Bangladesh should go for robust diplomacy aimed at ensuring people's health rights and reviving the economy that are now being largely affected by the pandemic, said international relations experts.
The country needs to strengthen relations in all fronts -- bilateral, regional and multilateral -- and find ways how peoples' wellbeing gets the highest priority, they observed.
"The pandemic has demonstrated how health is so important for us. Apart from the economy, the most crucial thing for us is to make sure we can have access to the Covid-19 vaccines or drugs whenever that is developed," said Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, former foreign secretary and ambassador.
Bangladesh's earnings from RMG exports declined by 18.45 percent year-on-year to $27.83 billion in the outgoing fiscal, from $34.13 billion in 2018-19.
Migrant remittance in the outgoing fiscal reached $18.20 billion, which is 10.87 percent higher than 2018-19, but officials and experts say it could see a downtrend, as several lakh Bangladeshis could return home in coming months. Also, there will be fewer new overseas jobs in near future, which means jobs creation at home will be a bigger challenge now, economists say.
Against such backdrop, the foreign ministry held a discussion with the former foreign secretaries and ambassadors -- Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, Shahidul Haque, MR Osmani, Faruque Sobhan, CM Shafi Sami, AKM Atiqur Rahman, Md Abdul Hannan, Humayun Kabir, Ahmad Tariq Karim and Mohsin Ali Khan.
The objective of the virtual discussion on Thursday, chaired by Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, was to get their opinions on the course of action by the ministry against the pandemic.
The former diplomats said Bangladesh should prioritise strengthening relations with India, China, US and European Union for cooperation in health and economic sectors.
Asked, Shamsher Mobin said he could not disclose the contents of the programme that was held in the format of Chatham House that does not allow disclosures.
Bangladesh gets duty-free access to the European Union, Australia, Japan, India and China. "We need to best utilise these markets," Mobin said, adding, "We need to plan how we can explore sustainable new markets."
Prof Lailafur Yasmin of Dhaka University said in the changed geopolitical situation, many companies will shift from China to Bangladesh, and the government must seize the opportunity by improving conditions of investment.
"This will need strong economic diplomacy," she said.