Published in The Financial Express on Sunday, 24 April 2016
Call to build right diplomatic capacity
Banking on BD’s geopolitical advantages
Panellists at a national conversation suggested Saturday building right diplomatic capacity under an upright foreign policy to reap advantages of regional integration from Bangladesh’s geological and geopolitical position.
They said the government should frame the policy based on best national interests in different economic, investment and geopolitical contexts.
They were sharing their views during a session on ‘Bangladesh in the region: NE India, Nepal, Myanmar, China’. The session was organised in line with BIDS’ Critical Conversation at Bangabandhu International Convention Centre with Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, distinguished fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), in the chair.
Faruk Sobhan, CEO of Bangladesh Enterprise Institute, Mohammad Zamir, former Ambassador, and Professor Delwar Hossain, the Department of International Relations at the University of Dhaka, spoke as panellists.
Dr Mohammad Yunus presented the keynote paper on ‘Bangladesh in the Region: Connectivity and Beyond’ highlighting the country’s position amongst Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar and Nepal from several multi-sectoral forums and processes
Former foreign secretary Faruk Sobhan highlighted the country’s opportunities to be addressed in the diplomacy and said energy cooperation should also focus on hydroelectric cooperation issue, foreign direct investment, and port-facility utilisation.
Citing the country’s position in regional integration for formation of different exiting and upcoming fora, including BBIN, BCIM, One Belt One Road and Trans Himalayan Development Forum, Mr Sobhan said diplomatic relations should be focused more on the relationship building with Myanmar where political changes have been observed.
“Diplomacy should be identified from how we engage our power…we should not keep all in one basket,” he said.
In this context, the diplomat urged the government to resolve the issue of Korean Export Processing Zone to get the benefit of huge investment opportunities.
Former ambassador Zamir highlighted the issues of climate change to integrate renewal energy cooperation, integration in financial and bond market and customs procedure as well as corporate social responsibility and cyber security in regional context.
He said cooperation should also be focused on health, tourism, agriculture issues to get maximum benefit of regional cooperation.
“We need to move forward attributing in principal who did what and how the benefit to deal with best,” he told audience.
He also stressed resolving the issue related to KEPZ and issues like river water sharing and Myanmar refugee in negotiation.
Professor Delwar said the country should fix up its position in regional integration following the changes.
“We in historically promoting regional cooperation by forming SAARC but our relation with the region focuses more on regime interest than bilateral, regional and extra-regional context,” he viewed.
Debapriya Bhattacharya said Bangladesh needs to deal with variable geography from independent and overlapping, regional and extra-regional context. Bangladesh position in value chain among South Asian nations is unique and it is now not to look but to act considering people to people beyond capital city.
The keynote speaker also highlighted the country’s position to ready based on “balanced approach not to just mere connectivity also to enhance peace, stability, prosperity and amity, cost sharing for lagging partner countries and undertake ‘early harvesting or piloting of some parts of agreed framework.