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Dhaka Tribune

'Bangladesh can be an important balancing player'

Diplomatic skills need to be enhanced to benefit from country’s geopolitical position  
Update : 05 Jan 2022, 03:59 PM

Utilizing its valuable geopolitical position,Bangladesh can play an important balancing role in rivalries involving major powers which will benefit the country, speakers told a discussion on Wednesday.

As Bangladesh is neutral and friends with all, it is well-positioned to help ease the ongoing rivalries like the United States vs China, China vs India, India vs Pakistan and US vs Russia, they have said.

Dhaka could also contribute with respect to Afghanistan, climate change, issues relating to refugees and migration and disaster management, they added.

The leading English daily Dhaka Tribune organized the panel discussion, “Bangladesh as Current and Future Regional and Global Player”, at a city hotel with the support of the embassy of Norway in Bangladesh.

Moderated by Dhaka Tribune Editor Zafar Sobhan, the program was attended by Member of Parliament Kazi Nabil Ahmed, who is also a member of the parliamentary standing committee on Ministry of Foreign Affairs, former Foreign Secretaries Farooq Sobhan and Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Executive Director Dr Fahmida Khatun, Editor of Prothom Alo English Ayesha Kabir and AFP Bangladesh Bureau Chief Shafiqul Alam as panelists.

Norwegian Ambassador to Bangladesh Espen Rikter-Svendsen was present as special guest at the discussion in which academia and Bangladeshi and foreign diplomats took part.

The speakers also placed great emphasis on the enhancement of Bangladesh’s diplomatic skills to benefit from its geographical strategic location, withstanding pressures from different powers to side with them.

They also said that Bangladesh had achieved a lot in the last fifty years, but it could have done better.

The role of Bangladesh as a player will depend on how Bangladesh reacted to issues and how it balanced with the major powers, said the Norwegian ambassador.

“Bangladesh knows very well that geography matters,” he said.

Initiating the discussion, Dhaka Tribune Editor Zafar Sobhan said that contrary to the perceptions of many, Bangladesh was a large country with 170 million people.

“It is undeniable that we have achieved much in fifty years. It is also undeniable that we have much to achieve in the next 50 years,” he said.

Taking part in the discussion, former Foreign Secretary Farooq Sobhan said: “The world today is the most dangerous since the Cold War, with so many crises. Multilateralism is in retreat. We are on the verge of a second Cold War.”

“Bangladesh has been a strong supporter of the United Nations and multilateralism and one of the most successful countries in the developing world. Bangladesh is also a strong advocate of regional cooperation,” he said.

The former top diplomat laid emphasis on investing more on public and economic diplomacy to benefit from Bangladesh’s geopolitical advantage and called for learning lessons from the Asean experience with regard to regional economic integration.

Bangladesh has enormous opportunities to enhance its profile both regionally and internationally, he said, adding that there were challenges too, particularly the continuous pressure to take sides.

Member of Parliament Kazi Nabil Ahmed described Bangladesh as one of the most interesting countries in the world, saying that Bangladesh had come a long way since achieving independence fifty years ago.

“What we do now will set the tone for our next generations. The best days of Bangladesh are ahead of us,” he said, detailing the development activities that have taken place since 2009.

Mentioning the contributions of the country to UN peacekeeping operations, Kazi Nabil said that Bangladesh could become the peacemaker.

Shedding light on geopolitical realities, he stated that the country would have to be aware that no countries were going to ‘give us free lunch.’

Former Foreign Secretary Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury dwelt on the importance of Bangladesh in the context of Asia, saying that the importance of the continent could not be over-emphasized.

Bangladesh connects South Asia with Southeast Asia, he said, stressing the need for overcoming the challenges posed by the pressure from different powers to protect national interests.

Bangladesh faces huge challenges that were not created by it, Chowdhury said.

The Rohingya crisis was a problem with broader ramifications, he added.

CPD Executive Director Dr Fahmida said that efforts should be made for Bangladesh to be part of different trade blocs to increase trade with different countries.

Political stability, human resources and good infrastructure are necessary to attract more foreign direct investment, she said.

Prothom Alo English Editor Ayesha Kabir talked about Bangladesh being a hub of soft power, notably women empowerment, NGO sector, disaster management and immunization programs.

AFP Bureau Chief Shafiqul Alam placed emphasis on the reform of the country’s education system. 

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