Briefing by Hon'ble Foreign Minister's at the New Year
2 January 2003
entered the year 2002 in the midst of considerable uncertainties
in the wake of several new developments- both political
and economic, as an after effect of the September 11 events.
Economic downturn that ensued, which did not spare most
countries including Bangladesh and stereotyping of Muslim
countries in a particular manner, also made things difficult.
Bangladesh was also assailed by a series of factors both
of indigenous and regional character which are by now well
known. In such a difficult situation the Foreign Ministry
set out to achieve the following objectives:
1: To ensure national security within a stable regional
context, to project the image of Bangladesh as a responsible
peace-loving country and to counter efforts underway to
depict Bangladesh as a fundamentalist country.
2: To remain engaged with our immediate neighbours and strengthen
our friendship with them, establish new linkages and open
new avenues with our friends in the East and the South-east,
fully realize the potential of our friendly ties with the
United States and other Western countries. In addition to
consolidate and where possible to further strengthen friendly
ties with Islamic countries.
3: Work with a well defined focus to advance the economic
interest of Bangladesh through vigorous economic diplomacy.
4 : Make a strong contribution to regional cooperation.
5: Ensure the essential continuity of Bangladesh's pro-active
multilateral diplomacy and play a significant role in influencing
decisions and actions being taken in the multilateral context
which affect the interest of Bangladesh.
6 : Improve and provide effective consular and welfare services
to Bangladesh nationals abroad.
of main initiatives
the guidance and overall dynamic leadership of the Hon'ble
Prime Minister, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs played its
due role in furthering all the above important objectives.
The Prime Minister helped in the articulation of our national
interest through following major initiatives at her level
in the 11th SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in January 2002 -
the Summit reactivated the SAARC process after a hiatus
of almost two years, Bangladesh has also been actively trying
to encourage the holding of the next SAARC Summit.
Prime Minister participated in the Commonwealth Heads of
Government Meeting in Coolum, Australia where she made important
contribution in highlighting our view on the nature of international
actions needed to fight terrorism and global efforts needed
to address the problems of world's poorest countries.
Prime Minister participated in the World Summit in May 2002
for Children renewing our commitment to global action in
support of Children.
Prime Minister personally signaled Bangladesh's keen interest
to strengthen our relations with our immediate neighbours
when she met the leaders of SAARC countries in January 2002
and with Myanmar when the Prime Minister of Myanmar visited
Bangladesh in December 2002. She also highlighted the importance
of our relations with China during the visit of Prime Minister
of China Mr. Zhu Ronji during his visit to Bangladesh in
January 2002 and her own return visit to China in December
2002. In between the visits of Prime Minister Tony Blair
to Bangladesh in January 2002, of President Pervez Musharraf
of Pakistan in July 2002 and Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra
in July 2002 followed by Hon'ble Prime Minister's visit
to Thailand in December 2002 as well as visit of Prime Minister
of Korea to Bangladesh in November 2002 were important milestones.
Hon'ble Prime Minister's personal initiatives were supplemented
by my visit to a whole series of important bilateral visits
and participation in important international and regional
meetings. The mix of my visits was carefully worked out
to advance Bangladesh's bilateral, regional and international
meeting on reconstruction of Afghanistan 21-22nd January
2002. Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group Meetings in
London, Botswana, and again London in January, May and October
2002, EU-OIC Meeting on dialogue between the civilizations
in Istanbul February 2002, visit to Washington in May, visit
to New York in May and September 2002. Visit to Canada May
2002, visit to Pakistan and India in June 2002 Asian Cooperation
Dialogue Meeting in Thailand in June 2002 29th ICFM in Khartoum,
Sudan in June 2002 , visited Bangladesh troops Sierra Leone
in June 2002, visit to China in September 2002 , Saudi Arabia
in October 2002 , Myanmar in November 2002, SAARC Council
of Ministers October 2002 and UNGA in September 2002. BIMST-EC
Ministerial Meeting in December 2002,
Hon'ble State Minister for Foreign Affairs also made his
valuable contribution to the unfolding of Bangladesh's foreign
policy priorities and their effective implementation. He
represented Bangladesh in the ICFM Special Session on terrorism
in Kuala Lumpur in April, led Bangladesh delegation to LDC
Ministerial Meeting in Cotonou in August 2002 participated
in UNGA in September and represented Bangladesh in Second
Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies in
Seoul in November 2002. The Hon'ble State Minister was also
a member of Bangladesh delegation to WSSD held in Johannesburg
in August 2002, Morocco, Committee on Palestine, Doha Special
Session of the ICFM.
extent of our achievements can be judged by looking at the
has largely been able to project her tolerant, democratic
and moderate image abroad notwithstanding concerted attempts
to malign us, we strongly countered any attempt to depict
Bangladesh as a sanctuary for fundamentalist militant outfits
and a country lacking religious harmony. Our efforts so
far have been successful. But we also need the understanding
and support of our friends from the media.
commitment to a free press has been clearly underlined in
its spirit and manifestation. The role of our media in this
has been laudable.
inter-state level we have remained engaged to improve our
bilateral ties with our immediate neighbours, added a new
dimension to our foreign policy by opening new avenues of
cooperation with countries to our East, consolidated our
traditional friendly relations with countries in the Islamic
World and added significant contents in our relations with
our friends in the West including the USA and the members
of the EU.
dynamism of our multilateral initiatives has been maintained
and our priority to realize the full potential of regional
cooperation has remained unchanged.
steps have been taken to enhance our economic interests
through vigorous economic diplomacy and reprioritization
of our endeavours.
of Bangladeshis working abroad have been given greater attention
through implementation of specific steps to improve consular
priorities and gains
with neighbour: Consolidating friendly relations with neighbours
has been a major policy objective of the Government during
the year 2002. The Foreign Secretary visited India in February
2002 and I visited Delhi in June 2002. The Indian External
Affairs Minister visited Bangladesh in August 2002. Bangladesh
remains committed to improve her relations with India through
constructive engagement and following a definite road map
that ensures improved relations with India and her economic
links on the basis of the recognition of the broad economic
interests of both the countries - especially that of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is happy that both India and Bangladesh remained
engaged in dialogue and discussions at the level of senior
officials and at the political level on such important issues
as peaceful management of common border between the two
countries, completion of land boundary demarcation, trade,
investment, sharing of waters of common rivers and use of
Inland Waterways of Bangladesh. The year ended with the
positive visit of Commerce Minister of Bangladesh to Kolkata.
Bangladesh is keen to develop her relations with India in
the New Year on the basis of mutual trust, due recognition
of the legitimate concerns of Bangladesh and common challenges
that the two countries must face together - especially for
poverty eradication and promoting the prospect for regional
relations with other SAARC countries have both remained
cordial and warm. I visited Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal
- the three main SAARC capitals besides New Delhi The visit
of President of Pakistan to Bangladesh in July 2002 and
the visit of Pakistan Commerce Minister in January 2002
were particularly important in improving further the friendly
relations with Pakistan. The Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka
also visited Bangladesh in April 2002. From Sri Lanka the
Minister for Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion
and Constitutional Affairs Mr. G.L. Peiris, Sri Lankan Minister
for Tourism Mr. Gamini Lokuge and Sri Lankan Interior Minister
Mr. John Amaratunga also visited Bangladesh in March, August
and December 2002 respectively. Bangladesh Industries Minister
Mr. M.K. Anwar visited Sri Lanka in October 2002. These
visits further cemented the friendly relations with our
southern neighbour in South Asia.
relations with Nepal remained close and friendly in 2002.The
Foreign Ministers of the two countries held wide ranging
talks on ways to improve further the relations between the
two countries in August 2002 when I visited Kathmandu in
connection with the Meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers.
Similarly our relations with Bhutan also improved significantly.
The Commerce Minister Mr. Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury visited
Bhutan in April 2002. Talks on Trade Promotion with Bhutan
were held at the Secretary level in November 2002 and Bangladesh
Single Country Trade Fair was held in Thimpu in November
Defence Minister of the Maldives visited Bangladesh in May
2002 which was an useful occasion to renew contact with
the Maldives. I also met the Foreign Minister of the Maldives
in Kathmandu in August 2002 on the occasion of the Meeting
of the SAARC Council of Ministers.
has worked steadily to strengthen relations with Afghanistan
in 2002. I represented Bangladesh in the Tokyo Meeting on
the "Reconstruction of Afghanistan" in January
2002. I also met the Afghan President Hamid Kharzai in New
York in September 2002. In the meanwhile Bangladesh also
entrusted our Ambassador in Tashkent to represent Bangladesh
in Kabul. A number of NGO's in Bangladesh have started valuable
work in the social sectors in Afghanistan and the Foreign
Secretary pledged Bangladesh readiness to help train Afghan
army and police personnel either in Bangladesh or in Afghanistan
during a one day Conference of the Steering Committee of
the Afghan Support Group in April 2002. Bangladesh also
participated at the Meeting of the OIC Assistance Group
for Afghanistan held in Doha in November 2002.
with our friends in the East: Very conscious efforts were
made during the year 2002 to add a new dimension to our
relations with countries to our east and south-east. The
high profile visit of Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji
to Bangladesh in January 2002 and the return visit of the
Hon'ble Prime Minister to China in December 2002 were important
milestones in the relations between the two friendly countries.
These two visits have resulted in a number of cooperation
agreements which would act as important frameworks for further
future development of the relations between the two countries.
Besides the visits at the level of the Head of Government
during 2002 a series of other important visits also took
place. Amongst others, I thus visited China in September
close and friendly ties with Japan also became even closer
in the year 2002. During this year the two countries celebrated
the 30th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic
relations between the two countries. I renewed the contact
with my Japanese counterparts during my visit to Tokyo in
January 2002 and Mr. Shin Sakurai, member of the House of
Councilors and Vice-President of the Japan Bangladesh Parliamentarian
League visited Bangladesh in October 2002 as a Special Envoy
of the Japanese Prime Minister. Bangladesh deeply values
its ties with Japan and it would be an important objective
of Bangladesh to further strengthen her friendly relations
with this major Asian Power.
relations of Bangladesh with Myanmar entered new phase of
constructive and friendly engagement in 2002. The high point
of a perceptible process of improvement in the relations
between the two countries was the visit of the Chairman
of the State Peace and Development Council and Prime Minister
of Myanmar to Bangladesh in December 2002. The Foreign Secretary,
the Minister for Commerce, the Minister for Communications
and I also visited Myanmar in June, March, August and November
contributing significantly to the ongoing discussions between
these two countries to widen the scope and content of their
very warm friendly ties.
relations between Bangladesh and Thailand also improved
at a very rapid pace during the year. The Prime Minister
of Thailand Dr. Thaksin Shinawatra visited Bangladesh twice
in July and December 2002. In between the Foreign Secretary
of Thailand also visited Bangladesh in August 2002. The
Hon'ble Prime Minister visited Thailand in December 2002.
This visit marked the high point of a very welcome process
of intensification of cooperation between Thailand and Bangladesh.
the year 2002 the relations of Bangladesh with Malaysia,
Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines also improved steadily.
I held important discussions with my counterparts from Malaysia,
Singapore and Indonesia in New York in September 2002 at
the margin of the UNGA on further ways to develop relations
with these countries. The extension of stay of Bangladeshi
workers in Malaysia was a major success.
has also actively taken part in the ACD process during the
year 2002. I participated in the inaugural session of the
first ACD Conference in Bangkok in June 2002 and a subsequent
follow-up meeting of the countries involved in the process
in New York in September 2002 at the margin of the UNGA
with countries in West Asia and Africa: Bangladesh deeply
values her ties with Islamic countries in West Asia and
Africa. During the year 2002 Bangladesh constantly stood
by the countries in the Middle East at times of crisis strongly
criticising the strong arm tactics adopted by Israel and
horrendous consequences arising out of its continued occupation
of Palestinian lands. Bangladesh also strongly condemned
the violence against the Palestinian people and the treatment
meted to President Arafat.
also continuously improve relations with the countries in
the Middle East. I met the Saudi Foreign Minister in New
York in September and subsequently visited Saudi Arabia
in October 2002 at his invitation. I also met the Foreign
Ministers of Algeria, Oman and Iran in September 2002. Earlier
the Foreign Minister of Iran also visited Bangladesh in
February 2002. The countries in the Middle East continued
to be a major source of remittances from Bangladeshi workers
which increased 38% during the year 2002. Special steps
taken by the Government to facilitate remittances through
official and banking channels largely contributed to this
increase. The Government of Bangladesh has also stepped
up efforts to offer better consular and other services to
the Bangladeshis working in these countries and Bangladesh
Missions abroad have been specifically instructed to be
sensitive to their needs.
Sierra Leone in July 2002 to visit Bangladesh troops serving
in the UN Peace Keeping Operations. On the same occasion
I held wide ranging talks with the officials and Government
leaders in Sierra Leone. The valuable work of Bangladesh
Peace Keepers in Sierra Leone has been widely acclaimed
and Bangla has recently been declared on of the official
languages by the President of Sierra Leone in recognition
of their contribution.
remains profoundly concerned about the situation in the
Middle East and remains committed to work for peace, security
and stability in the region.
with countries with America and Pacific: The relations with
United States remained a major focus of Bangladesh's Foreign
Policy in the year 2002. The ties between the two countries
were characterised by a shared concern to achieve certain
clear cut objectives. Both the countries worked closely
to combat terrorism. The United States appreciated Bangladesh's
commitment to shore up democracy and follow a liberal approach
to various issues of vital national interest including on
the question of treatment of minorities and disadvantaged
groups. There was a great understanding of the fundamental
thrust of Bangladesh's position regarding religious extremism
and recourse to violence. The US Assistant Secretary of
States visited Bangladesh in March 2002 and she spoke positively
in Bangladesh during the recent Congressional hearing in
South Asia. When the controversy on Al-Qaeda terrorist presence
in Bangladesh broke out the US Administration and US Ambassador
in Bangladesh stood by Bangladesh's assertion on the matter.
I visited Washington in May 2002 and met Secretary of the
States Mr. Collion Powell, National Security Adviser Dr.
Condolezza Rice, Deputy Secretary of Defence Dr. Paul Wolfowitz
and Deputy Secretary of Treasury Mr. Kenneth Dam on the
occasion. My meetings made an important contribution to
the enrichment of the US - Bangladesh relations. The USA
remains a major destination of Bangladesh's RMG products.
The visit of the Bangladesh Commerce Minister and several
other visits to Washington by Bangladesh Ministers and high
officials have helped to effectively share our various trade
and investment related concerns with the United States.
Bangladesh also received a Congressional delegation in January
relations between Canada and Bangladesh entered a new phase
with Canada extending duty and quota free access to products
from the Least Developed Countries including Bangladesh.
The MOU for the purpose was signed in Dhaka on the last
day of the year. The visit of the Canadian Secretary of
State Mr. David Kilgour to Bangladesh in April 2002 and
my visit to Canada in May 2002 played a major role in adding
a new dimension to Canada - Bangladesh relations.
relations between Australia and Bangladesh also remains
close and the Hon'ble Prime Minister met her Australian
counterpart in Coolum in March 2002 on the occasion of Commonwealth
Summit. Several steps are under consideration to increase
to a trade between the two countries. Australia will provide
duty and quota free access to Bangladesh's products with
effect from July 2003.
with countries of Europe: Relations with countries of Europe
remained a major area of priority for Bangladesh during
the year 2002. The visit of British Prime Minister Mr. Tony
Blair to Bangladesh in January 2002 was an important contributory
factor to the improvement of bilateral ties between the
United Kingdom and Bangladesh. The visit of Mr. Hillary
Benn, MP Minister of State in the Department for International
Development of the United Kingdom in January 2002, visit
by a 7 member delegation of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association
- United Kingdom (CPA)- UK in August 2002 and Ms. Sally
Keeble, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department
of International Development in December 2002 also made
important contribution to Bangladesh - UK ties. Mr. Douminique
Girard, French Additional Foreign Secretary visited Bangladesh
in February 2002. I met the French State Minister for Foreign
Affairs in New York in September 2002 who is expected to
visit Bangladesh early in the New Year. A Norwegian Foreign
Ministry delegation visited Bangladesh in June 2002 followed
by another high level delegation representing the Standing
Committee on Security and Constitutional Affairs in September
2002. Norwegian Minister for Development Cooperation met
the Hon'ble Prime Minister during her visit to New York
in May 2002 and subsequently she visited Bangladesh in November
2002 when the new MOU on Development Cooperation between
Norway and Bangladesh was finalized. During the year 2002
Bangladesh also initiated negotiation for institutionalising
regular official level talks between Bangladesh and European
countries. At the same time the Ministry also remained focused
in promoting cooperation with the EU on a wide front taking
due note of new orientation of development cooperation programmes
of the EU with countries like Bangladesh.
continued her efforts to strengthen the SAARC process all
through the year 2002. The Hon'ble Prime Minister strongly
articulated our hope for a strong SAARC process during the
11th SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in January 2002. We have
also consistently held that bilateral contentious issues
should not hold up the SAARC process. Bangladesh continues
to hope that the postponed 12th SAARC Summit would be held
soon. The Bangladesh Government also made important contribution
to the work of the reconvened Independent South Asian Commission
on Poverty Alleviation, has remained engaged in negotiations
for the finalization of a draft on South Asian Free Trade
Area (SAFTA). Bangladesh also hosted the Meeting of SAARC
Technical Committee on Energy.
remained committed to the goals and objectives of BIMST-EC
and actively participated in its working programme. I participated
in the BIMST-EC Ministerial Meeting in December 2002.
of Bangladesh in the multilateral arena:
of the Foreign Policy objectives in different multilateral
fora, Bangladesh participated in the World Summit for Children
May 2002 at the level of the Hon'ble Prime Minister. Bangladesh
also participated in the Monterrey Conference on Development
Finances in March 2002 and World Conference on Sustainable
Development in Johannesburg in June 2002. The Bangladesh
delegations to these Conferences made relevant contribution
to the shaping of specific decisions with significant bearing
for nature of development cooperation in specific areas
in support of countries like Bangladesh. I led the Bangladesh
delegation to the 57th Session of the UNGA in September
2002 which also included the Hon'ble State Minister for
Foreign Affairs. The Bangladesh delegation made important
contribution during the 57th UNGA in the finalization of
the decisions amongst others on integrated implementation
of the decisions of the three major International Conferences
i.e. World Summit on Children, the Monterrey Conference
and WSSD as well as the decisions on UN Reforms.
Permanent Mission in Geneva effectively projected the Human
Rights records of Bangladesh in the context of work of the
UN Human Rights Commission. The Mission also continues to
make valuable contribution the Doha Round of Trade Negotiations
within the framework of WTO.
the year 2002 Bangladesh achieved significant success in
terms of electoral achievements within the UN system. Mrs.
Salma Khan of Bangladesh was elected to Committee on Elimination
of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), elected Chairman
of the Commission for Social Development, Committee for
Information and a Deputy Member of the ILO Governing Board.
The Secretary General of the UN also inducted Bangladesh
as a member of the Working Group entrusted to recommend
measures for UN Reforms.
Bangladesh Prime Minister participated in the Commonwealth
Summit in Coolum and my re-election as a member of CMAG
once again highlighted the confidence reposed in Bangladesh
as a major contributing country to the Commonwealth process
as well as her constant work to advance Commonwealth values
of democracy and fundamental human values.
also played a major role in the OIC process I represented
Bangladesh in the ICFM held in Sudan in June 2002 where
I strongly called for the revitalization of the OIC. Hon'ble
State Minister for Foreign Affairs represented Bangladesh
in the special OIC Ministerial Meeting on Terrorism in Kuala
Lumpur in August 2002.
and the UN Peace Keeping
continued to play a major role in the UN Peace Keeping Operations
in the year 2002. Presently Bangladesh has 5324 troops serving
under UN flag in 10 different Peace Keeping Operations in
different parts of the World. Bangladesh troops serving
with UNAMSIL have earned high laurels and I visited them
in Sierra Leon in July 2002. Major General Ashfaqur Rahman
was appointed UN Force Commander in Georgia during the same
dimensions of Bangladesh's economic diplomacy:
new Government identified economic diplomacy as a major
thrust area for policy initiatives of Bangladesh. Several
steps have been taken to translate the notion of economic
diplomacy into concrete actions. These include directives
sent to all Bangladesh Missions to reorient their work to
promote trade and investment in Bangladesh, and secure large
flow of remittances from expatriate workers. Steps have
also been taken to ensure enhanced interface with private
sector and trade and investment related bodies as well as
a more engaged level of coordination with line Ministries
dealing with trade and investment related matters. A standing
institutional arrangement for consultation between and among
trade bodies and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Commerce
is also currently being worked out.
nutshell the year 2002 has both been a year of consolidation
as well as planned expansion aimed at making best out of
Bangladesh's diplomatic initiatives to advance the national
interests. With the work done Bangladesh today is well poised
to address the challenges of the New Year with confidence,
hope and new expectations. The Foreign Ministry will continue
to be engaged in diplomacy in its widest sense to achieve
our national priorities.