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Last updated: 23rd August 2021

BANGLADESH’S FOREIGN POLICY: COMPULSIONS, CONSTRAINTS AND CHOICES

Bismillaher Rahmanur Rahim

Commandant National Defence College, Lieutenant General Sheikh Mamun Khaled,

Formation Commanders

Distinguished Generals

Distinguished civil and military participants from home and abroad

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Assalamu alaikum, Peace be Upon You

 

It is indeed a privilege to be here this morning with you. While the COVID19 onslaught has taken away much of the privileges of physical presence, yet at least we remain connected virtually due to Digital Bangladesh of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. We thank her for her initiative of Digital Bangladesh as early as 2009. I also should thank the NDC authorities for continuing with the course and all four modules online.

 

With these few words, let me move into today’s main discussion – Foreign Policy Compulsions, Constrains and Choices of Bangladesh.

 

1. Foreign Policy is almost at the heart of the art of statecraft. Its evolution is highly non-linear and – if we look back in history –it moves back and forth in time like a short-stepped tango danseuse, a female ballet dancer. Foreign Policy, clearly written or shaded in grey, deals both with the vernacular and with the elite and everything that falls in between.

 

2. As a researcher, the earliest foreign policy books known to me is the “Manus-mrity”        – or the Code of Manu from the Indian sub-continent stipulated to have been rooted in the timeframe of 12th to 10th century BC. If you would look at the treatise, particularly at Chapter VII, on Raj Dharma, you will get an even older version of Kautilya’s Artha-shastra. The chapter contains what ought to be a nation or a king’s policy with regards to countries (or kingdoms) other than their own. A near parallel grew from what is China today in the form of Sun Tzu and his ‘Art of War’ in the 5th century BC. These were like general principles which a sovereign ruler, in this case a king, would apply to the affairs of the state and to the conduct of relations with other sovereigns – which today – is variously termed as foreign policy.

 

3. I am sure that you are all aware of the Treaty of Westphalia – which fundamentally altered the nature of the state into the artefacts that we now see as countries. The transition from the divine to the mortal domain of authority had already taken shape with the Magna Carta. While Plato had spoken, and indeed written, about the ‘Republic’, this was for the first time that the world was experiencing governance based on mutual recognition amongst established status quos and the sovereign universality of law.

 

4. Roman senators had already distinguished jus gentium, the law of nations, and jus inter gentes, agreements between nations with their great orations. But the jurisprudence of international law, and thus the formulation of ‘foreign policy’ as a definitive subject of governance further evolved and entrenched itself as subjects of public scrutiny and debate with the writings of Hugo Grotius as he adopted the concept of jus gentium directly as ‘international law’ and with Emer de Vattel articulating the interactions at state levels. The modern term international law was invented by Jeremy Bentham in 1789. I would also like to give some much-deserved credit to the fifteenth century conceptions of the state – outlined by the various edicts of Suleman the Magnificance or ‘Suleman the Law Giver’ from the Ottoman Empire – whose various communications and treaties gave mile posts for the evolution of the later formulations in treaty law, and therefore, a rule-based conduct of foreign affairs. But of course, there were others and those were also substantive.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

5. If we look back, we will see that many important events took place since the emergence of the Manusmrity        and the present day world. But one thing clearly revealed and it is man’s propensity not only to preserve, protect and promote – but also to project. Let’s call them 4Ps. In this case, ‘project’ means a sense of power and authority over others! Foreign Policy is closely associated with the conception, articulation, adoption and projection of power. No matter how we would wish to sanitize the will and intent of the individual, or for that matter of the nation, it is always a constant struggle to gain power, to retain power, and to be accepted as powerful. All forms of security, sustenance, wealth and wellbeing can be connected to a form of power.

 

Commandant, Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

6. I have read through your course outline and I have taken note of the three words that you see in the title. ‘Compulsions’, ‘Constraints’, ‘Choices’. I would skip the mundane details which you could google. I would focus more on the dreams and the nightmares which shape our days in office and beyond.

 

7. Foreign Policy is a vast area. We can go on for hours at a stretch about the efficacy of one theory or another about how to contextualize the foreign policy substances into categories. We can speak about this block, that block, alignment, non-alignment, partisan, non-partisan and the like. We can debate whether it is a concert role or a governance role that Chapter Seven of the UN Charter stipulates. We can approach the foreign policy issues and subjects from an evolutionary socio-economic point of view or a completely neo-liberal point of view. We can take individual events and pieces and put them together. Or we can take issues – and create streams of dialogues out of them. 

 

8. But fact of the matter is, no matter how well equipped one is with the theoretical frameworks and with the empirical ramifications of those – one needs to meditate with a very calm mind to “read between the lines” of a neatly typed note verbale, or for that matter, understand the ‘’sound of silence’’ and the “rumbling of the leave”. A deep understanding of the history, culture and ethnic identities of the human societies – coupled with an ever-increasing understanding of the evolution of political, economic, social, cultural, technological, environmental and legal nature of the tangible structures that these societies uphold – under the prying eyes of both the mainstream and social media and above all – the people – is what is necessary for contextualizing the foreign policy or state policy of any country at any given point in time. When Mahatma Gandhi was a student in England for Barrister-at-law, he had plenty of time as on those days there was no exam or coursework for such membership, DadaBhai Nourogee, an established lawyer in London told him, “look young man Mohonlal Karomchad Gandhi, you will go back to India and practice law. But to practice law, you will be dealing with human beings and to understand human beings and to be a successful lawyer or a politician, you must study their religion, their history, and their culture and identities” and he did. Such frameworks help us understand, stipulate and articulate the question. When would the Rohingyas go back? Would there be vaccines for all? What would the Talibans do as the Americans pull out? When can we achieve our SDGs or goal 2041? What should we do to achieve them? Will the robots take over? Will we lose our jobs? Can we turn Bangladesh into a global manufacturing Hub and a land of opportunities? All these are real questions when we think of formulating foreign policy approach.

 

9. In addition to being at an epicentre, Foreign Policy also sits at the rough interfaces of the production possibility frontiers of all nations combined and it is a difficult place to be.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Now let me move to Bangladesh Foreign Policy understanding

 

10. Bangladesh started with scorched earth, three million dead-bodies and two hundred thousand raped women with a completely destroyed economy with a negative GDP growth rate of (-) 11%. On 16 December 1971, there was nothing but an indomitable resolve to survive the harsh winters of December. Fifty years have passed since then and what some ‘foreign policy’ pundits once referred to as a basket case with no hope of survival – has now evolved into a ‘development miracle’and a “land of opportunity” under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, daughter of the assassinated Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Thanks to a strong agricultural sector; a rapidly expanding RMG-led production and export; a steady remittance inflow – coupled with robust structural reforms – expanding and reconfiguring public sector investments into the formation of infrastructure assets; diversification of exports – to higher-value brands and integration of essentially middleware design and software components, plus increasing participation of women in labor force have contributed to Bangladesh’s journey in becoming an epic saga of determined and charismatic leadership. The Economy of the country has been growing at a sustained rate of more than 6.5% per annum for the last decades and had it not been stifled by the sudden onslaught of the COVID19 paradox, it would have been lifted to an 8+% paradigm starting 2020. Even after nearly two years of COVID19-induced constrictions, Bangladesh economy grew an astonishing 5.2% in 2021, highest in South Asia.

 

11. The astute foreign policy dimension of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina not only complements but also acts as a primary vortex for international connectivity, fiscal and political stability and economic growth. As a sovereign, independent nation-state Bangladesh is formulating its foreign policy goals and objectives to advance its legitimate national interests based on the core dictum of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, ‘Friendship to All, Malice towards None’.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,                     

 

12. Even in the backdrop of the universality of the 4Ps, and Gold, Luxury and Land of imperial periods, we in Bangladesh consider prosperity not as financial or economic in nature. Rather, economic prosperity is only a mere sub-set of the archetypes of human, societal and ecological well-being that define our existence as conscious and conscientious beings capable to produce and pursue grand visions. Prosperity, to us, is inclusive, no one is left behind. Prosperity to us is the ability of the state system to enable the individual to live with a measure of pride and dignity.

 

13. Our foreign policy priorities, thus, emanate from a very basic wish-list of the Government for the welfare of its people and optimal utilization of our resources. Our priorities emanate from a deep-rooted wish for synchronizing our efforts with our neighbors and partners in the geo-sphere that we share. True to the election manifesto of 2008, Bangladesh has already reached the financial strength of a stable lower middle-income country. We aspire to become a developed country by 2041 and we are working on the Delta Plan for 2100.

 

14. Creating new businesses and new investment opportunities are crucial to sustain the momentum of economic development. We see the regional and sub-regional cooperation at the political level having strong impact in the social and economic evolution of our peoples. The interconnectedness that we share with our partners in the geo-strategic playgrounds now extends into a frontier of value-added services and production options of our respective countries and peoples. We believe in synergy and leverages. And we see a great possibility of synergy in the ways that we could connect, reconnect and network in meaningful subsistence. Since Governments cannot do everything alone, it has to be a partnership between the private and the public sectors to achieve the maximum and optimize the sets of resources and possibilities available at our disposal.

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

15. Bangladesh is located at the cusp of the vast North Indian landscape and in particular of Bengal and the so-called seven sisters, i.e., the Northeastern Region, coasting on the frontiers of the Bay of Bengal funnel and touching the northwest tip of the disputed Myanmar territories. Its geo-spatial triangulations make it strategically important for invariably all major powers of the world. Apart from its regional development partners and neighbours, global warming and a rising sea-level, Bangladesh also hosts two intersecting strategic ‘constructs’ crossing their tactical pathways across the cone of the Bay of Bengal – the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) and the Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI). While conflicts in their ideation abound, it might also appear that such an intersection of the IPS and the BRI has rendered a new level of confidence for Bangladesh to emerge as a soft power (or a Middle-Power) bent on providing a win-win solution for anyone willing to engage either with or on its territories. Above all, we are blessed with more than 165 million upwardly mobile and highly ambitious men and women whose median age is 27.6 years. This highly energetic group of humans don’t want our charity. They want us to empathize with their emotions, aspirations and ambitions. As is said, like the heart, the mind goes where it is appreciated. As state level functionaries and government operators, we are always challenged with finding the right mix of both the head and the heart to keep this population engaged – a part of them globally.

 

16. Based on our greater aspirations and constraints we face in many theatres of this world, in relation to crafting the foreign policy we ensure a fine blend of idealism and pragmatism keeping in mind some guiding strategies, such as,

  1. Pragmatism (flexibility and balancing)
  2. Peace and Stability
  3. Humanitarian Responsibilities
  4. Innovativeness
  5. Alliance building

 

A. (Institutional Evolution of Bangladesh Foreign Policy)

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

17. Bangladesh as a country was conceived from the highest ideals imaginable by humans. Ideas of freedom, democracy, equality, justice and inclusivity. Amongst these, the idea of democracy was the primary driving force even for the very sovereignty and independence of the country. Of course, there were induced economic disparities and injustices between the two wings of Pakistan – marked by a net transfer of resources from the East to the West. But without any prejudice, it can safely be assumed that Pakistan Military’s staunch refusal to hand over power to an elected Bengali-led civilian government ultimately led to the nine-month long War of Independence.

 

18. For a war-ravaged country, the first challenge was to achieve recognition from the international community and rebuild the economy to feed 75 million people. During the birth of Bangladesh, not only the subcontinent but also the entire world was deeply divided by the Cold War. Realizing this stark reality, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman maneuvered his foreign policy to forge a bipartisan position in matters related to international politics, and create an amicable relationship with each party and even those who wished to stay away. Safeguarding the national interest and sovereignty of the country was his first and foremost concern. While strengthening ties with his trusted friend India and Indira Gandhi, and the erstwhile USSR that exercised its Veto power, Bangabandhu reached out to both the USA and China despite their opposition to the cause of the liberation war. Within a short time, he got recognition of 126 countries, plus all major international organizations; World Bank, IMF, NAM, G77, OIC, ADB, UNESCO, UNICEF including the UN. Bangladesh is the 136th member of the UN.

 

19. Bangabandhu believed that without peace and stability, no country can develop or prosper and therefore, he wanted Bangladesh to be an ‘Island of Peace’.

 

20. But his vision was far-reaching. His address at the UNGA in 1974 called for restructuring the international financial architecture, sharing and owing of technology and resources on a global scale, so that the human race could begin to enjoy at least the minimal conditions of a decent life- which was also the central focus of Bangladesh’s foreign Policy (as an extension of its own domestic priorities). Till now Bangladesh’s foreign policy centers on the sharing and leveraging of resources in a symbiotic and synergistic manner to create a better future for all of humanity – avoiding confrontations and provocations. Bangabandhu supported the end of apartheid in South Africa and the end of the Vietnam War to secure both the decency and dignity of human lives all over the world.

 

21. Likewise, even today, Bangladesh is sheltering 1.1 million Rohingyas from Myanmar despite its own constraints of resources. It is committed to engaging all possible diplomatic tools to raise the awareness of human conscience - for not only guaranteeing the safe and sustainable return of the Rohingya people to their motherland but also to ensure justice and accountability – so that the atrocities which they suffered, just like those suffered by the Bengalis in 1971, never happen again, anywhere.

 

 

22. The Foreign Policy stood up to the challenge of today’s world, challenges in security, economy, and ecology have all become, interwoven. With zero-tolerance to terrorism, stabilizing the economy and poverty alleviation remains our foremost priority. Our foreign policy priorities intend to complement this objective with a greater depth in external trading – coupled with a greater inflow of foreign remittance. During next few years, we expect to gain (a) an equitable market access, (b) expansion of our export basket, (c) transfer of critical technologies, and (d) employment of our professionals and workers in foreign economies. In last ten years, we have expanded our global footprint 1.4 times and now we have 80 odd missions and expanding!

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

23. Bangladesh pursues a value-based foreign policy. It is important to understand that we add value and we create value. We do not want anyone to lose.

 

24. Our first priority is our immediate neighbourhood. We have resolved the seven decade old Land Boundary issues with India. We have delimited our maritime boundary with both India and Myanmar by means of arbitration and application of the principles of law. We have embarked on reviving the land and river routes which connected the millennia old value chains of the Indian sub-continent. We have given port access to our land-locked neighbours, and we have allowed others to use our communication channels for transporting heavy equipment and aid. We have invited China, Japan and Korea to be our preferred development, trade and technology partners. Our regional and sub-regional organisations and processes, such as, SAARC, BIMSTEC, IORA, BBIN, BIN, BCIM, etc. both overlap and complement each other for creating a space for understanding and negotiation which can transcend national ‘’thought boundaries’’.  So long as the purpose is development and the aim is a legitimate civilian objective, we are fully prepared to allow everyone join hands with us.

 

25. In our list of priorities come both the Gulf, Arab and the African region. Our commitment to the OIC, to the cause of Palestine and to the stability of the Ummah concentric to the two Holy Mosques is unquestionable. The principle is enshrined in our constitution itself. We believe that the whole world can reap the benefits from a stable Arab world. Nearly eighty percent of our expatriate workers are in that region. I the past, the bulkhead of the workers migrated at an unskilled level. But situation has changed now. We are opening avenues for adding more value to their host communities and countries by creating agro-based, ICT-intense and service-driven endeavours. Bangladesh Government is ready to invest in joint ventures to retain and retrain retrenched workers from the COVID19 pandemic. We have already taken initiatives through yet another OIC affiliate body, the D-8, of which Bangladesh became the Chair this year to augment our efforts in ensuring public health, productivity, trade and specialized economic zoning.

 

26. We have strong bonds of friendship with Europe. Our legal system, our industrial architecture was built with European technology – particularly in the Jute and the shipping sectors. In addition to working on strengthening our cooperation in the institution-building particularly in judicial, workers’ safety, health and hygiene, we are also working on innovation, technology and finance. The first-ever Bangladesh-taka denominated Bangla-bond was launched in London Stock Exchange in 2019. Commonwealth of Nations and the Marlborough House remain an interlocutor for us to liaise not only with the United Kingdom but also with the entire spread of the erstwhile British empire.

 

27. With North America, we share a continuous dialogue across almost all channels. We have strong ongoing cooperation in combating the menace of terrorism and violent extremism. We have ongoing collaboration for institution-building, trade, finance and technology. We are designing for American and Canadian companies which range from t-shirts to microprocessors. In addition, we are encouraging our Diaspora both in UK and North America for participating in our development trajectory. 

 

28. The United Nations sits at the core of our global multilateral initiative. We believe in multilateralism. As a trivia, I might add that our engagement with the UN and its various bodies reflect the ways and means by which we engage with the Comity of Nations. From being a recipient of aid and donations, we have transformed into a contributing member of the UN. May I note with satisfaction that our professionals, particularly our armed forces and police have played a pivotal role in effecting this change. Bangladesh has remained a top TCC country for decades now and our formations have an impeccable record of serving with dignity and honour and earning the trust and respect of the host nations. There is a component of military in all diplomatic manoevres and our forces are our ambassadors of peacesecurity and nation-building to the entire world. The confidence that they have earned for their leadership and command is enviable for any institution.

 

29. Bangladesh has been at the forefront of the global climate diplomacy initiatives. Bangladesh has been very active in all UNFCCC led negotiations. As one of the most vulnerable countries Bangladesh has been at the forefront to create comprehensive global action to adhere to Climate accords. Bangladesh as the Chair of CVF, the Climate Vulnerability Forum (CVF)- an organization of more than one billion people of the world’s 48 most vulnerable countries – for the second time is leading to save this planet earth.  Bangladesh launched the South Asian regional office for Global Center of Adaptation in Dhaka in September 2020- which will promote locally based adaptation measures and also act as the Secretariat for Bangladesh's presidency and facilitate, support, and develop appropriate actions in South Asia to enhance climate resiliency in the region.

 

B (Economic Diplomacy and Public Diplomacy)

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

30. In last two years, we have launched two specific programmes from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We have consolidated Economic Diplomacy as a foreign policy vertical, and we have launched public diplomacy as a priority project.

 

31. We envisage our engagements with the complex political theatre of the world in the thematic framework of technologymarkets, and organizations which encapsulates the common threads of economy and ecology to secure governance priorities. To multiply the outcome of the Economic diplomacy Bangladesh is designing ‘Systems’ with flexible and adaptable designs; building ‘Infrastructures’ with the capacity to host multi-level networks; and developing ‘Capabilities’ to create and sustain superior technological efficiency. In this regard, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is taking initiatives for defining a prioritized Strategic Business Policy Framework for Bangladesh and analyzing markets which could host products, services, and composite/aggregate solutions from Bangladesh with high revenue generating capabilities, revenue sustainability, and employment generation capabilities capable of integrating seamlessly into the global value chain.

 

32. One core area of our economic diplomacy focus is the ICT sector. Bangladesh's ICT sector has been growing by 40 percent annually since 2010, as per July 2019 reports of the UNCTAD- thanks to the present government's ardent efforts of driving an all-encompassing plan towards a "Digital Bangladesh. Since the Year 2016-17, the sector had already registered annual export earnings worth USD 800 million, garnered USD 1.54 billion from the domestic market, and the e-commerce market stood at USD 1.6 billion as of the last year and is expected to increase to USD 3 billion by 2023. Revenue earnings from the local market by the country’s IT-ITES industry alone has increased to Tk 1,927 crore in six years! More than one million jobs have been created in the last 10 years! Given this scenario, the pandemic swept over us occurring us a loss of about USD 1.3 billion worth of business in this sector. But the matter of joy here is that our ICT sector experiencing a blessing in disguise in this pandemic. Our e-commerce and e-services companies in Bangladesh are having unprecedented growth. The Business-to-consumer (B2C) platforms are experiencing a sharp uptake on their businesses, especially in healthcare. The government believes that our entrepreneurs and companies are adopting newer and innovative ways to cope up with the tide and it remains a policy priority of the Foreign Office to facilitate such advances.

 

33. Another sector in this area is Blue Economy. The Bay of Bengal connects the Indian and the Pacific Ocean. It is the largest bay in the world. It connects South Asia to South East Asia. The region encompasses the Maldives, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and in the hinterland Bhutan and Nepal – and thematically  – from all possible angles – China and Japan.  The densely populated Bay of Bengal, with a combined GDP of US$ 2.8 trillion managed an average annual growth rate between 3.4% and 7.5% for the past decade. The rich treasures of the Bay are also associated with transnational threats like the trafficking of narcotics, psychotropic drugs, weapons, and people; illegal exploitation of natural resources; un-demarked borders and border disputes; refugees and internationally displaced humans; insurgencies and terrorist groups and increasingly, natural disasters – and adverse changes in the climate, which disrupt national, regional and ultimately global stability. Remember, with only a meter rise in the sea-level there will be a displacement of 30 to 40 million people inside Bangladesh alone.

 

34. Stories of the individual are stories of the nation, stories of the nations are collective heritage of the whole mankind! And these stories are needed to be told and heard. To support and project the achievements of Bangladesh Foreign Policy goals, enhance national security and advance national interest by informing and encouraging Foreign Nationals, Foreign Government and Non-Government Organisations and Bangladesh-origin Diaspora abroad, and by strengthening and expanding the connectivity between the citizens and the government, the Foreign Office has adopted a policy of “public diplomacy” outreach through the foreign office and its missions across the world. Amidst the growing global threat of terrorism and violent extremism, and an ever-expanding horizon for economic opportunities, various public diplomacy tools will gradually be installed to propagate the secular values of the country emanating from our glorious war of liberation and our continued struggle for democracy, justice and development. We have set up Bangabandhu Corners in each of our missions abroad and such is designed to promote public diplomacy in collaboration with stakeholders. 

 

 

C (Compulsions)

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

35. As you have heard and seen – we are aiming high. In less than a decade we have transformed ourselves from being an LDC to a middle-income country. Now we wish to be a developed country in two decades. But this is not an easy task – particularly when others are also resetting the bar higher and technology divide is widening. We also have vested interests and information asymmetry making their unique attempts to stymie the growth.

 

36. For one, it is the issue of the Rohingya refugees. We have no qualms with the Union of Myanmar. But I believe a short-sightedness in their visualization of the region prompted the exodus of the Rohingya to Bangladesh and some other safe havens. We have opened all diplomatic channels, including bilateral, trilateral and multilateral ones and those of accountability and justice like the ICC and the ICJ and the de jure claims of the Rohingya population have been established irrevocably. Now it is a matter of tactical programming on the part of Myanmar to ensure a safe and dignified return of the refugees. So long as the repatriation does not take place – managing the refugee camps is an issue and with the help of our friends, so far we are managing them well.

 

37. Skill-level of the Bangladeshi unskilled workers in the Gulf and Arab world are another constraint. We need to upgrade and move the labour force up the value chain in their host countries. As per various estimates, currently 1.5% or 2% professionals are in our expatriate labor force and if we can increase them to 20%, annual remittance may jump to $100b from its current $24 billion. The lack of professional level access and acceptance is debarring our tech companies and initiatives to cater to the Gulf and Arab markets – which should have been a natural habitat for them

 

38. Our mega projects are still dependent on foreign technology, management, supervision and finance. I think our talent pool and our capital markets are capable to withstand more pressure – provided we guide them strategically. This domestic deficiency creates a foreign policy compulsion to stay within the ‘given’ boundaries and aim lower than where we could.

 

D (Constraints)

 

39. The world should have been perfect. But it is not. We do not expect it to be, either. But there needs to be a way to deal with the constraints – like our positioning in the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ or in the credit ratings we received from the international agencies. At times, our partners find faults with us and make lot of noise without evaluating their own scenario and failures. For example, none of us like to see a single rape victim or a single extra-judicial killing. As per reports, we had around 700 rape victims in 2020 while it’s 1000 times more in UK nearly 700,000 although their population size is 40% of us and it is around 84,787 in USA [whose population size is double of us]. As per Odikhar, an NGO, there have been 18 extra-judicial killings in Bangladesh in 2018 while 1,004, nearly 56 times more were killed by police in line of duty in USA in 2020. It may be high time for all of our friends that we all look at our own mirrors before making a judgment.  Similar prejudice is apparent even in credit ratings. It may be because there is information gap and disconnect or may be a perceived notion of under estimating.

 

 

40. Our first-generation entrepreneurs have rarely invested their investible surpluses in innovation and design. The result – we are still producing low-to-middle segment RMG and the leather sector is fidgety. I am not against low value items. But we should also be having high value-added items on the shopping list so that the natural talent could be diverted into investible capital. More than sixty percent of a manufactured goods is in its brand equity. The whole of the design-space in ICT is equity. More labs are needed and our youth needs to know how to huddle

 

41. Shortcomings in the transfer of critical technologies and particularly the 4IR technologies need immediate redressed. The ICT division is doing all that it can, but I believe that the movement ought to be at a national level.

 

Commandant, Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

42. Since I am here at the NDC – why not we think of designing and printing our own fire controllers? Should we believe that the days for remaining constrained with purchased technology is over?

 

 

E (Choices)

 

43. Bangladesh Foreign Policy is now at a critical juncture in time. Choices abound. The world is witnessing a shift in global order, as Pax-Americana is being replaced with varying degrees of multi-polarity thanks to the rise of other actors. Our policies ought to be time bound and are needed to be updated real-time. In such a transition of Global Order, I will leave you with few ideas to toy with.

 

  1. Engaging with initiatives based on the principles of mutual trust and respect, securing win-win ‘complementarities’, as opposed to mutually exclusive ‘competition’ focusing on mega infrastructure and development projects
  2. Revisiting the narrative: accepting a middle-income position and moving towards a being a developed country in short steps; from aid recipient to a development and humanitarian assistance provider (e.g., currency swap with Sri Lanka and hosting of 1.1 million Rohingyas); and harnessing our geostrategic location to be the connectivity hub for the region
  3. Packaging and advertising the narrative with the tools of public and digital diplomacy
  4. Strategizing to lead global discourse on SDGs, Climate, women empowerment and other issues – in a free market environment
  5. Reaching out and getting connected with growth centres beyond South and East Asian theatres
  6. Pursuing a strong and inclusive multi-pronged policy to resolve the Rohingya crises and convert the North of Myanmar into a zone of peace, prosperity and solidarity
  7. Nurturing a global fraternity for Climate Action
  8. Pursuing Economic Diplomacy – by leveraging 4IR technologies for up-skilling and upwardly moving the human resources; use of data mining, machine learning, blockchain, AI, algorithms etc. for tapping into the Blue Economy sub-sector
  9. Offsetting the challenges of graduation by engaging with rule-based trade regimes
  10. Onboarding the government machineries to carry out required reforms in domestic front for assisting the private individual in his or her ambition for adding value to the community.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

We are almost on the verge of the completion of an era. A new era has begun. We will see an AI-driven world order within a very short time – possibly in our own lifetime. What ought to be our preferred behaviour for attaining what we desire would be calculated in numbers and percentiles. In spite of this dire shift in our thought processing capabilities, I would wish to give empathy, love and other positive human emotions a chance. Our enemies are hunger, disease, malnutrition, ignorance, intolerance and hatred. I would like to see a world where tanks and guns would give way to the roses and warm hugs. Let us provide leadership to the world to create a mindset of tolerance, a mindset of respect for others irrespective of religion, ethnicity and color so that the spread of venom of hatred and intolerance and ignorance leading to violence, wars and terrors is over for a sustainable world of peace and stability. Let all of us enjoy this beautiful planet earth. Let us dream of a better life. Let us keep our hopes alive. Remember, past is history, future is in mystery and present is a gift of God. Make best use of it to be Ashraful Maklukat, the best of all creations.

 

Thank you all and stay safe.

Joi Bangla.

Joi Bangabandhu.


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