Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali has come down heavily on former national security adviser and US secretary of state Henry Kissinger for his remarks on Bangladesh and India in 1971 and tacitly termed him a liar.
“He [Kissinger] said that countries like Bangladesh and India – they cannot survive in the long run mainly because of the discrepancy between the population and the resources. And therefore they should be allowed to die a natural death,” Mahmood said yesterday at an award ceremony by Better Bangladesh Foundation in the capital’s Gulshan Club.
The Better Bangladesh Foundation Award 2014 was conferred on five organisations, including the Dhaka Tribune, and the foreign minister for their contribution to creating a positive image of the country.
“At that time I was busy organising our small community in the United States and we were trying to counter that argument and it’s a very disheartening and, I should say, stupid argument that Kissinger started,” said Mahmood, who was a Pakistan diplomat posted in New York and actively mobilised opinion in favour of the Liberation War abroad in 1971.
Kissinger never supported the liberation of Bangladesh and termed Bangladesh “an international basket case.”
The minister said the same Kissinger after 28 years in 1999 handed over the Unesco Peace Prize to then prime minister Sheikh Hasina.
“The media pounced upon Dr Kissinger and asked him the most difficult question: ‘How come today you are presenting Unesco Peace Prize to Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister of Bangladesh, and the same you had predicted that Bangladesh would become an international basket case in 1971?’” Mahmood said.
The foreign minister said Kissinger had given a sheepish smile and did not answer it.
“He [Kissinger] said: ‘Well, these are all lies. These were fabrications created by my detractors. I never said anything like that about Bangladesh,’” Mahmood said, adding: “I can vouch for that that he said that, and not only said he wrote also that Bangladesh could not survive.”
Sheikh Hasina won the prize as she signed a peace agreement in 1997 which put an end to 25 years of unrest in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and Henry Kissinger was the president of the jury for that year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
The Better Bangladesh Foundation has awarded Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association for its contribution to the country’s garment sector, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its contribution in the field of international relations, Bangladesh Armed Forces for serving in the UN Peace Support Operations, and the International Committee of the Red Cross for its role during the Liberation War, and Mahmood Ali for his role during the Liberation War. The Dhaka Tribune was chosen for the award for carrying the name of the country’s capital and playing a remarkable role in branding a positive image of the country both at home and abroad.
Editor of the Dhaka Tribune Zafar Sobhan, head of Delegation Bangladesh of ICRC Christine Cipolla, President of the BGMEA Md Atiqul Islam, and Director General (Operations and Planning) of the Armed Forces Division Brig Gen Abu Sayeed Khan received the awards on behalf of their organisations.
Saida Muna Tasneem, director general of the United Nations and Human Rights wing of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivered the keynote speech at the programme.
Egyptian Ambassador to Bangladesh Mahmoud Ezzat, South Korean Ambassador Lee Yun-young and other diplomats were present at the event.