” and “Ghorasal” thermal power plants built by the Soviet specialists. Since 2012, “Gazprom EP International B.V.” has been assisting Bangladesh in exploration and production of hydrocarbons. So far, it has drilled 17 wells in the gas fields of Bangladesh. Last July saw an agreement reached with BAPEX to design and drill three more wells in Bhola district.
All the above-mentioned spheres are covered by the Russia-Bangladesh Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation established in 2017. On December 13-15, 2021, its 3rd session was held online. During that meeting, the two sides identified a number of new promising areas, such as information and communication technologies, use of renewable sources of energy, shipbuilding, development of the Bangladeshi railway industry and infrastructure, conduct of geological and oceanological surveys.
In 2021, Mr Alexander L. Rybas, Trade Representative of Russia in India, was granted concurrent accreditation to Bangladesh, with the view to further facilitate expansion of our bilateral economic ties, including those between small and medium enterprises.
Do you think that Bangladesh and Russia can make progress in the field of defence strategy and cooperation?
I strongly believe that bilateral defence cooperation meets strategic interests of our two countries. Our interaction is multifaceted and covers supplies of modern military equipment, meetings and negotiations between senior military officials, participation of Bangladeshi representatives in the International Army Games and Russia-hosted military-technical forums. Military education and further personnel training seems to be a new promising area for our cooperation.
Recently Russian-Bangladeshi partnership in the defence sphere has once again proved its sustainability. In December 2021, a delegation of the Ministry of Defence led by Colonel General Alexei R. Kim, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Land Forces, visited Dhaka. For the first time in history of bilateral relations, a Russian contingent (35 servicemen) participated in the Victory Day Parade, commemorating the Soviet contribution into the Bangladeshi struggle for independence.
How do you look at Bangladesh’s Rohingya issue? Will it be a threat to regional and international security?
The Russian Federation calls on all parties to the conflict in Myanmar to put an end to violence and launch a constructive dialogue in order to move towards national reconciliation. International community should avoid politicizing the issue, refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign State and abandon sanctions threats. We emphasize the ASEAN special role in the peace process. The current situation in Myanmar does not pose any threat to international peace and security, thus the only issue on the UNSC agenda in this context should be the situation in the Rakhine State.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen leads the Bangladesh delegation at a meeting with the Russian delegation, led by his counterpart Sergey Lavrov, on the sidelines of the international conference on Central & South Asia: Regional Connectivity, Challenges and Opportunity in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on Friday, July 16, 2021.
We are convinced that a direct dialogue between Dhaka and Naypyidaw is the main factor in the settlement of the Rohingya issue, and the role of the international community is to provide constructive assistance to both states in implementing bilateral agreements. With regard to Russia, in addition to political support for dialogue and our help to find mutually acceptable solutions, we are providing humanitarian assistance to both Bangladesh and Myanmar, in particular, through the UN World Food Programme. In addition to official contributions made by our country, charitable foundations and public organizations that represent Russia's Muslim community took part in providing help as well.
Would you please explain us the benefits of our mega project Rooppur nuclear power project and will it be any obstacle for the environment?
At present nuclear energy is one of the most important drivers of the world's economic development. An NPP construction is a huge impetus to many sectors of the economy as the construction of such a facility is a major infrastructure project. As shown by the Russian experience in overseas construction of NPPs, the project leads to the development of many industries and areas of the economy, in particular, the construction industry, mechanical engineering, materials science, education, etc. When the local industry is engaged by Rosatom in the NPP construction, it results in new orders for construction, land surveying, engineering of various facilities and works related to all stages of the plant construction (except for the nuclear island building), and production of technological and industrial components for the plant. It also contributes to infrastructure (construction of new housing, kindergartens, schools catering and recreation systems, education, etc.) and new employment opportunities for the local population. As of today, 25,000 workers are employed in the Rooppur construction site, out of them 3,500 are foreign workers from 8 different countries.
Rooppur NPP is opening a window to the world of modern technologies in Bangladesh. Construction of NPPs is always accompanied by the growing demand for engineering professions, as well as “nuke” professions – nuclear medicine, chemical industry, etc. To make up for the growing demand, more than 1,500 Bangladeshi nuclear specialists will undergo training in Russia by 2022.
With the progression of the project, the country attains energy stability, energy independence, predictability of energy prices, gains momentum in the development of infrastructure and related industries, and delivers on education goals due to the increase in the demand for engineering and technical professions.
New opportunities for the development of other fields of industry and economy will open through nuclear technologies, which are used in industrial processes, larger food production (the Green Revolution), better water supply, as well as in agriculture, medicine, etc. All these applications are based on certain properties of nuclear ionizing radiation – high penetrability, possibility of selective tool recording, sterilization impact (in large doses) on living organisms.
It is also worth noting that nuclear power, along with diesel and gas plants, is the basic source of energy generation, i.e. permanent and steady source of electricity for the needs of the State, the economy and households. Nuclear power provides uninterrupted energy supply over the next 60-80 years at predictable costs.
Rooppur NPP will not affect the environment; moreover it will help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Nuclear power is one of the most environmentally friendly and safe forms of energy. The main environmental advantage of nuclear energy consists in the absence of oxygen consumption, polluting, toxic, carcinogenic or greenhouse gases emissions. There is no such factor in the nuclear power industry. A coal powered plant of 1000 MW capacity consumes 3 million tons of coal every year and produces 7 million tons of gaseous waste and 300000 tons of solid waste in the same period. In comparison, a nuclear power plant of the same capacity consumes 27 tons of uranium dioxide per year and produces 0.7 tons of waste in the same period. Clearly, nuclear power is not only much more efficient but also a safer alternative of energy source for the environment.