Bangladesh foreign policy needs a review: retired diplomatsNovember 23rd, 2008 - 3:57 pm ICT by IANS
Dhaka, November 23 (IANS) Bangladesh’s retired diplomats have strongly recommended a foreign policy that gives high priority to regional connectivity for economic growth and is based on a broad national consensus on critical issues. Rise of India and China and a changed global economic scenario were cited as factors that should prompt a policy review by the next government, to be in place after elections due next month-end.
They also listed the impact of climate change, international labour market, energy crisis and access of Bangladeshi products in the global market, as on top of the agenda for the next elected government.
At a roundtable titled “Future Directions of Bangladesh Foreign Policy”, the former envoys regretted that Bangladesh had failed to gain many benefits because of divergent foreign policies of successive governments and a lack of coordination between the foreign ministry and other ministries concerned.
They said the next government should have a broader national consensus and consider the changed world’s aspects, especially the economic crisis.
No specifics were cited, but Bangladesh allowed India’s Tata group to withdraw the biggest-ever $ three billion investment proposals that were found “politically sensitive.”
Bangladesh has adverse trade balance with most countries, and practically everyone in the South Asian region. It has been unable to resolve maritime boundary disputes with India and Myanmar, which has impeded its search for energy sources in the Bay of Bengal.
It has also been reluctant to join the Asian Super Highway and Rail link projects on fears that India may gain access to its territory, hurting Dhaka’s security and economic interests.
The ambassadors who represented Bangladesh in different countries over the past few decades also stressed the need for “re-branding” the country in the international arena by projecting its achievements in micro credit and other social sectors and its multi-ethnicity.
The Bangladeshi diaspora can play a critical role in improving Bangladesh’s image abroad, said former foreign secretary Farooq Sobhan, adding that overseas employment, trade, attracting foreign direct investment and fighting terrorism are the key foreign affairs challenges for Bangladesh.
If Bangladesh is to go beyond its current economic growth of over 6 percent, it needs to resolve its energy requirements on a priority basis, said Imtiaz Ahmed, a Dhaka University professor.
In that case the country needs to think beyond oil and coal and keep all options open, he said in the key-note address.
Executive Director of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Dr Mustafizur Rahman, said Bangladesh will have difficulties in getting market access for apparel to the US under the Barack Obama administration as it is likely to be more protectionist.
Bangladesh’s foreign policy has to be devised considering the trade opportunities in the south block that include India and China, he said, adding that carbon trading, territorial issues and nuclear energy should be the new focus of the foreign policy.
Former ambassador Anwar Hashim said, “Since globalisation is to stay, we have to devise ways to benefit from it and fight its negative aspects.”
The roundtable was jointly organised by the Daily Star newspaper and the Centre for Foreign Affairs Studies (C-Fas).