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Last updated: 31st March 2021

Opening remarks by Hon’ble Foreign Minister at the Press Conference to announce the final selection for the Bangladesh Chair: Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Professorial Fellowship on Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Dear friends from the media,

We have gathered here to share with you yet another important announcement around our celebration of the birth centenary of our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Golden Jubilee of our independence.

I am pleased to be joined on this occasion by Professor KaziShahidullah, Chairman, University Grants Commission of Bangladesh and H. E. Mr. Peter Fahrenholtz, Ambassador of Germany to Bangladesh.

I feel happy to inform you that we have reached the final stages of setting up the Bangladesh Chair titled Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Professorial Fellowship at the South Asia Institute under the Centre for Asian and Transcultural Studies at the Heidelberg University in Germany. It gives me great pleasure to announce that Dr. Harun-or-Rashid, Professor of Political Science (Selection Grade), University of Dhaka and former Vice-Chancellor of National University, Bangladesh has been selected as the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Professorial Fellow through a collaborative selection process by the University Grants Commission of  Bangladesh and Heidelberg University.

I extend my warm personal felicitations to Professor Dr. Harun-or-Rashid and acknowledge his kind presence with us here.

You may perhaps recall that in 1999 – during our Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s first tenure in office – our government had concluded an MOU with the South Asia Institute of Heidelberg University for establishing the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Professorial Fellowship. Accordingly, two Professorial Fellows selected from Bangladesh attended the programme in the years 2000 and 2001. It was unfortunate that the succeeding BNP-Jamaat government terminated the Fellowship in 2002, thus foreclosing the possibility of knowledge transfer and exchange that could only be beneficial for Bangladesh.

With our Hon’ble Prime Minister’s kind approval, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs initiated the process of reviving the Fellowship in the second half of 2019, on the eve of ‘MujibBarsha’. We appreciate the immediate positive response we received from the Heidelberg University authorities, which led to concluding a fresh MOU with them on 11 December 2019. Subsequently, there were applications for the Fellowship from 19 distinguished candidates, out of which the Selection Committee of Heidelberg University made a shortlist of three. As per the agreed responsibility-sharing arrangement, the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh then made a final selection from the shortlist through - as I am told - a unanimous decision. We expect Professor Rashid to render his services under the Fellowship for a six-month period this year, subject to the COVID-19 pandemic situation.

The Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Fellowship will yet again enhance opportunities with Germany and other European countries for academic studies and exchange focusing on Bangladesh and South Asia. It is evident that the rest of the world has started looking at Bangladesh in a new light, and there is likely to be growing academic interest in our nation’s history, culture and politics to understand the dynamics these phenomena bring into play across the wider region and beyond. I am confident that with Professor Rashid’s combination of academic credentials and administrative acumen, he will be able to add momentum to South Asian studies centering on Bangladesh in a strategically important part of Europe. As an academician myself, now engaged in diplomacy, I would encourage him to help pave the way for younger scholars on both sides to forge meaningful collaborations, with the future trajectory of our bilateral relations with Germany and the European Union in mind.

I do recall on this occasion that it was an erstwhile part of Germany that was the first country from Continental Europe to have recognized the independent Bangladesh in February 1972. It was Bangabandhu who had facilitated the medical treatment of some of our critically injured freedom fighters in Germany, and also the academic pursuits of a number of our scholars during his brief yet eventful term in office. The knowledge partnership between our two countries have been reinforced over the years with the presence of a German language and cultural centre in Bangladesh, through institutional cooperation with certain leading German think tanks, and a steady flow of our students visiting Germany every year, including under the European Union’s Erasmus Mundus Scholarship programme. It has been encouraging to see Germany’s interest in strengthening technical and vocational education in Bangladesh, drawing on their expertise that is one of the best in the world. It is time to explore and pilot joint initiatives for cutting-edge scientific and research collaborations, and also promote knowledge and technology transfer through enhanced investment from Germany into Bangladesh.

This month of March has been a momentous time for our entire nation. This Professorial Fellowship is yet another tribute on behalf of our people to the enduring vision and work of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman - an iconic statesman, a true game-changer in South Asian politics. We are certainly happy to have this opportunity to take Bangabandhu’s living memory in different directions beyond our borders to connect his name and legacy with forward-looking international academic exchanges, creative economy initiatives and scientific and technological pursuits. I thank all our friends and colleagues involved with rejuvenating this Professorial Fellowship in our effort to reach out to Europe and the world with Bangabandhu’s inspiration charting our way.

I thank you.


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