Tuesday, December 30, 2008

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Bangladesh voters give the AL historic mandate by rejecting BNP on issue of corruption and indulgence to war criminals

The outcome of the December 29th elections that the US Ambassador in Dhaka has described before the Commisison on International Religious Freedom as “transformational “ and the most important election after the US Presidential elections of the year 2008 has been dramatic to say the least. The Awami League led Grand Alliance led by Sheikh Hasina came in front with 260 seats. The BNP that had formed the last elected government after winning a 2/3rd majority in 2001 elections won less than 30 seats which can only be described as a “drubbing”. In fact, led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, the BNP won as many seats as the Jatiya party led by former President Ershad. Another important outcome has been the trashing given to the Jamaat, the Islam based electoral ally of the BNP that won just 2 seats!
The AL never expected this resounding victory that can be compared to the one won by this party in 1970 elections of Pakistan when it just lost 2 of the 169 seats from East Pakistan (Bangladesh). The BNP never expected to lose this way. In fact, by most pre-election predictions the outcome was expected to be much closer with the AL expected to be ahead, but marginally.

The 20 million new voters and the campaign against BNP’s election ally the Jamaat on the issue of the war criminals were instrumental in the AL’s landslide victory. However, it was the issue of corruption of the BNP during its last stint in power from 2001-2006 that caused such a silent anger that the voters translated into AL victory at the elections. The BNP just did not fail to understand the voters’ anger and frustration; they went ahead and nominated many of these discredited BNP leaders in the elections that only hardened the resolve of the voters. Baring one or two, all BNP candidates against whom charges of corruption were brought during the last 2 years were routed in the elections.

The history of massive mandates in elections in South Asia is not a happy one as most parties who were given such mandates in the past have managed to mess up governance. The BNP’s last tenure in office is an example of that mess. Therefore, one must wait and see what the AL makes of this huge mandate. The AL has made a good start with Sehikh Hasina keeping her people in control by urging them to remain calm. It is now to be seen whether she can make this sustainable and bring into governance elements of bipartisanship that is vitally needed for the country’s future.

The Election Commisison must be credited for giving the country a fair election which could put Bangladesh on track to making governance work for the country’s future. The BNP’s massive defeat is expected to restrain them from rejecting the election result. They now should show some common sense to work as opposition within the framework of the parliament.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Manifestos and Foreign Policy

Published in The Daily Star, Sunday, December 28, 2008

A study of the election manifestos of the two mainstream parties on foreign policy is not encouraging. Foreign policy figures separately in both documents, but not foreign policy issues. AL's manifesto says that Bangladesh's foreign policy goal is "friendship with all and malice towards none." It also speaks of developing friendly relations with all countries.

The BNP manifesto, too, speaks of developing friendly relations with all countries, but has avoided mentioning India by name. Both documents speak of multilateral diplomacy and economic diplomacy, and their importance to Bangladesh, including the importance of Saarc and Bimstec. Both documents have lauded Bangladesh's peacekeeping role. The AL has carried this subject under Defense Policy; the BNP under Foreign Policy.

The BNP document takes note of the concern of the international community about terrorism and militancy and the need to contain them, but not in the part on foreign policy .The AL takes care of militancy and terrorism in one line by supporting the formation of a South Asian Task Force in the part that deals with foreign policy. In both manifestos, the need for manpower export, the interests of Bangladeshi expatriates, and enhancing foreign remittance and foreign direct investment have been mentioned. But these issues have been mentioned in an incoherent manner in different sections of the documents and not as part of foreign policy.

By not bringing foreign policy issues under one head, both manifestos have failed to focus on fundamental changes that have occurred in recent times in the way nations conduct relations. Globalisation and the role of non-state actors in international relations have broken down the two key elements of the Westphalian concept of sovereignty that had formed the basis of foreign policy in the past, namely territoriality and exclusion of external actors from domestic authority structures. As a consequence, today, foreign policy formulation and execution have become extremely difficult and more complex.

Issues such as global warming, rise of militancy, terrorism by state and non-state actors, and most recently the economic meltdown in US and its impact worldwide, have brought in additional challenges that are shaping foreign policies everywhere. These challenges have made it critical for governments to deal with foreign policy with great care, and have also made their foreign ministries the key ministry.

Just mentioning that Bangladesh's foreign policy goal is one for friendship and against malice, and to use this principle to develop bilateral relations with all countries is not a serious way of handling such an important subject as foreign policy. Both documents have treated foreign policy the same way as they have done in past elections, thus failing to realise that foreign policy today is a matter of survival as well as a great opportunity for development.

An election manifesto is really not the right document to reflect on all of the above. In such a document, parties concentrate on those issues that give them the maximum benefit in getting votes. Foreign policy does not normally figure as a major issue in elections in most developing countries, but to suggest that it is not an issue of serious concern to Bangladeshi voters may not be wholly correct.

Bangladeshis take an active interest in what happens abroad. The six million compatriots who live abroad make them take a more than usual interest in foreign policy. For example, the stand the party's take on India is a major concern of voters. It is not by oversight that the BNP did not mention India by name in their manifesto, because it is intended to indicate their attitude towards India to the voters .

Bangladesh's future depends largely on expanding external trade, increasing foreign remittance and foreign direct investment, manpower export, etc. -- all issues of foreign policy although in their election manifestos neither party has acknowledged these as such. Bangladesh could become a successful nation or a failed one, depending on how she handles these crucial foreign policy goals.

The success or failure in attaining these goals depends on the support and understanding of the international community, particularly of the development partners, which will depend on how Bangladesh manages her domestic politics and controls Islamic fundamentalism and militancy.

Both manifestos have failed to acknowledge that Bangladesh must re-establish its image as a predominantly Muslim state with liberal traditions, which had taken a serious battering before 1/11 as a result of failure of politics.

For some unknown reason, foreign policy in Bangladesh has not been given the importance that it deserves to serve the country's interests better in a complex and increasingly globalised world. The two manifestos treat foreign affairs as a subject peripheral to governance. Even this caretaker government has treated foreign policy in the same fashion.

At a time when the opinions of Great Britain and Belgium will be very crucial in the world's assessment of the elections, this government has recalled our high commissioner/ambassador in these stations as they will be retiring. If the government had viewed foreign policy seriously, it would have given these two career diplomats extension so that they could remain in their important stations to signal that Bangladesh is capable of handling foreign policy professionally.

It may not be unfair to mention that newspaper analysing the two manifestos had no need to comment on what either said on foreign policy, which is indeed a sad commentary on the importance the AL and the BNP have given to it.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Daily Star & Centre for Foreign Affairs Studies (CFAS) Roundtable Discussions: Future Direction of Bangladesh

Mr. Chairman

Distinguished academics and dear colleagues – Assalamu Alaikum and a very good morning. Exactly six and a half months back on 7 May, around the same time in this very room, a few of us had gathered to participate in the first round table on the future directions of Bangladesh foreign policy. The distinguished participants were all retired ambassadors and retired foreign secretaries. We had then discussed the broad subject under three main heads:
  • The formulation of Bangladesh foreign policy
  • The implementation of the foreign policy, the obstacles
  • Bangladesh foreign policy – the way forward

Our discussions at that time, like today, have been jointly hosted by The Daily Star and out think tank, The Centre for Foreign Affairs Studies. Some interesting insights into how foreign policies are crafted in Bangladesh were shared. We also identified some major obstacles faced by policy makers while pursuing policy goals. Remedial measures were also suggested and noted. Looking at the way forward, the dialogue introduced some new paradigms that have come into play both globally and regionally and are impacting the pursuing of foreign policy goals. There was a realization that Bangladeshi foreign policy makers need to actively factor these in formulating and pursuing foreign policies in the future. Thus, we were made aware that the following key questions are now shaping the international system in the 21st century. These are:
  • Globalization
  • Technology proliferation
  • The rise of non-state actors
  • Environmental stresses
  • Population growth
We therefore think that Bangladesh, like other large democracies around the world, needs to urgently design a new architecture for foreign relations. It needs to spell out new strategies that it needs to conduct foreign policies. These strategies should be in the realm of security, international relations, economic co-operation, image-building and even in migration. Distinguished participants, we are therefore pleased and honored to welcome you to this discourse that holds the same title as the first one held in May – ‘The Future Directions of Bangladesh Foreign Policy.’ We have amongst us some of the best minds of Bangladesh, representing the academia now, and the past practioners. We hope that in few minutes, we will have representatives of political parties, national newspapers and the business world. It is well-known now that to craft the foreign policy of Bangladesh it is imperative that, besides the government and the legislature, there should be inputs from individuals and institutes who are also stakeholders. The classical idea that foreign policy is the exclusive preserve of the head of government and the ministry of foreign affairs is eroding. So also is the idea that a committee in parliament has the function of overseeing foreign policies is also being challenged. The point is that there cannot be any disconnect between those who make these policies and those who have a stake in them. Everyone who is involved in, or who is affected by these policies must be heard. The shaping of the policy must be based on collective hearing. Its final character must be representative of all the voices heard. The Daily Star and The Centre for Foreign Affairs Studies are again jointly hosting this dialogue to help narrow this gap. It is our intention to place all the recommendations which we receive from you and the previous round-table before the government of the day. In the process we hope to sensitize all those who are interested in the subject of foreign policy.

Future Directions of Bangladesh Foreign Policy: Dreams or Nightmares?
Future Directions of
Bangladesh Foreign Policy
Dreams or Nightmares?

Imtiaz Ahmed
Professor of International Relations
University of Dhaka
Email: imtiaz@bangla.net
Website: www.imtiazalter.netfirms.com

In the age of globalization the modernist principle that “foreign policy is an extension of domestic policy” has practically lost its relevance. And this is true not only for the relatively disempowered developing countries but also for the relatively empowered developed economies. Today the ‘foreign’ is less an external entity while the ‘domestic’ is hardly fully internal. Rabindranath Tagore in pre-partition years had alluded to this problem in his novel, Ghare-Baire (The Home and the World, 1916), arguing how the foreign or more precisely European-bred discourse on nationalism has come to impress and impact upon the minds of the Indians, albeit to their detriment, but then few had the scholarship and wisdom to understand his warnings and formulate policies accordingly. The genocidal partition of British India was surely an outcome of what can be regarded as our collective failure to distinguish the internal from the external, with the external succeeding in overwhelming the internal and creating structures of divisiveness in the minds of the people. The 1971 genocide too was no less a consequence of that. But as we speak today, globalization provides us with an opportunity to reconceptualize issues like foreign and domestic or internal and external or for that matter present and future/s and have them understood beyond the banal discourses of linearity, dualism and dichotomies. A good starting point would be to consider the changing nature of the Westphalian state, including post-colonial state.

The meaning of Bangladesh, for instance, is no longer limited to the territoriality of 55,126 square miles but rather has come to include the hundreds and thousands of Bangladeshis living abroad, from Canada to Canberra, from Jeddah to Japan. This is as much an issue of economics as it is an issue of technology. While it is true that a greater part of the state gets reproduced through the constant flow of remittances from the unskilled and semi-skilled members of Bangladesh diaspora but then the current state of technology (cell phones, internet, air transport, etc.) also ensures that the latter is constantly in touch with the motherland, a feature that puts the old and new diasporas miles apart. If this invites freshness of thought and newer kinds of activities it also remains susceptible to the transfer of ideas and cultures that could very well be a source of conflict at home. I will have more to say about this shortly.

Post-territorial or demographic Bangladesh needs further explication in the age of globalization. If future directions of Bangladesh foreign policy are to be framed and policy initiatives requiring their fulfillment pursued to support the aspirations of the people then the conceptualization of Bangladesh as a ‘small state’ has to be erased forever. How can a country of nearly 150 million people – the eighth largest in the world - be called ‘small’? Or, for matter, how can the Bengalis – the sixth largest linguistic community in the world - be territorialized and dwarfed into ‘smallness’?

A certain politics however pervaded when scholars and policymakers first began calling Bangladesh a ‘small state.’ In fact, there existed an element of Indo-centrism when the idea was first mooted. I am reminded of a seminar at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) in August 1979 under the banner, “Security of Small States in the Contemporary World,” in which the then President of Bangladesh, Ziaur Rahman, made a brief presentation beyond presidential protocol. This is probably the first of a series of seminars on the theme in Bangladesh. The theme, in fact, soon caught the attention of many. In 1982, Talukder Maniruzzaman published his monograph titled, The Security of Small States in the Third World, in which he argued that the small states, including Bangladesh, must develop a “complex diplomatic repertories to counteract the moves of much larger states,” presumably in Bangladesh’s case the author had India in mind. It may be mentioned that Maniruzzaman categorized ‘large’ and ‘small’ states in terms of quantitative and traditional war capabilities!

Two years later in 1984 came an edited volume, in which I also had a piece, with an interesting sub-title, Foreign Policy of Bangladesh: A Small State’s Imperative. I guess this was the first concrete attempt to depict and formalize Bangladesh as a small state, and the idea behind the book, at least to the editor, Emajuddin Ahamed, was no different from the position of Ziaur Rahman or Talukder Maniruzzaman and that was to get Bangladesh out of the Indian nexus. It was otherwise a politically thought-out intellectual intervention insofar as defining Bangladesh was concerned, albeit devised at a critical moment when political compulsions at home demanded an anti-Indian stance. That is, Bangladesh as a ‘small state’ required external support, extending from the Muslim states to China and the United States, to contain ‘Big Brother’ India! Ironically, while India remained where it was, Bangladesh got stuck into the idea of being ‘small’!

Globalization however changed all that, as many would now argue. But then what ‘globalization’ are we talking about? There are several versions of globalization and with respect to Bangladesh, each holding ‘promises’ of millennial nature as well as ‘problems’ bordering on nightmares. Let me take up economic globalization first. Internationalization of ‘production’ is what economic globalization more centrally refers to in addition to the internationalization of trade, finance and investment. What this means is that the multi-national or rather transnational companies now collect resources in several countries, process them in another several countries and finally, export the finished products to the rest of the world. A fully finished product, therefore, no longer has one single birthmark; it has multiple birthmarks since several countries have gone to produce it. A Compaq computer, in that sense, is no longer entirely American, or a Toyota car fully Japanese. The final product of both these items will have components made in several countries of the world. Put differently, unlike the previous internationalization of things, in the globalization phase of capitalism the thing itself is the product of the international or global market. The implications for Bangladesh can hardly be minimized.

Bangladesh’s clothing industry, for instance, has progressed well by adding value to the commodity, which the industry could pursue to the envy of many, including big players like China and India, mainly because of the relatively cheap labour and the ingenuity of some of the local manufacturers. This has contributed to a situation where our capitalists and workers are structurally tied up with the economies of the developed West and therefore ought to be more attentive about developments there, including the growth of the economy or lack of it or even who is in charge of the government. Now since the meltdown in the US economy there are regular discussions as to what impact it would have on the Bangladesh economy. I would argue that if we are to believe in Barack Obama’s election pledges then there is a possibility of actually gaining from the crisis. The reasons are not farfetched. Traditionally, products from Bangladesh abroad have catered to middle and low-income groups and since Obama has promised to cut taxes for 95% of working families and provide $1,000 of tax relief for workers and new tax benefits to help families pay for college, childcare and save for retirement, there is a possibility that the middle class in the United States would directly benefit from his regime and therefore would be able to afford goods imported from Bangladesh. This certainly would range from garment to pharmaceutical products. Now the challenge lies with Bangladesh whether it would be able to deliver the goods and broaden its market. Given Bangladesh’s state of politics and misgovernance this is no easy challenge, but I will come to that later.

Added to the economic meltdown are the global energy crisis and the US war of attrition in Iraq and Afghanistan, conditions that are bound to have negative impact on both developed and less developed economies, including Bangladesh, unless creative policy initiatives are undertaken to overcome them. First on the energy crisis. The skyrocketing of oil price from USD 3 per barrel in 1970 to a record high of USD 147.27 in mid-July 2008 and then scaling down now to USD 54 only indicates that the energy crisis is far from over and will not go unless and until alternative energy resources come to feed our lifestyle. If Bangladesh is to go beyond its current economic growth of over 6 percent and reach not so implausible growth of 10 percent in less than a decade’s time then it needs to resolve its energy requirements on a priority basis. And here Bangladesh needs to think beyond oil and coal and keep all options, including civilian nuclear, open. This would require investment in knowledge creation, language competence, sophisticated dialoguing and expertise in drafting agreements at both bilateral and international levels. Any lethargy or slippage in what would be protracted external manoeuvrings is bound to cost Bangladesh heavily.

In contemporary times, amongst the many ironies that have found acceptance in our lives, the most outrageous is the simultaneity of war and rehabilitation. Apart from highlighting the futility of both it constitutes a sheer drainage of resources. But then contradictions of this kind also create opportunities for many. If the private US army, Blackwater, is super-profiting from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan then there is money to be made from rehabilitation work as well, and this is precisely what Brac is engaged in, albeit on a modest scale, in war-torn Afghanistan. But skill in rehabilitation work and disaster management does not come naturally, it is an outcome of years of experience, and Brac is a proven institution for that matter. Despite such proven record on Brac’s part, non-governmental foreign policy initiatives, particularly for want of state sponsorship and regulations, are susceptible to hazards and limitations. Killing and several kidnapping of Brac officials in Afghanistan are cases in point. Not that this should provide reasons for postponement of such ventures but it is a clear indication that non-governmental foreign policy initiatives are no less vital than governmental initiatives and therefore demands constitution of newer structures and space for manoeuvrability.

This brings us directly to the second version of globalization, one that I prefer to call reverse globalization. The latter is very much an outcome of the modernist craze, principally the organization of post-colonial state in the image of the modern ‘Western’ state. Two quick examples would be Bollywood and what goes internationally in the name of Indian cuisine, to which incidentally the Bangladesh diaspora has contributed immensely. Curry, masala tikka, biriyani, even bharta are now household names and certainly gastronomic delights across cultures, nationalities and continents. Michael Dummett, one of the most influential British philosophers of his generation, went on to say, “British eating habits have been considerably affected by the Bangladeshi, and to a lesser extent Chinese, presence.” Indeed, it may not be out of place to point out that in many of the so-called Indian restaurants the chef and the servers are Bangladeshis, indicating to yet another area where Bangladeshis have earned a global name with little or no support from the state. A recent research has shown that should Bangladesh invest in the development of semi-skilled migrant workers, including catering to restaurant business and plumbing and having them sent to Europe, it could end up raising the remittances flow to USD 30 billion if not more. Here too creative institutionalization at home and external engagements is required.

For Bangladesh, no less telling are other variants of reverse globalization, like micro-credit, peacekeeping or transfusion of religious discourses. That Professor Yunus has become Bangladesh’s global Ambassador can easily be judged from the number of foreign dignitaries he meets and international awards he receives every year. Sadly there is no mechanism to honour such persons on a regular basis and put them into use for the service of the state in the like of the United Nations or some developed countries. Indeed, much to his credit micro-credit is now a global product for which Bangladesh can surely be proud of, and there is no reason why this expertise cannot be made into an exportable item for the benefit of Bangladesh and the world.

Notable also is Bangladesh’s contribution to international peacekeeping. Although it must be admitted that soldiering a conflict or ‘peacekeeping’ is one thing and resolving the conflict or ‘peacemaking’ is another. It is time, given Bangladesh’s reputation as ‘peacekeepers,’ that it invests and starts playing a role as ‘peacemakers’ at the global level. This would of course require establishing institutions with close partnership with civil and military academic and research institutions nationally, regionally as well as internationally.

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari have referred to the process of post-territoriality or deterritorialization as giving rise to a simultaneous process of reterritorialization, although the latter remains substantially different from the previous territoriality. We have already referred to the point that how the territorial meaning of Bangladesh has become less relevant and the meaning now includes a more demographic understanding, which is inclusive of Bangladeshis living abroad. Indeed, given its ‘civilizational’ link, Bangladesh is readily taken to be sympathizing or even supporting the Islamic cause in the Middle East and elsewhere, which at times creates the notion that it is ‘soft’ on the so-called ‘Muslim militants’ or ‘Islamic terrorists.’ This has particularly been the case with the United States in the post-9/11 period, the latter even categorizing Bangladesh as ‘high risk’ in its global war on terrorism. I must quickly add here that the power of petro-dollars and the empowered status of some of the Middle Eastern countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, made the confluence between diaspora and Wahhabism or more appropriately Saudization of Islam all the more easy if not deadly. If globalization has deterritorialized Bangladesh, it has certainly also reterritorialized Bangladesh, albeit on a different plane mixed with anguish and apprehension, and this brings us to the third version of globalization.

Critics have already referred to the mushrooming of global networks resisting economic globalization as ‘globalization from below.’ The latter includes a diverse group of people – environmentalists, NGOs, religious groups, small farmers, labour unions (incidentally of both developed and developing countries), women’s movement, African debt relief campaigners, anti-sweatshop activists, and the like, all one way or other either critical of or directly suffering from and struggling against the impact of economic globalization. Here the forces of the seemingly disempowered non-state have creatively joined hands to overcome the exploitation of the empowered non-state, i.e. the forces of economic globalization. The subaltern nature of the resistance movements, particularly the networking, can hardly be minimized. One area that could be highlighted here is the issue of environment and the dire condition of the marginalized people. Bangladesh is already on the top of the Global Climate Risk Index, and it is indeed the marginalized lot that suffer the most from global warming, floods, cyclones, droughts and now tsunamis. This would be a challenge that could only be met with regional and global efforts and therefore is bound to emerge in the priority list of foreign policy agenda. How much the policymakers are currently equipped in the environmental discourse is something that would be worth reflecting and what should be done to overcome the weaknesses if there are any.

But then, there is a further subaltern variant to the whole notion of globalization from below. This refers to the deepening of relationship between and amongst the ‘dubious groups’ and ‘shadowy activities’ ranging from smuggling of goods and people, illicit production and trading of small arms, money laundering, faking of passports and travel documents, narco-production and trading, terrorism, and the like, and that again, across and beyond national, ethnic, racial, and even religious affiliations. The subalterns, particularly the poverty-ridden and marginalized population, become easy target of such groups and activities, but more importantly the state of being itself becomes a factor for certain relatively well off individuals to rally support and even clandestinely work for their cause. A protracted nature of poverty and marginality and lack of substantive global concern also push them to seek informal or even criminal means to reproduce their lives and livelihood. The complex networking at this level and in combination with the resistance movements against economic globalization could be best referred to as subaltern globalization. Here the subalterns, including their ardent supporters and sympathizers, are no less creative and empowered when it comes to organizing and reproducing their activities at the global level, and that too often by challenging the overly empowered forces of economic globalization. The state therefore needs to be equipped to confront simultaneously and no doubt creatively the positive and negative influences of both economic and subaltern globalization.

Possibilities of nightmarish outcomes are compounded by the fact that foreign policy processes are susceptible to misgovernance and polarized politics. On the issue of subaltern globalization, and since it includes the sphere of illegality of such complex proportions, nothing can be more frightening. Only a few days back when I was transiting at the Dubai airport I was informed by a host of presumably illegal migrants, jailed and deported from Saudi Arabia, how badly and inefficiently were they all treated by officials of Bangladesh Embassy there. In fact, as several of them complained, the officials having getting used to waking up and coming to the office late ended up addressing their problems around 1.00 pm when it was time for them to have lunch in the prison. Charges of corruption were also raised, which included stateless refugees from Myanmar, that is, the Rohingyas, getting passports from Bangladesh and giving a bad name to the country for their misdemeanours! And when misgovernance partners with polarized politics, where partisanship and not merit dictates key international appointments, the combination could be deadly! This is as much an issue of quality as it is an issue of institution-building. It goes without saying that the parliamentary bodies in foreign policymaking needs to be active and the standing committees if and when required must call the concerned officials and make them accountable to public expenses and country’s foreign policy goals.

In the age of globalization if dreams are to be realized and nightmares to be avoided in pursuits that are predominantly external in nature then it is imperative that the mindset of yesteryears be replaced by a fresh and creative one. In this context, foreign policy processes need to be multiplied and made more democratic, indeed, to the point of building and engaging with newer sets of institutions. First in the list are research and academic centres: governmental and non-governmental, civil and military. The colonial legacy of having to run the foreign policy bureaucracy independent of the public must come to an end. Even institutions like the BIISS must cease to be at the mercy of the government. Instead, it should raise its own funds, recruit scholars for particular projects and build cells for independent and quality research, which the government would then have the options to accept, modify, postpone or reject. But a more qualitative transformation has to come by linking the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) with independent research and academic centres of repute like the Dhaka University, CPD, BEI, the very young CFAS and a host of others, both formally and informally. Since officials of MOFA are transferred every three years it is important that they are fed by a permanent pool of researchers and scholars, and the most productive and cost-effective would be to link them up on a regular basis with such existing centres.

There are added reasons for this. Take, for instance, the global surge of China and India, both close neighbours and over 4 billion dollars worth of formal trading partners of Bangladesh, and the need for maintaining constant interactions with them. Without adequate knowledge of these rising economic giants, such interactions would remain imperfect and prone to the whims and dictations of the former. Historically, too much Capital city-centrism has kept Bangladesh’s relationship with Northeast India, for instance, underdeveloped and in the midst of mutual suspicion. Creative structures, including attracting the young entrepreneurs there, ought to be initiated for developing a cordial and profitable relationship between the people across the border. Bangladesh could certainly use the ‘transit card’ to its benefit provided of course India agrees to resolve long-standing issues with Bangladesh like maritime boundary, demarcation of un-demarcated borders, exchange of enclaves, moratorium on dam-building on common rivers, de-fencing the border, and a couple of other issues at one go and not piece by piece. Bangladesh-Myanmar-China road link would also contribute towards re-imagining the ‘region’ and help in bringing Southeast Asia closer to Bangladesh and South Asia. In this context, specialized centres, including knowledge of Chinese, Burmese and a host of major Indian languages, are required to transmit scholarly knowledge and transform them to the country’s benefit. A beginning could be made by housing them in existing academic and research institutions and having them linked to the formal foreign policymaking bodies.

The second in the list is the establishment of National Civil College (NCC) in the like of the country’s well-reputed National Defence College. Any promotion above Joint Secretary or, as in the case of MOFA, Director General would require passing out of the College, after having gone through an intensive certificate program matching the respective bureaucracies and national requirements. There is also a need for engendering foreign policymaking given that women constitute more than half of the country’s population. A beginning could certainly be made in this regard by making NCC a gender-sensitive institution. NCC could also run mandatory training programs for parliamentarians and other civil functionaries, including freshly appointed ambassadors. The institute could also recruit researchers on both short and long-term basis for feeding the senior level student-bureaucrats and even the respective ministries. A Foreign Policy Archive could also be housed in the NCC, which the public, as part of right to information, could access regularly, while ‘secret and restricted documents’ could be made available to the public after a lapse of 20 years. Globalization demands that policymakers are well-equipped to interact intellectually not only locally but also globally.

Last but not least is governmental sponsorship of Bangladesh Parishod or Council in different cities of the world; managed and run, however, by a pool of officially-sanctioned, well-qualified members of the Bangladesh diaspora. As I had mentioned earlier, the post-globalization diaspora is qualitatively different from the old diaspora and therefore the members are passionately attentive to whatever is taking place in the motherland, from a game of football to the making of futchka, from political rumours to the price of petrol. At the same time, however, they are well-versed in the country of their residence, knowing well in many cases the personalities closed to the government, opinion-making agencies and business houses. If managed efficiently, such Councils can become information-gathering/delivering bodies and informal lobbies, helping Bangladesh in getting access to people and things, indeed, far more creatively than possible on the part of the formalized diplomatic missions. This would also be cost effective as many a member of the diaspora would be willing to invest both time and money for bettering the cause of the motherland and having a reputation both at home and abroad. Indeed, instances of this kind are already there. Both BNP and Awami League have over the years managed to form international wings, albeit mainly to serve partisan cause. In the age of globalization and post-territoriality it is only prudent that the state make use of Bangladeshis, whether residing at home or abroad, with greater efficiency and a spark of creativity.

Dreams are often difficult to realize but save a zealous effort or two there remains only the option of slipping down and having nightmares!

Ambassador Shafi Sami
I would like to begin by congratulating Professor Imtiaz on his paper, which has the hallmark of his wisdom and knowledge on foreign policy issues, for which he is well recognized in the country and beyond.

The most important point that comes out from the presentation by Professor Imtiaz is that – foreign policy of any country is the product of its history, its experience, its compulsions and challenges. It is wounded by the conscious preference for action of that country, its people and the government to secure influence.

The next point I would like to refer to is the debate as to whether Bangladesh is a small state or not, and what are the constraints regarding that. Without going into the debate, I think it is very important for a country like Bangladesh - a country which is economically at a disadvantage, to have a very efficient mechanism to develop foreign policy. That is where the importance lies.
The next point that I would like to refer to is that Professor Imtiaz has very succinctly brought out the importance of the economic content of the diplomatic process of foreign policy development of Bangladesh. He has referred to the importance of trade, and also the importance of developing a strategy from which Bangladesh will benefit out of the global recession that is likely to set in. The economic meltdown and the global energy crisis that he brings out is an important area for foreign policy considerations in Bangladesh. I support his point in this context that, instead of oil and coal, renewable energy should constitute a very important area for foreign policy makers. He rightly says that the energy crisis is far from over, and will not be solved unless alternate energy resources come to feed our lifestyle. It is in this context that I would like to mention something that is inherent for developing friendly and cooperative relations in South Asia. South Asia has abundant energy resources, particularly of the renewable type. Renewable and clean energy development could constitute a very important element of foreign policy development of Bangladesh.

He also referred to the importance, though not in a direct manner, of fighting terrorism. In this context, I personally feel that Bangladesh in the near future is likely to face a rise in militancy. It is important from the point of view of protecting the national interests of Bangladesh to try and contain that. This is because the fight against terrorism is likely to assume increasing importance in international relations. Bangladesh is likely to attract some attention if we make a conscious effort to contain the rise of militancy in the country.

Two more points have been succinctly put forward by Professor Imtiaz. These pertain to micro-credit, and the wonderful achievement of Professor Yunus, and the need and necessity for turning this into an exportable item of Bangladesh and the world. He also makes a very cogent and valid point regarding the peace-keeping efforts of Bangladesh, and one can agree with his recommendation that this could be pursued with renewed zeal.

Apart from the cases that he has cited about the influence of polarized politics and mis-governance on foreign policy development, one can think of many other examples to validate the point.

I do not think I can comprehensively cover all the issues in my speech. So I would like to flag all the main points for your kind consideration.

Firstly, while national interest is easy to identify and define, developing national consensus on how to approach these issues is very difficult. In this particular context, it is very important for us to devise means to insulate foreign policy development from the overplay of domestic politics, so as to enable our political leaders to make decisions on the basis of the merit of each case rather than being influenced by emotional domestic political considerations.

Migration, development of manpower export and exploitation of various maritime zones should be another important foreign policy objective for Bangladesh.

Lastly, I would like to emphasize on another subject that is explicitly not present in the paper, but is in the theme of the paper, i.e., emphasis on regional cooperation. We must forge regional cooperation for the benefit of the economy of Bangladesh. As Professor Imtiaz said, one of the important objectives of any foreign policy development is economic prosperity for the people of that country, and one of the ways that it can be achieved is by strengthening economic cooperation for the benefit of the people of this region. In this context, there are two important aspects that I would like to bring in your consideration. They are: strengthening of the government infrastructure and developing energy resources. Thank you very much.

Barrister Harun
Thank you Chair, my distinguished colleagues, and other esteemed participants. I agree with most of the propositions made by Professor Imtiaz in his paper. But I have a different point of view regarding what he has underscored about foreign policy directions.

First of all, he has correctly said that globalization has affected the world. We have seen that the global financial crisis, which started in USA, has had effects all over the world, even Iceland, a remote country. Even Bangladesh cannot escape the effects of globalization.

He is also correct in saying that the Westphalian concept of nation-state is fast disappearing. For business purposes, the state boundaries that separate one other are no more real than the equator. The state boundaries no more define business requirements or consumer traits.

Next, I would like to say something about small states. Some authors have defined small states as weak powers. There are two categories of use. The Commonwealth Consultative Group has come up with the criteria for a small state, which has adopted 1 million people or less as the benchmark of a small state. Other criteria involve physical size, gross domestic product, military power, availability of natural and unskilled human resources. Just on the basis of these criteria, you may have to conclude whether Bangladesh is a small state and a weak power or not.

Professor Imtiaz has argued that President Obama’s tax relief would generate some exports. I would rather argue that in days of credit crunch, people are cautious to save money rather than spending it. In days of economic uncertainty, people do not spend money. They keep it as far as possible.

He has also talked about globalization. However, apart from economic globalization, he has not talked about two other kinds of globalization that has come into play. One is the popular globalization, which he has referred to indirectly by mentioning the campaigns by people-power organizations like Amnesty International, Greenpeace etc. Global civil society has emerged, and we have noted at the IMF and World Bank meetings that the protests are being made by the global civil society of all countries of all people.

Another globalization that Professor Imtiaz has not referred to is the Public Order globalization, which refers to governments working together on common problems, such as combating disease, environment pollution etc.

I wished that Professor Imtiaz would have touched upon the following points regarding the foreign policy directions of Bangladesh. Firstly, Bangladesh is sandwiched between two Asian giants – India and China. How can we make our jiggle-wiggle position an opportunity? The opportunity is there in the sense that we could integrate our economy with the global or regional economy. As Professor Imtiaz has said, it is very difficult to identify a national product. Let me give you an example. The Reebok shoes carry a South African name, are made by United States of America in South Korea, and carry the label of Union Jack. Four countries are involved. Therefore, we must consider in what way our geographical position between India and China could be used to our advantage. The challenge is: can Bangladesh afford a close relationship with China, if the price is more distant relationship with India? What implications does a closer tie with China have on bilateral relations with the USA? If relations between Washington and Beijing begin to cool, what can Bangladesh do in that situation? Is Bangladesh more effective and influential ally if it does not always move lock-step with the regional or global agenda of China and India? Or does too much independence in Bangladesh’s foreign policy undermine its relations with these countries?

Another point that I would like to flag is – how can Bangladesh, as a moderate, tolerant, multi-religious, multi-ethnic country mobilize global opinion to address out national interests in global warming, energy, security, water security, environment security and human security.

Ambassador Kazi Masud
Thank you Chair, my distinguished colleagues, and the assembly present. Without detracting from the excellence of the paper, I would like to point out some things which Dr. Imtiaz might have had in mind, but he has not explicitly mentioned.

Referring to his first paragraph, the partition of India was not a result of genocide. But what we had gone through in 1971 was definitely genocide. Then, the debate over small and large countries ignores the critical point as to how Bangladesh should interact in the present world system that basically is and will be dominated by a dozen economies in the foreseeable future. Besides, no yardstick has been provided to measure how big or small a country is, as mentioned by Barrister Harun-ur-Rashid. The UN classification is generally based on stages of economic development. For example- developed countries, developing countries, least developed countries, island countries etc.

I would like to differ on the question of optimism expressed by Dr. Imtiaz in page 3 regarding the surplus in disposable income resulting from Barack Obama’s tax cut plan, because it ignores the price and demand elasticity of the exports of Bangladesh to USA. I would agree with Barrister Harun-ur-Rashid that in conditions of melt-down, it is more likely that the middle-class Americans will hold on to cash in hand instead of buying the products.

Then, Dr. Imtiaz’a analysis of the relative insulation of the Bangladesh economy from the global meltdown and also increased competitiveness vis-à-vis India and China, is based on ‘cheap labor.’ But as well all know, it is not cheap labor, but labor productivity per unit which determines the ultimate cost of a commodity, which is of most importance to the importer. Then I would like to defer with his point about the global energy crisis. It is not a crisis when you have price volatility. The price of oil used to be 158 dollars per barrel, and now it is down to 46 dollars. Therefore, we have price volatility, and we do not know where this price is going to end. So, there is no crisis as such. And the current price of 46 dollars would not encourage the exploration of alternative resources of energy. In the ultimate analysis, the business people are going to compute which is cheaper. If oil becomes cheaper, then they won’t explore for other sources of energy. If it becomes dear, then they will.

Strangely, Islamic militancy has not been dealt by the paper at all, though it is of central concern, barring the economic meltdown, to the west and no less to the east, including the Islamic world. Equally I expected non-traditional military threats, NTS (Non-traditional Security), to be dealt within the paper, which is facing the world in the shape of adverse impacts of climate change, which is compounded by population explosion or increased population, as in the case of Bangladesh, and lack of assurance of food security, which is integral to the economic development of Bangladesh. I also do not see how we can achieve a 10% growth rate. We have, of course, the expertise of Dr. Mustafizur Rahman from the CPD.

Also the trans-national health hazards and elimination of communicable diseases could have been highlighted. I am not aware that ministry of foreign affairs of different countries are forming a network of think tanks, as mentioned in page 7. Language and specialized training, for example in the Law of the Sea, have been given to officers. As Ambassador Shafi Sami pointed out, we have India and Myanmar to deal with.

Ambassador Zamir
I must admit that Professor Imtiaz’s paper has opened up areas for interesting discussions. I will mention only one aspect of the discussions. Dr. Imtiaz has mentioned about Saudi Arabia, and the onibashi, probashi Bangladeshis and the needs of the foreign affairs ministry, which is presently also looking after expatriate welfare to look into the affair more seriously.

One of the recommendations that I hope will go out of this meeting is that, in addition to imparting training in languages at all levels – as in French, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, which is not being done as regularly as it used to be done earlier in the ministry of foreign affairs – it is also important to include Nepali, Bhutanese and Burmese. It is important for us to know our neighbor’s languages. It is not a question of teaching someone Arabic and then posting him in New York. I would suggest that this meeting should recommend the need to specialize in foreign languages and to expand and broaden it - because we have many missions in the Middle East - to many junior officers who have to do consular work to learn Arabic and Persian in particular. So, if you have to attest certificates, if you have to look out for the welfare of our expatriates in confinement, you should know the language.

Professor Mustafizur Rahman, CPD
Thank you, sir, for giving me the floor. I would like to thank Dr. Imtiaz for highlighting many issues that will come to define Bangladesh’s foreign policy in the coming days. First of all, I would like to comment on some of the points on which I have some issues.

I think the part on the new administration should be more nuanced, as Ambassador Faruk Sobhan will also attest. I will give you just one example. The new Partership for Development Act, which is now in the US Congress - in terms of providing zero-tariff access to Bangladeshi products including the apparels in the US market - will be in a more challenging situation once the new administration comes. So this is a very important issue for Bangladesh and will have important implications for the foreign policy development also. I was in Washington last week, and I found out that the Obama Administration will be much more averse to providing zero-tariff access to Bangladeshi apparels. I have seen the response they have made to the US textile lobby, which is a very cautious approach. I do not say that they will not be providing zero-tariff access, or they will not be considering it. But there will be a number of conditions attached.
Secondly, the US has allocation in the Millennium Challenge Fund. We are also talking about the aid for trade in the WTO. But, if a large chunk of the US taxpayer money will be going for the bail-out, I think the money for the aid will be shorter. It is a challenge for us.

Also, when we talk about globalization, for many of the low-income countries, it is mostly north-south. I think an important aspect that should be considered is how to expand south-south trade. For many middle income countries, south-south trade is expanding at a very high rate, even double the rate of global trade. Here also, another challenge exists for Bangladesh. Some of the speakers have also talked about how to take advantage of our geographical position in respect to China and India. So it is not only regionalism, but conscious regionalism that will constitute an important element of foreign policy development of Bangladesh.

The next point pertains to territorialisation. Off-shore drilling, carbon trading – all these new emerging issues will bring the issue of territorial entity in a new light. It’s not only globalization, but also a renewed focus on territorial aspects of our nation that need to be considered.
Fourthly, you talked about the necessity of developing nuclear energy, which will also have important implications in foreign policies of our country. You cannot have nuclear energy today. You need global bodies like IAEA to support your cause. That should also be considered in developing foreign policies.

Ambassador Anwar Hashem
My compliments to Professor Imtiaz Ahmed for presenting a very learned paper.
Globalization has featured prominently in the paper as well as during the discussions. Dr. Imtiaz has dealt at length with globalization in many forms and manifestations. Ambassador Harun-Ur-Rashid has made some interesting and thoughtful additions to the discussion. But all said and done, to cut the long story very short, I would like to request all of you to accept the objective reality. The objective reality is that globalization is an on-going process, and it is going to stay on. What we exactly need to do is try to devise ways and means the negative impact of globalization and take advantages of whatever little opportunities that globalization offers. It is in this context that we should also consider how we can take advantage of our leadership of the LDC group. I consider it to be very important. I do not want to indulge in the debate as to whether we should be in the LDC group or not. When I am dictated by my heart, I think that we should get out of it. We do not need the stigma of being the fakir of all fakirs. But when I try to think objectively, I think we should continue in the LDC group because there are certain advantages in the international arena.

Dr. Imtiaz has made many thought-provoking comments. Let me comment on one. On page 4, he has said that non-governmental initiatives for developing foreign policies are no less important than governmental initiatives. I would like to put special accent on each. The foreign policies in the future should be the foreign policies of Bangladesh, and not of this ruling party or that. We need to bear this in mind. There is an imperative need for a partnership between state actors and all relevant non-state actors. Of course, here a prescription has been given by Dr. Imtiaz. He has said that the government should take the input (from non-state actors), think about it, analyze it, and if necessary, discard it. Ambassador Harun has mentioned about the geo-political reality of foreign politics. Let me mention some other factors. Let us not forget of the seven declared nuclear states, two are located in South Asia. Another reality is that, apart from the presence of two mighty neighbors, Bangladesh has another neighbor – the lone superpower that has become everybody’s neighbor. We should take these factors in consideration. When we think about the global scenario, we used to talk about the East-West divide. But now we are talking about the aggravation or intensification of the North-South divide, and also the emergence of the religious divide. These are the things we should take into account.

Finally, in any discussions on the future directions of Bangladesh foreign policy, there is a need for identification and prioritization of the areas of interest. This is just not about relations with a country, or group of countries, or blocs, but is also about issues. We have to identify the issues. Whether globalization should come first, or environment, or energy security need to be considered. We should think objectively and dispassionately about our achievements during the last thirty years, and out lack of success over the years and what went wrong. Perhaps we can build on our successes, and rectify ourselves from our mistakes. So experience can be a great indicator.

Ambassador Shafi-Ullah
We have only two neighbors – India and Myanmar. In the coming days we should focus all our attention to these countries. This is because no issues are being solved between Bangladesh and Myanmar, and Bangladesh and India. For example- even the gas pipeline that was offered by India to Myanmar through Bangladesh was rejected. I do not think it was a good idea to reject that offer. Today, we are negotiating boundary demarcation, and we are nowhere. We do not have good relations with Myanmar. Gas supply would have made them dependent on Bangladesh to a certain extent, and it would have helped us with the negotiation also.
Secondly, the foreign ministry should encourage their officials to attend regularly seminars, dialogue held by the civil society, research centers in Dhaka, so that they can be enlightened by different opinions and keynote papers as well. It will help them to formulate foreign policies.

Thirdly, the mainstream political parties of Bangladesh should be discouraged to have oversea branches. In our experience, they do not help the cause of Bangladesh. Through inter-party conflicts, they take home politics abroad; they fight among themselves and create a bad image of Bangladesh. Instead, they should be encouraged to join the political parties in the host countries. They could act as a lobby for Bangladesh.

Ambassador Shamser
Thank you, Chair. I will just touch on some issues.

I think we are a small state, but we are a large nation. We may be a new country, but an old race. So, one has to find the definition of Bangladesh in that context.

I would now like to go on Dr. Imtiaz’s point regarding energy security. I think it is extremely vital that Bangladesh focuses on energy security as much as it focuses on food security, simply because we are dependent on non-renewable sources of energy and imported sources of energy. It is time that we develop new sources of energy, and I certainly agree that the nuclear option should not be ruled out.

Now, there has been an understandable euphoria about Barack Obama’s victory, and his imminent assumption of office. But I think that there will be far greater challenges for Bangladesh in the area of trade. Democrats, who are now going to control the White House, Senate and the House of Representatives of United States, i.e. the entire executive and legislature, are ideologically and inherently protectionist. They focus very heavily on issues like labor rights. So, the challenge for Bangladesh is going to be much greater.

The next issue that I would like to touch on is regarding the development of cultural diplomacy. Already, it has been mentioned that food habits in Europe has undergone a change because of the impact of Bangladeshi cuisine in London.

The other issue is ensuring the rights and welfare of Bangladeshis working abroad. Remittance income is critical, not just crucial, but critical for Bangladesh’s economy. It has a 100% value addition. It generates income, it generates jobs. There should be a sustained, focused and well-thought out policy in this area.

I also agree with Dr. Imtiaz that there should be changes in the ways that foreign policies are developed and executed. It should not be the domain of one particular institution. It should be done by an inclusive bunch of professionals, a gathering of talents. This would enrich the input in foreign policy making and also help in its execution.

Training and creating educated and informed foreign policy makers with linguistic expertise has been touched by many already.

The last point is regarding the role of the Diaspora. The Diaspora has become increasingly important, relevant and more-and-more a direct player in how you project Bangladesh to the outside world as a moderate country seeking to find a place for itself in the global world. We should be able to demonstrate our ability as a responsible partner in the global community. And here, the role of the Diaspora is extremely critical.

The broad was then discussed under three main heads:

  • The formulation of Bangladesh foreign policy
  • The implementation of the foreign policy, the obstacles
  • Bangladesh foreign policy – the way forward

Ambassador Faruk Sobhan
I will talk about the key challenges facing Bangladesh in the context of foreign policies in Bangladesh, and how do we respond to these challenges. One point we have constantly talked about, and is more important today than ever before, is the need to forge a national consensus on foreign policy, in particular, on three or four key areas.

One is, to understand and appreciate the importance of foreign policy and foreign relations, and the need to have an effective foreign ministry to implement and coordinate and respond to this requirement. I would particularly like to focus on the need for national consensus on relations with India, on economic integration both within South Asia and with Asia at large, and on other economic challenges that we face.

So, how de we achieve national consensus? I think what we need to do is to try and engage many more actors and stakeholders in this exercise, starting with the leadership of our political parties and the foreign relations committee of the parliament. Also, the civil society and the media need to be engaged in the process. To be candid, we have seen in the past a propensity to criticize the foreign relations committee and our missions abroad to have failed to respond to these challenges. But the fact that there has been no consensus and no agreement, and the fact that our ministry and missions abroad has to work under enormous constraints has been overlooked.
We need to move towards national consensus, as I think that there are half a dozen things that need to be done which cannot happen unless we have national consensus. And let me just identify a few of these key challenges. One is in the area of economic policies, regarding market access to the US, migration and employment abroad. We have to recognize that by 2015 the population of Bangladesh will cross 200 million and will be close to 220 million. Where are we going to find jobs for all these people at home? The reality is that we have to look for employment opportunities for these people abroad.

And this employment will come only in three ways. One is, we need to star training our workforce. Secondly, we need to impress on the international community greater market access, if you like, for our workforce. One of the key developments is that there is now a growing recognition of the importance of migration and remittances for economic growth and development. Thirdly, we need to attract FDI in a highly competitive atmosphere. One of the impacts of the global financial crisis will make it more difficult to attract FDI into high-risk countries like Bangladesh, which we need to be candid about. We have to focus ourselves on this. We have to find out who the countries with huge surpluses are at the moment, and how we can attract those surpluses into Bangladesh.

I would say that one of the main challenges is to improve relations with India on a win-win situation, and moving forward on the whole South Asian economic integration agenda, including Nepal, Bhutan and the Indian North-East in our own interests. Improving the image of Bangladesh and re-branding Bangladesh is one of the challenges that the new government has to take up. In order to face these challenges, the first and foremost step is to strengthen our foreign office and our personnel abroad. Very recently, India has taken the decision to double the carter/carder/charter for the Indian Foreign Service with effect from 1 November. The basic salaries of the Indian secretaries to the government have been increased to close to 1 Lakh Indian rupees a month. What is India trying to do? India is trying to make the Foreign Service one of the most attractive services available, so that they can attract the best and the brightest. Unfortunately, in our case, the best and the brightest are abroad, and we must look for ways to bringing them back to man the Foreign Service.

Some of the other key challenges that I would like to touch on is the growing threat of terrorism, and how do we face up to it; and the issue of the maritime boundaries. One of the subjects that we have talked about even in the last session was the need to recognize that no foreign policy can be developed without a minimum degree of coordination and coherence. Unfortunately, the role of the foreign ministry has been progressively undermined and diluted in Bangladesh, and we need to find ways to reestablish the pivotal roles of the foreign office. Those of us who have served abroad will realize how effective and important is coordinating in case of all other countries, except, alas, for Bangladesh.

We need to leverage the strength of the Diaspora. This will be of critical importance, particularly in the case of re-branding Bangladesh and the whole image exercise. Many of our second and third generation Bangladeshis are well positioned and well-placed. They can help us also in the area of getting market access to the US. So, it is only their remittances that we need, but also their political leverage and strength.

The world is rapidly changing. We have seen three major transformational developments, and all three are equally important. Firstly, the impact of global financial crisis and how we face to it. Second is the rise of India and China, and the fact that they are emerging as global players. Sandwiched, between these two, we need to find out how to respond to these challenges. Third is the post 9/11 global scenario, and the challenges it poses for countries like Bangladesh. On the one hand, we have to face this threat of terrorism. On the other hand, we ourselves, as a Muslim-majority country, which takes pride in being a moderate country, and following a path which we believe will make us active from the point-of-view of investments and partnerships, need to find out how to carry out our aspirations.
Thank you very much.

Barrister Harun-Ur-Rashid
I agree with all the challenges that Ambassador Faruk Sobhan has identified, which will be faced by the new government. One of the key challenges, as he has mentioned, is our location. Our location impacts our internal activity between India, North-East India and Myanmar. We can take opportunity of our geographical location by opening transit and inter-connectivity to our neighboring countries. Economically, it will be easier. We know that China has opened a railway from Beijing to Lhasa. They are now bringing it to Nepal. So, if we have connectivity with India and Nepal, we can link up economically with China.

For some years, Bangladesh has been behaving like a cocoon, by not opening up its borders. Borders are a thing of the past now. The Westphalian concept of state is disappearing. I would say that national consensus is required. Now we have signed the Trans-Asian highway. So, interconnectivity is required.

Secondly, we need to have integration of economy. The North-Eastern states are now land-locked. Here, we can use the Transit card. This is a great asset. We can exploit and take the opportunity to make the economy prosper.

Thirdly, there needs to be national consensus on global warming. We are not giving enough importance to global warming. But it will affect each part of Bangladesh. It will create more infectious diseases. It will harm the crops of the temperature rises. Salinity will intrude the inland water, making our agricultural lands unproductive. And, 33 million people will be directly affected, as some say, by the sea rise in the south in the coastal lands.

The next challenge will come regarding how to maintain good relations with India and Myanmar. There are some misgivings in their minds. Because the Bangladeshi people, or Bengali people, once dominated the economy in Rangoon or Burma, they shy away from Bangladeshis. They think that we have exploited them for umpteen years. This mentality is there. So how do we remove this suspicious mentality towards our good will for them? That is why, I think, Myanmar does not support a direct road connection from Chittagong to Rangoon. It is the Myanmar who objected that the road cannot go from Myanmar to Bangladesh; it has to go through India to Bangladesh.

I also agree that we must invest in the Diaspora. Recently, I was in Sydney, and I saw that there is a network of NRBs (Non-Resident-Bangladeshis). They have established a Bangladesh environmental network. They hold seminars, and they bring members of the parliament and even some of the junior ministers, to highlight how to combat the effects of global warming and how Australia could help Bangladesh to adapt to the effects of global warming. So, they are doing good work. But, as we have said earlier, our energies are split up there with 2-3 political parties. But look at the Indian-born Bobby Jindal, who is the governor of Louisiana. And he is also one of the aspirants for the presidential nomination in 2012. Bangladesh also needs to see how to join one of the parties, either the Democrats or the Republicans, to influence some of the events we are suffering from, like lobbying market access, and other kind of activities that will help Bangladesh. There is no internal lobby of the Diaspora through which the voice of Bangladesh can be heard.

The other challenge is that terrorism has over-arched everything as 88% of our country is Muslims. But very few know that we have 45 ethnic groups in Bangladesh. We are multi-religious, with more Buddhists here than in India. This, we have not been able to highlight. We are also multi-lingual. We must give recognition to the dialects of our tribal people that will enhance and enrich Bangladesh’s image to the world.

There is no consensus or bi-partisanship in the foreign policies of our country. No heads of the government, except President Zia, were interested in foreign policy. Foreign policy, sometimes, is decided by a small core cabinet, like kitchen cabinets, where there are no foreign ministers. Stalwarts of parties become foreign advisors. The prime-ministerial secretariat is another hurdle. Whatever recommendation the foreign secretary or foreign minister gives in their own wisdom is undermined by the secretariat, or they sometimes put forward new recommendations, which sometimes go against the interest of Bangladesh. Therefore, the rules of business on part of the government must be changed, so that the foreign office, like any other country, has a pre-dominant say on any matter touching on foreign relations. We are the only country where trade relations with Taiwan are opened up without consulting the foreign office. And then the foreign office has to address the difficult issue with China. Therefore, I feel that the restructuring of the foreign office is necessary, apart from the emphasis on resources and competencies.

The research and evaluation division in the foreign offices is a must. Because the director generals in the foreign office are so occupied with day-to-day administration, they cannot think long-term: what will happen in this region in five years, or ten years, etc. Therefore, the strategy should be that this research and evaluation division should plan a 5-year, 10-year, and 25-year strategy, and what we expect to achieve in this time. We must not be carried away emotions. Sometimes, I have seen that we waste our resources on something that is not achievable. So, we must be hard-hearted and realistic, and pragmatic. We must concentrate on a few issues. We must not run with all the issues of the UN. As was said before, we need to prioritize our issues. There may be 121 issues in the UN General Assembly. Therefore, let us concentrate on 5-6 issues and run with it with determination, persistence, with our ideas, and with like-minded countries. This is so that our strength lies in establishing and building groups of like-minded countries to advance our national interest.

Mr. Jaglul Chowdhury, Chief Editor, BISS, and Veteran Journalist
Mr. Chair, thank you very much. I agree with Mr. Faruk Sobhan that on areas of foreign policy, there should be a national consensus. But at the same time, I think that a national consensus in a kind of a misnomer. It is not possible, neither is it lacking. Only in key areas in a democratic dispensation, national consensus in foreign policies is possible. I will tell you why.
In India, the largest democratic country in the world, there is sharp divide on the very critical and important issue like civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with India. The country was almost evenly divided. On one side was the Congress, on the other side, the biggest opposition came from the BJPs and leftists. Also in USA, the strongest democracy in the world, we saw that in this presidential election the two sides were absolutely divided on the Iraq issue. This is because two almost diametrically opposite positions were taken by Barack Obama and the out-going president. So, I think national consensus in possible in only a few key areas. This is because, in a democratic atmosphere, different parties have different views. This is the democratic pattern of behavior, people should have the freedom.

In key areas, national consensus is possible. But what are the key areas? Quite often we talk about national interest. I believe that the biggest failure of the last 38 years is that we have not been able to define what our national interest is. This is because, at times certain issues come to the floor where we find sharp differences of opinion. I believe that there should be a crystal-clear idea about our national interest. Here, I believe that we should try to involve the politicians, who are the public representatives. In this discussion I believe that one element I find missing is: ‘who are the policy makers?’ We must concentrate ourselves in the parameter of a democratic dispensation. I believe that policy makers also include the members of the parliament. We have seen during the rule of a democratic government that there is standing committee on foreign affairs. But we have also seen with much consternation that these committees are more or less toothless forums. They have no say. The chairman of the standing committee has no say at all.
I also want to way something about matters in which the foreign office plays a central role. The office in Topkhana is by the public as a kind of a white elephant, or detached from the people. I stress on that because I have a diplomatic correspondent for many years. I think that there is a paramount need for shattering some of the misconceptions about the foreign office in the mind of people, which have crept in the psyche, rightly or wrongly. There are some justifiable reasons, and there are certain misconceptions. If there is any truth in my comments, it is not because of the foreign office diplomats, it is because of the politicians who govern the country. They need to bring the Foreign Service much closer to the people to the extent that they should find the reflections of their hopes and aspirations of their culture in the Foreign Service people, because they are our brethren, our people. So, this kind of seminar should address these issues to the politicians. They should conduct affairs in such a manner so that the foreign office is not seen as being totally segregated from the people.

I believe our foreign office should be expanded. One distinguished speaker mentioned about India very rightly. Why should we call ourselves small? This is a country of 15 million people. Pakistan, with a marginally bigger population has a much larger foreign office. I think that there is no dearth of confidence in our foreign office people. I also believe that the number of embassies should be increased. It is sometimes said that we are wasting our money on a number of embassies, high-commissions etc. Now, if we have to survive with dignity, if we believe in interactions with the outside world, we must have embassies, diplomatic missions. In my view, the number should be increased with a fleet of efficient people, even taking them from economic backgrounds so that our economic diplomacy can be better protected. I think one important element of foreign office should be protection of the interest of the Diaspora. Quite often, they feel that their interest is not being protected. The government version is one-sided. Some time ago, we saw the situation in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia. Thousands of people thronged the embassy. I think we need more efficient people and realistic policies, and also a certain degree of courage on part of our foreign policy makers. Because, a kind of subservient foreign policy as regards of any country, does not help the interest of our people.

I think that regional and sub-regional cooperation is very important for Bangladesh. Of late, we have seen two summits in quick succession. Here, certain issues are not coming in the manner they deserve. One is that Bangladesh is too vulnerable to natural calamities. We are now in the first anniversary of Sidr. We narrowly escaped the tsunami. Such issues like anti-disaster management should get top priority. 17% of our country is susceptible to go under water due to climate change, and a large number of people are vulnerable to losing their existence. It is so alarming that the newly elected president of Maldives was appealing to the world ‘My country is going under water. We want a shelter anywhere in the world.’ On the face of it, it may not be realistic, but is a very appealing cry. We are also not above such dangers. I believe that climate change, effects and consequences should occupy a very important potion of our foreign policy matters. And unless we do it, we will be lacking in our duties and responsibilities.

Foreign policy must have clarity. It must have balance. I don’t think we can afford an aggressive or defensive policy. It should be balanced with respect to all countries, with special emphasis on our neighbors, because, we swim with them. There good is our good in many ways.
Last but not the least, involving the people should be the paramount consideration of the leadership. Leadership must not create a situation where foreign office is seen as an island. How we conduct ourselves domestically: do we have good governance, do we have a c0rruption-free society, do we have democratic dispensation; unless these are taken into consideration, you cannot talk loudly outside and protect your interests.

Ambassador Zamir
We have heard of the need of having a coherent, coordinated, clear and balanced foreign policy. We have also heard the need for interactive engagement with political parties. In this context, I feel that we should grow a habit in the ministry of foreign affairs, where the leader of the ministry should organize once every three months preferably, and an in-house discussion in the presence of political leadership who are assigned to looking after foreign affairs. That is for giving them a briefing as to what the foreign office thinks are the issues and how they are going about in resolving such matters. They can seek the views of the politicians, and find out from them any suggestions as to how to go forward.

Then, there is the need to strengthen and consolidate the performance of the parliamentary sub-committee on foreign affairs. Unfortunately, we have not seen any evidence of any importance being attached to parliamentary committees at all in the past. We hope that in the next parliament, this shall be given special effort.

There is also a need to grow a bi-partisan approach, as we have already heard. But at the same time, I think it is very important for us to identify as to what Bangladesh can offer on a quid pro quo basis, or what we are willing to offer for a transit card. Now we seem to disagree, because our principal parties are not at all in unity regarding how to deal with India. In particular, it has been mentioned once in a while that if you look for a particular point of view, the other person says you are being unpatriotic. So, this is an approach that needs to be carefully examined and monitored.

The next important issue is sitting down with our development partners, who play an important role in today’s globalized world. We need to sit them and discuss issues like water management, environmental degradation, food security and how to increase power. As the chairman of the Bangladesh renewable Energy Association, I have strongly recommended in an article in The Daily Star that we should increase a functional approach with regards to utilization of not only nuclear power, but also with regards to solar power, how to identify photo-voltaic cells because they require a certain kind of silicone wafer. We have to take the necessary assistance of China, because they are the largest producer of photo-voltaic cells, and Japan, the second-largest. We should also go into wind power. But wind power is intermittent. For that, we need smart grids, because whatever you produce needs to be conserved and re-circulated. So there are various issues. Now, the foreign office needs to be brought on board. Although these are areas of engagement where line ministries are involved, nevertheless, the foreign office from itself should try to create a coordinating matrix with the line ministries. Unfortunately, this is not happening, because the line ministries do not care for us. They go directly to the planning commissions; they go directly to the ERD. The foreign office sometimes is not even aware of what is being done in terms of projects.

The next point is trade and investment. In the ministry of foreign affairs, the legal division is a dumping ground. It is where no one wants to go. But in today’s world, from my experience in Rome and Brussels and other places, an investor expects that an ambassador or an economic counselor to know about the regulatory nature of investment opportunities. Recently, I have been advising the EPZ authorities, and also the foreign investment community on labor standards. I have had meetings with representatives from DOL, who came from Washington, and USTR, on the question of various aspects of preferential treatment of Bangladeshi products. I was shocked to find out that some of the people who had come from the line ministries were not aware of some of the standards expected with regard to such engagement. The director of economic affairs or DG of economic affairs should be assigned directly to the ministry of commerce, or the export promotion bureau for 7 days or 14 days, and not for a fifteen-minute discussion, before being posted abroad. They should be assigned there for 1-2 weeks to learn on the job what the issues are and how to solve them. Otherwise, a man going abroad will not be able to speak intelligently and attract attention.

The next question is capacity building. We have a terrible archive. Over the years I have seen the nature and attitude towards keeping important files and archives have deteriorated. In some cases, mass records have been thrown out of the window because of being infected with termites. We can ask certain development partners to give us funds; they will help us in our storage capacity in terms of transferring materials onto CDs and slices. This is because, later on the files might get lost, as we still have the habit of writing on files to get approval, the documents can be kept in CDs in a proper humid-free area, so that they can be used by someone else coming in to do research on any particular background. The Myanmar example is a classic case, where someone trying to do research on maritime boundary issues ran out of background material, because they did not have it. There is nothing about the 1974 act, or anything about the follow-up between 1974 and 1992.

The next important issue is foreign language training. From now on when we have such meetings, we must have the principals of foreign affairs training institute in attendance, so that he should know what others feel. This will help him to guide the foreign affairs training forward.
We are talking here about strategic engagement. The point of neighbor’s interest and protection should be classified as ‘strategic interest’ instead of just ‘interest.’ And similarly, ‘protection’ should be termed ‘sovereignty.’ Globalization, while effacing borders, is also creating the need for us to protect whatever we have.

Then there is a question of a new international system. We must understand that the print and electronic media is very important. We need to engage with them more constructively. This is not happening. We must ask someone from the foreign ministry to attend the next such meeting.
There is also the question of the civil society. When a foreign minister is attending a meeting at the level of UNGA, or WTO, there are several important civil society institutions in the country who organize international multi-lateral meetings at that time. Many people go there, they discuss and identify areas of interest which are important for the foreign ministry when they prepare their brief. The foreign minister should be asked to convene a meeting between the foreign ministry with stakeholders and civil societies. The important issues that will be faced in the General Assembly by the economic committee, legal committee, should be taken into consideration in the preparation of the brief. This is because the electronic media will later on criticize the foreign office for not reflecting the views expressed in the media. We must not forget that we have 11 private TV channels now, with an outreach of 6 million Bangladeshis abroad. They can get on the line and talk with the political leaders from there.

The next point is regarding resources. When it comes to resources, we must realize we have severe constraints. The entire budget of the foreign ministry is less than the budget of one of the army division located in Dhaka. The foreign office is the first line of defense. When we fail, the BDR or the army comes into the play. It is so poor that brighter people passing out of universities are not interested in joining the foreign ministry. The ambassador of Bangladesh in Brussels gets paid less than the first secretary of the Indian embassy in Brussels. Our ambassador in Katmandu has a lesser salary and allowances than the second secretary of the Indian embassy there. You cannot expect that the embassies will provide the necessary services without proper payment. There is a Plowden commissions report in 1927 in Oxford to determine the salary and salary structure of the British Empire in the Indian context. They determined that the starting salary for a civil servant would be 500 rupees, which is equivalent to approximately 12 tolas of gold at that time. Where are we now? The basic salary structure for the ministry of foreign affairs should be improved. I was shocked to find out that the persons in the press in the London embassy do not know anybody of the media. They cannot afford to entertain anyone form the media. This is because they get the equivalent amount of dinner for five persons as entertainment allowance. If you don’t pay enough, you cannot have your image projection. People cannot carry on research. At the level of Director General, we should be able to get not only the Time magazine and Newsweek, but also important newspapers like the International Herald Tribune every morning. I hope that you also invite someone from the National Defense Command, the NDC. We should also invite people from the chambers as well.

Ambassador Shamim Ahmed, Director, Center for Foreign Affairs Studies

I will confine myself to two subjects. One is the role of the parliament. I agree with the previous speakers that the parliament has an important influence, and can also spell our future directions of foreign policy in Bangladesh. I feel that the ministry of foreign affairs can be proactive in encouraging and enhancing the role of the parliament, in the sense that, when the parliament comes into being for the first time, the ministry can recognize those members who take particular interest in foreign policy matters without even waiting for the foreign policy committee to come in place. And it can closely interact with the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, be proactive to taking interest in foreign policy matters. We do not expect from our parliament a body that will be as effective as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But, if the members are persuaded to be a little pro-engaged, and see the benefits of their role in foreign affairs matters, then we might have amore effective committee.

The second point that I would like to make is, we need to be constantly engaged in looking for new sources of employment for the Bangladesh Diaspora. Presently, the main source is Middle East. With oil prices plummeting as it is now and if there is any shrinkage in their economy, then we have to think about the repercussions we might have to face if tens of thousands of people come back home and put both social and economic pressure.

Ambassador Nasim Ferdous
Not much movement has been made since Prof. Imtiaz’s conference ten years ago about engendering women in the conferences. I will briefly talk about some challenges.

One of the challenges is the image of Bangladesh. The image of Bangladesh cannot improve significantly if it leaves behind 50% of its population. I represent a minority around this table and in this country as well, although we are 51% of the population. One of the critical areas where Bangladesh needs to concentrate, including the foreign office, is gender balance. Very little is heard from women when policies are being discussed within the four walls of the foreign offices, within the government. Yet, all the national policies that are debated across the country have an adverse effect on women, in some cases, more than men. Global policies like market prices of edible products affect women the most. How many voices of women have been heard regarding this? How much has been said about in this economic policy-making? A question that I will raise is: how many men colleagues of ours, here in this table or across the country, have talked about fundamentalism that has crept into our lives and which affect women’s movement in this country? What has happened to the National Women Development Policy? This gives a significant picture of what this country thinks about half of its population. No men’s movement has made it imperative to make a strong case of supporting it.

We have this weird 10% quota which applies across the board for all government services, and it also applies for the foreign office. Why do not we have this 10% reserved for women at every level? Why are there no women in the decision-making level? Whenever we raise this issue of women’s participation at national-level decision-making, we have come across this view that we have two ladies at the top. Does that mean that you only have the president and the army chief as the only two men in decision-making and no other man is participating? Do you limit it there?
The foreign office should make a concerted and conscious effort to include a large number of women at every level. Include them when they have senior officers’ meeting. I was there, and I used to be the lone voice. Issues like receiving VIPs were always the job of the junior-most women official. It is not necessarily an honor. The inclusion of women in decision-making levels has become a national joke.

We talked about the research-wing/ the law wing being a dumping ground. The foreign office can reorganize itself to create a pool of women. There is no dearth of women lawyers or qualified women who has come out of law schools. Bring them together. Create another parallel career for them. Many women do not want to be posted abroad for obvious reasons. But a separate pool of women can be created to support the legal wings of the foreign office. Women will be very happy to do that. Similarly, there is no dearth of good women researchers as well. Look at BISS, CPD and in other areas as well.

The foreign office has always been a domain exclusive of women. And if a women ahs been posted to a certain area, the rest of the foreign officers tried their best to bring that person down. We have seen this repeatedly within the foreign office. Justice is not meted out to the women in foreign office, as they are meted out to men.

If the foreign office itself becomes inclusive of women, it is possible to build a bridge across Topkhana road and a build a bridge across the Secretariat. We have a weird way of contacting them. We do not have any personal contacts from among our own colleagues, because it is seen differently. So, create an atmosphere to build a bridge across Topkhana road so that we can be a part of the secretariat as well.

A lot has been talked about the foreign office being short of resources. But it is a matter of competence as well. Here again, I bring in the question of gender balance. Because when we measure the performances of a female and a male officer, we do not use a scale that is applied equally. I have recently launched a network called the Bangladesh Alliance for Women Leadership. The idea is to see more women across the board in businesses and all other places. Whenever we have approached the government, or others, the response we have seen is: Where are the competent women? How many of all the men are competent?
These are the issues we must recognize at some point in time. Now is a better time than any, as this is the time for change.

Ambassador Anwar Hashem
Thank you very much Mr. Chairman, for giving me the floor. I will touch up on a few points.
National consensus: Well, it has already been said that national consensus is desirable, but not practical. So, there is a thesis, and a anti-thesis. So let me come out with a synthesis. We should make our utmost efforts to forge a broad consensus. This is what we should try to do. Mr. Jaglul Chowdhury has also referred to the plight of our workers in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. I am not holding a brief for the government. I do not need to. I also see in page 6 of Professor Imtiaz’s paper that an incident that took place in the Dubai airport has been recorded. Well, I do to want to disagree with anybody. But very often, one side of the story is projected. This calls for fair-mindedness and objectivity. Very often, what the embassy is doing, or what the mission is doing, or what the labor is doing, is not reflected while publicizing the matter. I have seen that in many of our missions abroad, our mission personnel are making very sincere efforts to look into the problems of our migrant workers, and they have a tremendous resources constraint. For example- a lot of things came out in the newspapers about Saudi Arab, Kuwait, and Malaysia before that. But very little was said about the way it was handled by our mission in Jordan. Our workers in Jordan violated the Jordanian law, and they went on strike. But it was the mission which succeeded in pacifying them, took up the matter with the Jordanian authorities, and there was a reasonable solution to that problem. The workers did not get as much as they wanted, but through the efforts of the mission, they were able to strike a balance. So, the other side of the story should be project.

In one context, capacity building has been referred to. I would like to mention it in another sense: market access. Simultaneously, we have to do our homework as well. Now, even if we get market access for 250 items in the Western world, or in our neighborhood, our purpose will not be served. Our exports are concentrated in a few items. So we need diversification, so that when market access is given, we can take advantage of that.

Now, ambassador Harun-Ur-Rashid mentioned climate change. In this context, prioritization of issues is very important. For the Maldives, the sea level rise figures very prominently and perhaps at the top of their agenda. In all regional and global forums, they are very steadfast on it. Whenever the Nepalese speak in foreign forums abroad, they definitely try to highlight the fact that Nepal has serious structural disadvantage arising out of being a land-locked country. In our context, we should think of prioritization.

Ambassador Shafiullah
Who are the main actors of foreign policy? We see that, although we are a democratic country, there is a strong military dimension in the posts that handle foreign policy, whether we are under a military rule or democracy. The western countries do not want to see uniformed people as the head of our missions. In the future, our ruler should take this in consideration.
As external examiner in PSC, there is a strong Bangla bias in the process of recruitment. So those who are in English-medium schools are eliminated. So, how do we get bright officers, if a section of the students are not even eligible to even appear in the exams? So, in the future, we would like to have a strong foreign office and home office. There should be a reconsideration of the PSC exam system in the future.

Ambassador Shamser
Much has been said about where we have come sort. Let me also list a threshold of achievement of Bangladesh foreign policies in the past.

The first was in the 1972-74 period, where there was a successful campaign for global recognition of a newly emerged country. The second was in 1974: entry of Bangladesh into the UN in face of strict opposition from Pakistan and serious reservations from China. 1978-79: the first time that Bangladesh was elected to the UN Security Council against a very formidable and powerful candidate like Japan. In 1980 there was a period when we launched the SAARC project which demonstrated and manifested our ability is a regional context. We have a proactive policy and focus on regional policy. It is around the same time that we developed a strategic relationship with China. We were at the same time members of the Alkuds committee, the Iran-Iraq war peace committee. This was recognition of our ability to protect the vital interests of the Muslim world. 1981-82: We were elected Chairman of the group of 77, once again demonstrating our ability of being responsible partner in certain groupings in the international forum. It was at the same time that we came very close to being elected as the president of UN General Assembly. We lost at the toss of the coin; it was not a failure of diplomacy. In 1985, we had the formal launching of SAARC in Dhaka. This was also the year when we were elected the president of the UNGA. In 1991, we have seen the evolution of a look-east policy, which is developing a more concrete shape right now. It was at the same time that we were taken into the global military coalition for making Iraq leave Kuwait. It was a matter of principal: fighting against a large neighbor occupying a smaller neighbor. So we took that decision keeping at the mend. Our look-east policy also led to our membership in the ASEAN regional forum, which is a more focused and conventional diplomacy like preventive democracy, confidence building and conflict resolution. In 2000, we were elected to the UN Security Council for the second time.
There is a great scope for improvement, especially in institutionalizing the implementation of foreign policy. I think this is where the issue of national consensus needs to come. Also, we need to focus more on regional diplomacy. Most of our unresolved issues are with the countries of the region, whether it is land boundary with India, maritime boundary with India and Myanmar, sharing of common rivers with India, as well as the issues of stranded Pakistanis and the division of assets and liabilities. At the same time, we must remember that success of much of these depends on how our neighbors want to address these issues. Some want to ignore them altogether, while other makes preferences of which political force in the country to work with more closely than others. The bottom-line for all political parties should be to remember that success is foreign policy is measured more in finding appropriate solutions for our problems, and not in keeping them alive.

Ambassador Serajul Islam:
Foreign policy formulation and implementation in Bangladesh is handled very unprofessionally. Foreign Ministry has been deliberately kept weak because of internal conflicts within the civil bureaucracy. In an age of globalisation, this is suicidal for everywhere foreign affairs is a central focus of governance. There is also great coordination in formulation and implementation of foreign policy issues within the government where all stakeholders are brought into the loop so as to formulate foreign policy issues and implement it in a manner that reflects the best interests of the country.

In Bangladesh, there is need to bring all the stakeholders into the loop for the formulation of foreign policy, like the politicians, the business community, the civil society and the media so that their views are reflected in formulation of foreign policy. Within the Government, there is need for better coordination among the ministries and agencies and here the Foreign Ministry should be given the clear powers of leadership. There is also need for improving recruitment into the Foreign Service cadre for the present quality of Foreign Service cadre leaves a lot to be desired.