Peacekeepers earn int'l acclaim for Bangladesh
Bangladesh has achieved global credentials as a “role model” to the cause of international peace and security through its UN peacekeeping missions.
The armed forces and police achieved this acclamation due to their professionalism, commitment, impartiality, integrity and humane attitude while participating in more than 50 UN missions in about 40 countries in less than three decades.
Participating in a roundtable discussion on “Bangladesh and UN Peacekeeping: Challenges and Prospects” organised by The Daily Star, retired top generals and high civil officials said Bangladesh is now reputed as a nation of peacekeepers.
The roundtable was organised to mark the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers to be observed on May 29.
Not only are the Bangladeshi peacekeepers contributing to the peaceful settlement of international disputes and maintenance of global peace and security, they are also contributing to the nation-building activities to supplement UN mandates, they said.
As a result, Bangla has become the second language of Sierra Leone, Liberia has named a street of its capital after Bangladesh, and a few African countries have set up schools naming “Bangladesh Friendship School”.
Bangladesh armed forces and police now have the capability to take up any peacekeeping assignment, even in a hostile situation, in any part of the world because of their commitment and dedication to global peace and stability, they added.
Footprints of Bangladeshi peacekeepers are now evident in almost all the troubled areas of the world -- from Haiti to East Timor and from Lebanon to Democratic Republic of Congo. Bangladeshi peacekeepers are in almost everywhere and committed to remaining so in the days to come, the speakers noted.
Bangladesh began its peace support mission in 1988 with a contribution of 15 army officers as military observer to the UN peacekeeping operations in the United Nations Iran-Iraq Military Observer Group (UNIIMOG).
Mentioning that peacekeeping has grown from monitoring ceasefires to multi-dimensional tasks, the speakers highlighted some challenges ahead, including countering terrorism. Bangladesh armed forces need rigorous training on the methods and mechanisms for peace-making and peace-building, they observed.
The discussants pointed out that peacekeeping is part of Bangladesh's constitution. Article 25(1) states the importance of promoting international peace and security.
The armed forces and police have fulfilled the dreams of Bangabandhu's declaration of Bangladesh's commitment to international peace, said Maj Gen (retd) Kazi Ashfaq Ahmed in his keynote presentation.
There are currently 16 peacekeeping operations led by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations. As of April 30, Bangladesh was the fourth largest contributor to UN peacekeeping missions with armed forces and police personnel standing at 6,815 in eight missions.
Currently, Ethiopia, India and Pakistan are the top three troop providers.
Bangladesh topped as a troop contributing nation for couple of times, including in 2015.
During yesterday's discussion, two other keynote papers were presented by Air Commodore (retd) Anisur Rahman and Commodore (retd) MN Absar.
Twenty speakers, including former chiefs and senior most officials of three forces, former foreign secretaries and diplomats, police personnel and a university teacher, took part in the five-hour long discussion.
Former army chief Lt Gen (retd) M Nooruddin Khan said they had to go through many difficulties at the beginning of the missions. Even it was a critical decision for the country to send troops to the UN mission in Kuwait against Saddam Hossain, the then Iraqi president who had good relations with Bangladesh, he said.
Narrating various hostile situations he faced during his deployment as a peacekeeper in Georgia, former army chief Lt Gen (retd) M Harun-Ar-Rashid said they fared extremely well in any situation during the peacekeeping operations.
He suggested conducting an analysis of the peacekeeping operations participated by the Bangladeshi troops. “We don't think we have done everything. We have to think and analyse how we could do better in future.”
Air Commodore (retd) Anisur Rahman said the Bangladesh Air Force (BAF) has earned a good reputation in the UN, but it faces a number of difficulties in operating and maintaining its forces in mission areas.
UN missions might get increased in future and the BAF should be ready to undertake any mission with its competence.
Former navy chief Rear Admiral (retd) Shah Iqbal Mujtaba said the participation of the navy was limited compared to the army and the air force. “Nowadays, we have gained momentum and we will progress Inshallah,” he said, adding that naval ships joined the UN mission in 2010.
Rear Admiral (retd) ASMA Awal stressed the need for more vigorous diplomacy so that Bangladesh could get higher positions in UN headquarters and peacekeeping missions.
Highlighting the foreign ministry's crucial role in negotiating in UN Security Council and other bodies regarding the country's participation in UN missions, former foreign secretary Hemayet Uddin said, “To uphold the legacy of Bangladesh, it is necessary that our professionals develop their skills on key areas of international diplomacy that go hand in hand with the peacekeeping operations.”
The former secretary said the country's women peacekeepers played an exemplary role in peace-making by providing comfort to the victims of gender-based violence in war-ravaged countries. Bangladesh became the world's first all-woman UN peacekeeping contingent, he said.
Maj Gen (retd) Fazle Elahi Akbar said there were allegations of sexual abuse involving peacekeepers, but Bangladeshi troops have good reputations in this regard.
Dhaka University teacher Niloy Ranjan Biswas said the experience of peacekeepers must be documented systematically so that the future generation of peacekeepers could learn from those and develop themselves accordingly. He also said there must be a comprehensive peacekeeping strategy in the country.
Praising their contribution, The Daily Star Editor and Publisher Mahfuz Anam said, “As soldiers, you are trained to serve your country. But when you go to another country and serve the people of those countries, then it really shows your humanity.”
“You have served the people of other countries with great intensity, devotion, humanity and empathy.”
Brig Gen (retd) Shahedul Anam Khan, associate editor of The Daily Star, moderated the discussion while former Navy chief Admiral (retd) M Farid Habib, Lt Gen (retd) Md Mainul Islam, Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Hafiz, former ambassador and foreign secretary Shamsher M Chowdhury, Commodore (retd) MN Absar, Brig Gen (retd) Abdul Hakim Aziz, Maj Gen (retd) Rezanur Rahman Khan, former additional IGP AMB Bazlur Rahman, DIG of police Mahbubur Rahman, Rear Admiral (retd) ASMA Baten, former ambassador Rashed Ahmed, Air Commodore (retd) Ishfaq Ilahi Choudhury, Brig Gen (retd) Khondokar Kamaluzzaman, Brig Gen (retd) Salim Akhtar, and former ambassador Shamim Ahmed also spoke.