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FM makes 8-point priority in future foreign policy

DHAKA, Jan 11, 2018 (BSS) - Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood yesterday made an 8-point priority, including deeper engagement with Europe, focusing on immediate neighbors, blue economy as well as regional interrogation for formulating the future foreign policy of Bangladesh.

"The dynamics of international politics are changing rapidly. It is indeed the right moment for us to analyze the events of 2017 to understand the changing dynamics of the global politics and how Bangladesh fared into it," he said while addressing a seminar on Bangladesh foreign policy in the capital.

Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic studies (BIISS) organised the seminar titled, 'Changing global dynamics: Bangladesh Foreign Policy' at its auditorium.

Describing the changes, Ali said the change of power in the United States affected the lives of people across the world while individuals and non-state actors are taking prominence in decision-making in different states.

"The growing physical connectivity among the geographical territories for trade and economy are redefining the state boundaries. Thus, some often terms the current geopolitical changes as transformational," he said.

Raising a question that how Bangladesh articulates its foreign policy in such a dynamic global environment, the Foreign Minister said Bangladesh will continue to pursue its peace-centric approach in the international forum while the development agenda will continue prioritising regional integration and connectivity.

Highlighting his 8-point priority, he said: "Given the shared political, cultural, social, economic history over centuries, India remains our most important partner."

Ali said it is the policy of friendly and good neighbourly relations with neighbours that guided Bangladesh through this difficult time with Myanmar.

"The Rohingya influx from Myanmar to Bangladesh has soured our relations in the recent times. However, we remained steadfast in our foreign policy objective and continued our bilateral engagements with Myanmar," he said.

With the repatriation of the Rohingyas under the arrangement signed on 23 November in 2017, the Foreign Minister said, Dhaka hopes to have a new beginning with Myanmar.

About the regional integration, he said as a natural connect between South and South-East Asia and beyond, Bangladesh will continue to pursue regional cooperation as an engine for sustainable growth and economic integration through SAARC, BIMSTEC, BBIN, SASEC and BCIM.

Giving special emphasis on deeper engagement with Europe, Mahmood Ali said the relationship with European countries will cover economic ties, democratic values as well as partnership in the areas of protection of environment.

"With our maritime boundaries settled, we'll continue to develop partnership in the maritime field for realisation of our blue economy pursuits."

To secure economic benefits, he said, Bangladesh will continue to forge effective partnerships with other countries. "We've already developed such partnerships with India, China, Japan, the UK and the USA in the recent years across mega infrastructure, power and energy sector projects," he said.

Noting that the human rights and fundamental freedoms are the keys to people's existence, the Foreign Minister said: "...after ending the culture of impunity through the trial of war criminals who committed genocide and crimes against humanity during our war of liberation in 1971, we are now focusing on international recognition of the 1971 genocide."

Apart from that, the 8-point priority also includes realisation of sustainable development goals and maintaining the lead role in the UN peacekeeping.

"We would also gradually bring more focus on peace building activities," he said.

"In the coming days, we would continue to work together to fulfill our foreign policy vision and strategy under the guidelines of Vision 2021 and Vision 2041...we'll strive to demonstrate to the world why Bangladesh should matter," he said.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam, Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque and BIISS Chairman Ambassador Munshi Fiaz Ahmad and Director General Major General AKM Abdur Rahman, among others, spoke at the seminar.

Mentioning that an estimated 1.2 million Rohingyas have entered into Bangladesh, Major General Rahman said the entire international community continues pressure on Myanmar to take back their nationals and extends their hands of cooperation to Bangladesh, responding the call of the Bangladesh government.

"Nonetheless, the support from the three of its trusted and most dependable allies - China, India and Russia - were not up to the expectation of Bangladesh," he said, but Bangladesh should not rule out the possibility of reconsidering its alliances in regard to its security needs.