After Sheikh Hasina's trips abroad . . . | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 04, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 04, 2010

Editorial

After Sheikh Hasina's trips abroad . . .

New possibilities open up for nation's foreign policy

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's twelve-day trip abroad appears to have opened up some new possibilities for Bangladesh in its dealings with the global community. In broad measure, the prime ministerial visit as also the flurry of diplomatic activities observed in the nearly two years the government has been in office reflects a clear emphasis on a strengthening and reshaping of foreign policy priorities by the administration. It goes without saying that in these times, a nation's global significance depends in large measure on how it utilizes the opportunities which diplomacy opens up before it. From that perspective Sheikh Hasina's visits to Belgium, Russia and Japan, as her earlier visits to India and elsewhere, can be looked upon as an opening of new windows for the country.
Bangladesh's economic links with the European community have in recent years been quite well pronounced. The EU has actively been engaged in promoting trade, particularly through providing encouragement to Bangladesh where its exports are concerned. We believe the prime minister's visit will add a good deal more meat to the substantive nature of the ties already existing between the EU and Bangladesh. The prime minister's meetings with the Belgian leadership can be looked upon as a further step toward impressing upon Europe the priorities Dhaka has set for itself where its dealings with the outside world are concerned. Insofar as relations with Japan are a focus of discussion, the fact that Japan has been a steady and powerful partner with Bangladesh in the economic development of the latter has clearly been re-emphasised through Tokyo's agreeing to provide an additional $100 million for the construction of the Padma Bridge. Besides, the Japanese authorities' willingness to relax the rules relating to certain areas of trade are a sign of the sympathetic manner in which Tokyo looks upon Dhaka's efforts toward economic progress. The consistency which has underpinned Bangladesh-Japan relations has obviously been reinforced by Sheikh Hasina's talks with Prime Minister Naoto Kan and other important figures in Tokyo.
Much importance can be attached to the Bangladesh leader's visit to Russia since it is for the first time since the early 1970s that a Bangladesh head of government has had the opportunity to interact directly with the Moscow leadership. A newly assertive Russia, almost twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, will certainly be in the mood to cultivate its links with nations which once were close to the Soviet leadership. For Bangladesh, relations with Moscow are grounded on history, dating particularly from the country's War of Liberation. Dhaka can now, in light of Sheikh Hasina's visit, move to expand the dimensions of its relations with Moscow.
These and other diplomatic moves need to be carefully sustained through our Foreign Office doing the necessary follow-up work. Regrettably, our diplomatic establishment has not exactly, so far, shown any sign of being an active mechanism for the conduct of foreign policy in the 21st century. There have been frequent complaints over the years from our missions abroad that the Foreign Office generally has a laidback attitude even toward messages and missives of the utmost urgency. Such an attitude must change, through an infusion of activist diplomacy necessarily based on an intellectual perception of global realities. For a small nation like Bangladesh, a smooth, effective conduct of diplomacy is the one sure way of tackling the outside world. Let our diplomacy, therefore, be infused with a new dynamism through provisions of training and other facilities that will inject a sense of purpose and finesse into the Foreign Office. The bottom line must be made clear: Bangladesh is in need of a modern Foreign Office, able to comprehend the ways in which international relations are practiced.

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