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DHAKA: President Emmanuel Macron was in Bangladesh on Monday in a bid to “consolidate” France’s Indo-Pacific strategy and counterbalance a “new imperialism” in a region where China’s influence is increasingly being extended.

“Based on democratic principles and the rule of law, in a region facing new imperialism, we want to propose a third way – with no intention to bully our partners or to lead them to an unsustainable scheme,” Macron told Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, speaking in English.

The United States and China are competing for influence in the wider region, and Macron has pushed France as offering an alternative.

“Bangladesh is progressively retrieving its place on the world stage,” Macron said, speaking after he arrived in the capital Dhaka on Sunday after the G20 leaders summit in neighbouring India wrapped up.

He praised what he called “the tremendous success” of the South Asian country, a rapidly growing economy and the world’s eighth most populous nation with more than 170 million people.

Macron on Monday is set to hold talks with Hasina as well as visit a memorial to her father, Bangladesh’s first president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, before returning to Paris.

Hasina said Macron’s “push for strategic autonomy aligns with our own foreign policy”, speaking at a dinner to welcome him. “We find you to be a breath of fresh air in international politics”.

Several Western governments have expressed concern over the political climate in Bangladesh ahead of general elections due before the end of January, where the ruling party dominates the legislature and runs it virtually as a rubber stamp.

The visit to Dhaka will also be “an opportunity to deepen the bilateral relationship with a country which is experiencing rapid economic development… and which seeks to diversify its partnerships”, the president’s Elysee Palace office said.

Macron’s visit follows a Pacific trip in July to the French overseas territory of New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, as well as a stopover in Sri Lanka, in which he outlined his Indo-Pacific strategy aimed at “recommitting” France to the region.

On Sunday, Macron met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G20 in New Delhi, who he hosted in Paris in July.

The French presidency suggested that Macron in the past six months had “done more about South Asia than in the space of a decade”.

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