Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) jointly organized a policy dialogue titled “Regional Cooperation for Sustainable Development in South Asia” on 10 December 2019 at the BIISS Auditorium. In total, 100 participants including 35 UNESCAP delegates from several South Asian countries were presented in the dialogue to discuss various issues. The dialogue had seven sessions including the inaugural and concluding sessions. The remaining ones were working sessions, all with their respective themes, moderators, designated speakers, panelists and open discussion.
In the inaugural session, speakers were Major General A K M Abdur Rahman, OSP, ndc, psc, Director General, BIISS; Dr. Nagesh Kumar, Director, ESCAP, South and Southwest Asia Office, New Delhi; H.E. Dr. Puspa Raj Kadel, Vice Chairman, National Planning Commission, Nepal; and H.E. M Shahidul Islam, Secretary General, BIMSTEC. In his welcome address, Major General A K M Abdur Rahman noted that though process of globalization is in full motion, this region sadly lags far behind in critical matrix of poverty vs. prosperity, peace vs. violence and terrorism, corruption vs. governance, and state capability vs. fragility. Thus, countries of this region should understand the long-term benefits of regional multilateral cooperation because such cooperation can support the development of stronger transportation systems, collective action against climate change, agricultural best practices and contributions to scientific development. Dr. Nagesh Kumar brought out the fact that South Asia was having a very disproportionate challenge to deliver the SDGs. The region is lagging behind in 15 of the 17 SDGs. With this respect, he recommended strengthening of regional cooperation for discussing and debating the opportunities, challenges, best practices and sharing experiences. Similarly, Puspa Raj Kadel also emphasized on the importance of enhancing regional economic integration through increased connectivity, cultural exchanges, knowledge and technology sharing, trade and investment in this region. In this respect, roles of several regional organizations like SAARC, BIMSTEC, ESCAP to create synergy for regional development had been highlighted. M Shahidul Islam pointed out poverty as the greatest enemy of the people in this region. However, countries of South Asia pledged to work together to eradicate poverty from the Bay of Bengal Region by 2030, in line with the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.
The first working session focused on potential and challenges of regional economic integration in South Asia in the new global context, moderated by Dr. Fahmida Khatun, Executive Director, CPD, Bangladesh. Speakers were Dr. Posh Raj Pandey, Executive Chairman, SAWTEE, Nepal; Dr. Mahfuz Kabir, Research Director, BIISS, Bangladesh; Dr. Athula Senaratne, Research Fellow, Institute of Policy Studies, Sri Lanka; Dr. Shiladitya Chatterjee, Adviser, Centre for Sustainable Development Goals, Government of Assam, India; Dr. Sabyasachi Saha, Assistant Professor, RIS, India; Dr. Selim Raihan, Executive Director, South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM), Bangladesh; Mr. Chanchal Sarkar, Director (ETF), SAARC Secretariat, Nepal; Shafquat Haider, Chairman, Council for Communication and IT and Dr. Mohammad Razzaque, Research Director, Policy Research Institute, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
In this session, discussions were held about growing trade protectionism in South Asia like in Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh, India pulling out of the RCEP and its bilateral trade deficits with China, the SAFTA, searching reasons behind failure of regional cooperation initiatives and deeper integration in South Asia, examples of bilateral integration in this region, focus on special economic zones, emerging business and political environment, e.g., US-China trade war, cooperation in agriculture, environment conservation, disaster risk management and climate change adaptation, harmonize South Asian countries’ interests at regional level, need for using innovative means to close existing gaps among these countries, urging governments to reduce trade barriers, extending portion of services besides goods in trade, lack of willingness among leaders for greater regional integration and reviewing commitments in these regards, ensuring assistance from developed nation to combat climate change, global rise and spread of nationalism like “America First” and “Brexit” which may lead into a new kind of Cold War, decline of multilateralism, paying attention to costs of non-integration, necessity of trade liberalization, development of infrastructure and reducing trade costs in South Asia, global GDP and growth rate ratio, effective role of media to promote integration etc.
The second working session was about strengthening regional transport connectivity as an enabler. It was moderated by Professor Dr. Bishwambher Pyakuryal, Chairman, Institute for Strategic and Socioeconomic Research (ISSR), Nepal. Mr. Anil Gupta, former Chairman, CONCOR Limited, and Consultant, UNESCAP, made a presentation. Panelists were Ambassador Gyan Chandra Acharya, Chairman, SAWTEE Centre for SDG and former UN Undersecretary General; Professor Dr. Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow, CPD; Mr. Pankaj Hazarika, Director (connectivity and security division), BIMSTEC Secretariat, Bangladesh; Mr. Raghubar Dayal, Senior Fellow, AITD, Delhi; and Mr. Nazir Kabiri, Executive Director, Biruni Institute, Afghanistan. This session examined present status of regional cross-border transport linkages in South Asia, policy options for furthering connectivity and also highlighted particular challenges faced by Landlocked Least Developed Countries (LLDCs) here.
The third working session was titled “Fostering Energy Connectivity”. Professor Dr. Ijaz Hossain, BUET was the moderator. Benuka Ferdousi and Lam-Ya Mostaque, Research Fellow and Research Officer, BIISS, respectively, made a joint presentation. Panelists were Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Professorial Fellow, BIGD BRAC, Bangladesh; Dr. Posh Raj Pandey; Mr. Tshering Dhendup, Senior Planning Officer, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Bhutan; and Dr. Damaru Ballabha Paudel, Director (Social Affairs Division), BIMSTEC Secretariat. Energy remains a crucial issue in South Asia. While some countries have considerable reserves
and potential for producing this resource, those prospects are facing diverse challenges—environmental, political, security, economic and so on. These are becoming more complicated with the absence of necessary connectivity, both in terms of transport and energy. This session explored, growing demand and lesser supply of energy, ways and means of extending various bilateral frameworks to form an integrated regional power grid and regional energy market, need for collective efforts to ensure viable protection from climate change etc.
The fourth session titled “Regional Cooperation for addressing Disaster Risks and Building Climate Resilience” was moderated by Dr. A R Subbiah, Director, RIMES, Bangkok. A presentation was made by Dr. Madhurima Sarkar-Swaisgood, Economic Affairs Officer, UNESCAP. Panelists were Mr. Md. Moyazzem Hossain, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, Bangladesh; Dr. Suman Kumar Karna, Former Project Chief, Post Flood Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Project and DRR Specialist, Nepal; Dr. Arvind Kumar, President, India Water Foundation, India; and Dr. Sufia Khanom, Senior Research Fellow, BIISS, Bangladesh. Issues discussed in this session included harmful impacts
of natural disasters threatening sustainable development, trans-boundary nature of climate change and natural calamities, their impact on agricultural production and food security in South Asia, necessity of adaptation to climate change, regional solutions to mitigate these common challenges and climatic risks; explore the scope of innovative technologies and sustainable ways of developing climate-resilient agricultural systems; examine ways of sharing resources, knowledge and financing mechanisms for sustainable use of natural resources while securing long-term food supply, and highlight opportunities and constraints for South Asian economies in agricultural value chains and regional food markets etc.
The last working session was centred on cooperation among think-tanks for achieving SDGs in South Asia. Dr. Nagesh Kumar, Director, UNESCAP, South and South West Asia Office, New Delhimoderated it. Panelists were Mr. Nazir Kabiri, Executive Director, Biruni Institute, Afghanistan; Dr. Selim Raihan, Executive Director, South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM), Bangladesh; Dr. Posh Raj Pandey, Executive Chairman, AWTEE), Nepal; Dr. Mahfuz Kabir, Research Director, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), Bangladesh; Dr. Ganga Tilakaratna, Research Fellow & Head of Poverty and Social Welfare Policy Research, IPS, Sri Lanka; and Dr. Sabyasachi Saha,
In the Concluding Session, Dr. Mahfuz Kabir, Research Director, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), Bangladesh and Dr. Nagesh Kumar, Director, UNESCAP, South and South West Asia Office, New Delhi extended their sincere thanks and gratitude to the session moderators, panelists and presenters for their ensuing contribution to the policy dialogue. They also expressed their heartiest gratitude to the learned audience for their presence.
Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) in collaboration with the Rotary International District 3281 Bangladesh, organized a commemorative seminar on “International Day of Peace 2019” on 26 November 2019. At the same event, the book titled “Bangladesh in International Peacebuilding: Discourses from Japan and Beyond” was also launched. H.E. Naoki Ito, Ambassador of Japan to Bangladesh graced the occasion as the Special Guest. The seminar was chaired by Air Cdre (Retd.) Ishfaq Ilahi Choudhury, ndc, psc, former president, Rotary Club of Ramna and the book launching was conducted by the Editor, Major General A K M Abdur Rahman, OSP, ndc, psc, Director General, BIISS.
In the opening remarks, Air Cdre (Retd.) Ishfaq Ilahi Choudhury, ndc, psc, former president, Rotary Club of Ramna shared that Rotary is deeply involved in the pursuit of peace throughout the world. Rotarians believe peace is not the absence of violence, it means progress, social amity, good governance, health and education. Rotarians are working in all these sectors throughout the world. They believe peace is a right for every citizen of this world and they are promoting it positively.
After the opening speech, Rtn. M. Khairul Alam, District Governor, RID 3281 Bangladesh made his remarks. Then two presentations were made by Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Md. Mainul Islam, OSP, BGBM, awc, psc, former Chief of General Staff, Bangladesh Army, and Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed, Professor, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka. In the presentation “United Nations Peacekeeping Operations”, Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Md. Mainul Islam gave an overview of the development of the Peacekeeping operation in different phases, the changing nature of conflicts and the shifting roles of Peacekeepers from traditional to multidimensional. He highlighted Bangladesh’s contribution to UN Mission and flagged the need for collective response from all stakeholders to address the complexities of UN Peacekeeping. In the presentation “Bangladesh and World Peace”, Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed reflected on Bangladesh’s journey from “Bottomless Basket” to a developing nation and discussed the ways in which Bangladesh is contributing to world peace at present. The presentations were followed by an open Q/A session.
Following the seminar, the book titled “Bangladesh in International Peacebuilding: Discourses from Japan and Beyond”, was formally launched. The book launching session was conducted by the Editor of the book Major General A K M Abdur Rahman, OSP, ndc, psc, Director General, BIISS.
In his remarks, Major General A K M Abdur Rahman shared that the post-Cold War era was marked by the emergence of various discourses on peacebuilding. This shift has also been reflected in the UN peace operations and manifested by taking in a more comprehensive approach in state-building activities. Over the past few decades, the world has been witnessing a number of great changes in world politics. The war on terror following the event of 9/11, the rise of intra-state conflicts, increasing salience of human rights concept took the centre stage in the discussion on peace and conflict. However, the rise of populism, inequality and violent extremism, the influx of refugees from the global south to the north has added complexities to peace and stability. Therefore, peace has been a key goal of the new sustainable development agenda. These changes closely echo Bangladesh’s commitment to global peace and tenets of foreign policy. In this backdrop, BIISS organized an international conference in collaboration with the Japan Foundation in August 2018. The conference was titled “Bangladesh in International Peacebuilding: Experience from Japan” with a view to exchanging ideas and sharing experiences of Japan in this field, revisiting Bangladesh’s contribution to global peace, and foreseeing the future challenges. It provided an excellent opportunity to enrich Bangladesh’s understanding and contribute to the current academic discourse on peacebuilding. The book Bangladesh in International Peacebuilding: Discourses from Japan and Beyond is a compilation of the revised papers presented at the aforementioned conference.
At this stage, Major General A K M Abdur Rahman presented a brief overview of the chapters in the book and invited three other contributors Dr. Rashed Uz Zaman, Professor, Department of International Relations, Dhaka University; Mr. Md Monirul Islam, Additional Police Commissioner and Chief of Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC), Dhaka Metropolitan Police; and, Professor Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed, Department of International Relations, Dhaka University to deliver their thoughts on the book. Following the remarks from authors, the Special Guest, H.E. Naoki Ito, Ambassador of Japan to Bangladesh, delivered his valuable address. Rtn Alauddin Chowdhury, President, Rotary Club of Ramna, wrapped the session up with a vote of thanks.
Welcome address by Major General A K M Abdur Rahman, ndc, psc, Director General, BIISS at the Global Dhaka Dialogue 2019
Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
Hon’ble Chief Guest, Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
Hon’ble Ministers, Members of Parliament, Other Dignitaries from home and abroad
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
Assalamu Alaikum and Good Morning
At the outset of this august gathering, may I express my deepest respect to the architect of independent Bangladesh and the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. May I also pay my profound homage to the martyrs of our great liberation war who, on the call of our Father of the Nation, gave their life for the independence of Bangladesh.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is indeed a great pleasure to welcome you all to the ‘Dhaka Global Dialogue 2019’ which is co-hosted by Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) and Observer Research Foundation (ORF) of India. We are deeply honoured and privileged that Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina, the Hon’ble Prime Minister of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh is present here today as the Chief Guest. We express our heart-felt thanks and gratitude to the Hon’ble Prime Minister for her gracious presence amongst us, and giving us consent and guidance in organising this Dialogue.
Bangladesh has performed phenomenally in economic development. In the last 10 years, the country has unlocked immense socio-economic development, business potential, built conducive infrastructure to facilitate growth, and harnessed the power of ICT to propel the country to the next phase of development. For several consecutive years, the country has maintained over seven per cent growth. According to Asian Development Bank, in 2019, Bangladesh exhibited the fastest growth among the Asia-Pacific economies. It forecasted that in the fiscal year 2019-2020, Bangladesh’s economy will grow at 8 per cent, which would be the highest in Asia. Bangladesh is now a model of how a populous country can transform its population into human resources by taking advantage of technology in combination with far-sighted policies. All this was possible due to the prudent leadership of our Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Excellencies and Distinguished Audience,
This rapid growth and development requires greater engagement with the world. Bangladesh’s progress has been recognised as an economic miracle that placed it ahead of many other emerging economies. The country is expected to be an upper middle-income country by 2021 and as a developed country by 2041. This internal change needs to be commensurate with the country’s external outreach. Therefore, it is imperative to engage more deeply at the regional and global level. Because, Bangladesh has a lot to contribute in terms of partnership and sharing experiences.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The future of Bangladesh is tied closely with its greater neighbourhood. Therefore, the future of the Indo-Pacific region which happens to be the confluence of two great oceans, lies in conceiving conducive regional architectures that are broad-based and inclusive. The ‘Dhaka Global Dialogue’ will provide an excellent opportunity to discuss and debate the core developmental issues in the Asian century where all nations can gain from partnership and collaboration.
Bangladesh was born with a great vision under the leadership of our Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He had a dream to develop Bangladesh as “the Switzerland of the East”. After long and challenging trajectories, the Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took the helm of the country to materialise that vision of Banghabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Her strong and able leadership is transforming Bangladesh’s outlook and global stature.
Before I conclude, may I very humbly say a few words to the Hon’ble Prime Minister. Hon’ble Prime Minister, you are the architect of 21st century Bangladesh. You have given us the vision to be a developed country. We assure you that we all are ready to march behind you for making Bangladesh a happy, prosperous and developed country.
Thank you Hon’ble Prime Minister and thank you ladies and gentlemen.
Inaugural Keynote of Hon’ble Prime Minister Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina at the Global Dhaka Dialogue 2019
Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
Respected guests from home and abroad,
Ladies and gentlemen.
Assalamu Alaikumand and a very Good Morning.
I welcome you all at the inaugural ceremony of the ‘Dhaka Global Dialogue-2019’, organized by Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) and India’s Observer Research Foundation (ORF). I hope, this Dialogue would substantially contribute to the socio-economic development and in maintaining security of the countries in Asia and the Pacific region.
At the very outset, I pay my deep homage to the greatest Bangalee of all times, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. I also recall the four martyred national leaders, 3 million martyrs of the Liberation War, and 2 lakh mothers and sisters who sacrificed their modesty for the cause of independence. My greetings go to the heroic freedom fighters.
The Father of the Nation not only dreamt of a prosperous ‘Sonar Bangla’ (Golden Bengal), he called upon everyone to come forward to build a world free from poverty, hunger and conflict, appearing in the United Nations in 1974. He emphasized on global peace and security for the sake of human welfare.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Nowadays, Bangladesh is very often being termed as a ‘Miracle of Development’ in the international arena. Today Bangladesh is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. According to the World Bank, Bangladesh stands second in Asia and fifth in the world among the fastest growing economies. This year economy of Bangladesh has exceeded 300 billion dollar mark. According to IMF, Bangladesh has 30th largest GDP in the world in terms of PPP.
Bangladesh has already achieved the recognition of the status of a ‘Developing Country’, graduating from LDC status. We have undertaken ‘Vision 2021’ and ‘Vision 2041’ to be a ‘Middle Income Country’ by 2021 and a ‘Developed-Prosperous Nation’ by 2041. Therefore, we have concentrated, as development strategy, on poverty alleviation, sustainable growth, environmental preservation and human resources development.
After achieving most of the MDGs we have undertaken firm steps to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The rate of poverty has been reduced to 21% in 2018 from 41.5% in 2006. Free books are being distributed among students up to secondary level and different stipends are being provided to 2 crore 3 lacs students. Recently a project of providing lunch to 2 lac students has been undertaken. 18,000 community clinics and union health centers has been established to ensure healthcare for all.
Lots of projects such as ‘Amar Gram, Amar Sohor’, ‘Amar Bari, Amar Khamar’, ‘Asrayan Prokalpo’ etc. are being implemented, apart from providing different allowances to marginalized and non-secured portion of the society for ensuring inclusive development.
93% people of Bangladesh are having electricity coverage. Currently, the number of Internet users is over 90 million. 5800 digital centers have been set up. The facility of expansion of broadcasting to remote areas is reached by ‘Bangabandhu Sattellite-1’
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Bangladesh has been one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change although the country has no significant role for it. As a result, floods, cyclones, droughts and other natural disasters can threaten people's lives and livelihoods. We have been implementing some adaptation and mitigation programs with our own finance. We have adopted the ‘Delta Plan-2100’ as a part of the long term planning. The aim of this plan is to ensure sustainable development, including food security, availability of drinking water, and disaster management through proper and appropriate utilization of water resources.
Geographically Bangladesh is a country ashore of the Bay of Bengal, and as such of the Indian Ocean. This Ocean has huge significance for various reasons. Indian Ocean consists of a number of vital maritime routes, which contribute significantly to the largest economies of Asia. Half of the global container shipment and 80% of global fuel trade pass through the Indian Ocean. 16.8% of the global reserve of oil and 27. 9% of natural gas is situated in this Ocean. 28% of the total fisheries are collected from Indian Ocean. Indian Ocean, being the source of immense resources and the part of strategically important seaways, is thus considered very important. The present century is being considered as the ‘Century of Asia’ in term of socio-economic development and prosperity. As a result, peace and harmony must be maintained for the prosperity of the region.
Poverty is our main enemy. Therefore, the main goal of all our activities should be directed to eradicate people's poverty and ensure their comfortable lives.
As an offshore country, the sea plays an extremely important role in Bangladesh’s economy, and for many reasons Bangladesh puts high priority on the Indian Ocean as well as on Bay of Bengal.
Firstly, 90% of total external trade of Bangladesh is conducted through maritime routes. The security and stability of these maritime routes is very important for the economic stability of Bangladesh.
Secondly, after the reconciliation of maritime boundaries with Myanmar in 2012 and with India in 2014, Bangladesh’s absolute sovereignty has been established over an area of 1,18,813 square km in the Bay of Bengal. This huge maritime area, including 200 nautical miles, can be a source of huge resources for Bangladesh. The utilization of these resources for the economic development of the country largely depends on the stability of this region.
Thirdly, apart from natural gas, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean contain huge amount of fisheries as well as mineral and other resources. Through proper sustainable planning and with collective and sincere efforts of all, these resources can be utilized for the sustainable development of the countries of this region. A study shows that the tentative amount of resources that can be collected from the maritime area of Bangladesh, is almost equal to the tentative amount of resources Bangladesh produces in its land.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Not only Bangladesh, there are total 40 developing countries surrounding the Indian Ocean, where lives 35 per cent of the global population. There are six countries surrounding the Bay of Bengal, and few more countries like Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives, Malaysia and Singapore have important impact of the Bay on their economies despite not being at the coast.
The economies of the countries ashore of or dependent on the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, and the lives of their peoples, are hugely influenced by the ocean and the sea. The resources, environment, ecology and security of the ocean and the sea directly affect the economy and the security of these nations. Therefore, peace and stability in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal is essential for the economic progress and security of these countries.
In terms of regional security, I would like to say that more than 1.1 million Rohingya citizens of Myanmar fled to Bangladesh in the face of persecution and they are a threat to the security not only for Bangladesh but also for the region. I urge the world community to take appropriate action realizing the gravity of the threat.
‘Friendship to all, malice to none’, the dictum inculcated by Bangabandhu, is indeed the main principle of Bangladesh’s foreign policy. Also in the area of maritime boundary and maritime economy, Bangladesh believes that strong competition among each other or ‘zero-sum game’ will not be helpful in flourishing the ‘Blue Economy’ of the Bay of Bengal or the Indian Ocean, rather would act as a stumbling block in ensuring security and stability in this region. I also believe that, in order to extract maritime resources sustainably as well as for the durable development of the ‘Blue Economy’, the relations between coastal countries need to be cooperative, amicable, dignified and equitable.
Bangladesh always exerts strong efforts to enhance peaceful and cooperative relations in the region of the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. Bangladesh has resolved its disputes on maritime boundaries in a peaceful manner with its two neighbours, India and Myanmar. Such cooperative approach and efforts of us in resolving crises can be a learning lesson for other regions.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Different threats like piracy, armed robbery, terrorists attacks in coastal and maritime areas, human trafficking, arm and drug smuggling, are existent in Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal region. These unconventional risks are needed to be addressed collectively by all.
Excessive extraction of marine resources, including fisheries, as well as various pollutions is jeopardizing the maritime environment. Not only the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, but all oceans and seas in the globe are now suffering from these dual crises. Every year, 8 million tons of plastic wastes are being gathered in the oceans and seas in the world. Pollution and excessive extraction of marine resources are destroying the ecologies in the sea, damaging the overall environment of the world. As a result, threats are creating for human health and livelihood. To resolve these crises is not possible by a single country.
In order to resolve all these problems, I call upon all concerned countries to strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation as well as partnerships. Bangladesh believes that such cooperation is needed to be inclusive for all and with the aim of everyone’s development and security.
Bangladesh, due to its geographical location, is acting as a bridge between South Asia and South-East Asia. In the same manner, ‘Dhaka Global Dialogue’ will act as a platform for the countries in this region on the way of achieving environmentally sustainable peace and prosperity. I believe that the recommendations emerging from this Dialogue would be helpful in enhancing relations, strengthening collaboration, and maintaining peace and stability among the neighbours of this region. Nations outside this region would also learn and be benefitted from this success, as I believe.
I expect regular holding of ‘Dhaka Dialogue’ and declare the ‘Dhaka Global Dialogue-2019’ open. Thank you all.
Joi Bangla, Joi Bangabandhu
May Bangladesh Live Forever.
Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) organised a lecture in its Eminent Persons Lecture Series (EPLS) titled “Commemorating the Silver Jubilee of Diplomatic Relations between South Africa and Bangladesh”, on 04 September 2019. His Excellency Ambassador Dr. Anil Sooklal, Deputy Director General, Asia and Middle East, Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), South Africa, graced the occasion as the guest speaker. Major General AKM Abdur Rahman, ndc, psc, Director General, BIISS commenced the session with his address of welcome. Mr. Md. Shahidul Haque, Foreign Secretary, Government of Bangladesh, chaired and concluded the session.
General Rahman began with speaking about the silver jubilee celebration of Bangladesh-South Africa diplomatic ties. The countries are deeply appreciative of each other’s ideals of freedom struggle and hold sincere respect for their two greatest leaders: Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Nelson Mandela. He gratefully referred to President Mandela’s visit to Bangladesh in March, 1997. The focal points in Bangladesh-South Africa bilateral relations are to enhance these bonds through solidarity, friendship, and promote south-south cooperation for implementing the 2030 Agenda. Both countries are members of some common organizations, e.g., Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), the Commonwealth, Non-aligned Movement (NAM) etc. South Africa is a member of the BRICS group. Bangladesh has huge investment opportunities in diverse sectors including readymade garments, pharmaceuticals, fisheries, leather products, tourism etc, as it is moving fast towards becoming a developed country by 2041. Here, General Rahman emphasized on working more closely together in identified priority areas that will benefit both countries, especially in changing global and regional dynamics. He concluded by stressing greater cooperation in cricket as Bangladesh’s cricket coaches were mostly South African.
Ambassador Dr. Anil Sooklal, conveyed South Africa’s gratitude to Bangladesh and the Bangladeshi people for contributing to South Africa’s fight for freedom, liberation and democracy. He recalled President Mandela’s visit to Bangladesh with pride, paid homage to the dynamic and visionary leadership of Mandela and Bangabandhu. Bangladesh and South Africa have remarkable prospects given the close relation they enjoy and cooperation they have in different sectors, e.g., trade and investment, sports, wildlife management etc. On racial tensions in his own country, he said the legacy of apartheid would need more time to go away. He recognized Bangladesh’s contribution as one of the largest troop and police contributors to United Nations peacekeeping operations, and the current participation in six missions in Africa. He placed focus on the Indo-Pacific region for bolstering cooperation among members amid the changing global economic, security and geopolitical scenarios.
Dr. Sooklal also spoke on the worldwide economic slump and ensuing problems, rise and spread of racial supremacist/ jingoistic movements in several countries, trade protectionism, withdrawal by the US from many international fora and trade war with China and its impacts, which were gravely endangering the present-day multilateralism-based global structure. He concluded the speech by re-emphasizing his country’s commitment to further deepening the bonds of friendship that exist with Bangladesh.
Mr. Md. Shahidul Haque, Foreign Secretary, Bangladesh, in his closing remarks, thanked the ambassador for mentioning South Africa as a source of inspiration during Bangladesh’s freedom struggle in 1971. He also talked about the visit of President Mandela to Bangladesh and his own involvement during that event. Bangladesh and South Africa are working closely in various organizations, but Bangladesh’s links with Africa are rather very lean; when this realized some years ago, Bangladesh initiated to increase its presence in Africa. The goal was not only to raise diplomatic or business visits but also connecting people and setting up mission there. Consequently, two missions were set up this year. He further said that in the past, a major war was followed by restructuring of the global order but at present, economic and geopolitical changes were occurring even in the absence of any major war, putting multilateralism at stake from diverse perspectives. Thus, developing countries like Bangladesh and South Africa must keep up their efforts for a fair and justice based society where people could get their equitable share of wealth. On redistribution of wealth, he said Bangladesh attained impressive economic growth in last 10 years but that also brought social inequalities. Distribution of wealth in an economy has always been a debated issu and could easily be resolved. But the question was how far it could be brought to a certain level where people would not be hurt. He said Bangladesh was deepening and widening its relations with not only South Africa but the whole African continent. As some of Bangladesh’s traditional partners were slowing down in terms of their economic and political activities, there would be a need to be together for creating a better world for countries in these two regions. He concluded by thanking H.E. Sotyu for her courage for coming out and saying things that had to be said.
During the BIMSTEC National Security Adviser/Chiefs first meeting held in New Delhi, India on 21 March 2017, decision was taken to commence a Track 1.5 BIMSTEC Security Dialogue Forum. Accordingly, the first meeting of Track 1.5 BIMSTEC Security Dialogue Forum was organized at IDSA, New Delhi, India on 22 September 2017. In continuation of the process, the second meeting of Track 1.5 BIMSTEC Security Dialogue Forum has been organized by Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) on 30-31 July 2019 at BIISS auditorium.
Major General Tarique Ahmed Siddique, rcds, psc (retd), Security Affairs Adviser to the Hon’ble Prime Minister, Govt. of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, graced the session as the Chief Guest. Major General A K M Abdur Rahman, ndc, psc, Director General, BIISS, Chaired the Inaugural Session and delivered the welcome address. Ambassador M Shahidul Islam, Secretary General of BIMSTEC delivered the introductory remarks. Acting Foreign Secretary Mr. Karmrul Ahsan also delivered his remarks in the Inaugural Session.
The hon’ble Chief Guest Major General Tarique Ahmed Siddique, rcds, psc (retd), noted that security threats have changed in recent times and globalization has created new challenges for security personnel. He underlined that it is not possible to achieve absolute security, but the goal of BIMSTEC is to minimize the security concerns. He noted that Bangladesh Prime Minister during the Goa Summit held in 2016, suggested the inclusion of security issues in BIMSTEC. He added that there are a number of common security concerns which the BIMSTEC countries share among themselves are the driving force for cooperation. He mentioned that ‘cooperative security’ is the ideal security concept, which reflects common interests and shared risk. He also mentioned about ‘hybrid threat’ with regard to forcibly displaced person of Myanmar. He stressed on the importance of effective measures to be taken on forced migration, terming the Rohingya problem as ‘Tsunami’ and the vicious cycle which will affect all of us.
Major General A K M Abdur Rahman, ndc, psc, Director General, BIISS, remarked that, as a region, BIMSTEC hosts a diverse range of complex non-traditional security threats including trafficking of narcotics, weapons and people, forced displacement, insurgencies and terrorism, natural disasters, money laundering and financial fraud and great power rivalry in the Pacific and Indian Ocean.
Ambassador M Shahidul Islam, Secretary General of BIMSTEC, noted that today counterterrorism and combating transnational crimes have become the most active sectors of cooperation under BIMSTEC framework with frequent meetings and well-developed institutional mechanism. Established in 2014, the joint working group on counterterrorism and transnational crimes and its 6 sub-groups are working to enhance regional cooperation on diverse subjects including intelligence sharing, financing of terrorism, legal and law enforcing issues, trafficking in illicit drugs, human trafficking and countering radicalization.
Acting Foreign Secretary Mr. Kamrul Ahsan said that regional cooperation is one of the top priorities of Bangladesh’s foreign policy of the government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. He highlighted that there are multiple challenges- traditional and non-traditional threats toward mutual cooperation. Hence collective solutions should be sought.
There were four working sessions: working session I on Threat of Terrorism and Violent Extremism, and Responses by BIMSTEC Countries; working session II on Maritime Security (Capacity Building, Maritime Connectivity, etc.); working session III on Non-Traditional Security Threats with Emphasis on Cyber Security and Transnational Crimes (Illicit Trade and Trafficking in Arms, Narcotics Drugs Smuggling, Human Trafficking, etc.); and working session IV on Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR). Nineteen foreign delegates from the BIMSTEC countries and designated local experts participated during the sessions of the two-day “Second Meeting of the Track 1.5 BIMSTEC Security Dialogue Forum”.
Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) organized a seminar on Bangladesh – India Cooperation in the Changing Regional and Global Context on 03 July 2019 at BIISS auditorium. H.E. Professor Dr. Gowher Rizvi, Adviser to the Hon’ble Prime Minister on International Affairs was present as the Chief Guest. Ambassador Munshi Faiz Ahmad chaired the inaugural session. Major General A K M Abdur Rahman, ndc, psc, Director General, BIISS, and Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, Director General, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) delivered the introductory remarks.
Chief Guest of the Seminar Professor Dr. Gowher Rizvi, Adviser to the Hon’ble Prime Minister on International Affairs, mentioned that Bangladesh and India have witnessed remarkable progress in cooperation over the last decade in different areas like connectivity and infrastructure development, energy and security cooperation, and people-to-people contact. He expressed that Bangladesh is looking forward to jointly celebrating more success stories of collective endeavours between India and Bangladesh in the coming days. He said that even though the world is going through a turbulent phase, there is hope for better tomorrow because the world is turning from a unipolar world order to a multipolar one. In this reality, Bangladesh wants to join Indo-pacific initiative, but it also cannot ignore the BRI. He noted that Bangladesh did not expect India to go beyond its own national interest to support the Rohingya issue, though he warned that if the issue is not handled properly, it can also pose serious security threat, and destabilize the whole region.
Major General A K M Abdur Rahman, DG, BIISS highlighted on the long-standing relationship between Bangladesh and India. He focused on the importance of the bilateral relations between the two counties to explore every opportunity to work together to guarantee all potential enhancements of this relations for the sake of mutual progress and prosperity. He added that Bangladesh-India relations have come a long way in developing a mature relationship based on mutual necessities and complementarities. The landmark visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to New Delhi ushered a new era in our bilateral relations to forge closer ties of goodwill. Successive initiatives and achievements since then have driven our relationships into new heights. Cooperation has increased in the areas of energy in terms of electricity import from India, which can be a stepping stone for the regional electricity grid in South Asia.
Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, DG, IDSA mentioned about the warm relationship between Bangladesh – India. Both countries are working to strengthen the scope for connectivity, trade and economic cooperation, and enhancing security cooperation. He stated that protectionism is not only for ensuring state’s national interest, rather it is also essential for regional trade arrangements. He added that greater intraregional trade and investment flow is possible as it is identified that Bangladesh needs India’s FDI participation in 13 areas. Besides, Bangladesh and India have made progress in airspace and coastal shipping connectivity as well. He also opined that bilateral impediments in SAARC can be overcomed with trust and confidence building measures. His speech reflected the neighbourhood first policy of India which believes in cooperative relation within a peaceful territory.
Ambassador Munshi Faiz Ahmad, Chair of the Inaugural Session, noted that in the last five years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina held 10 meetings, jointly inaugurated 19 projects and signed over 90 bilateral agreements in different sectors. And as one of the major development partners, India has extended 3 lines of credits to Bangladesh in the last 7 years amounting US $ 8 billion. In the last five years, total trade between the two countries has grown by more than 17 percent. In future, Bangladesh is eagerly looking forward to an early conclusion of the Teesta Agreement, as it will open up newer opportunities for cooperation.
In two sessions of the Seminar eight presentations were made in four different themes. Two presentations were made in theme 1: “Trade, Investment and Economic Cooperation” while the presenters were Dr. Mahfuz Kabir, Research Director, BIISS and Mr. Rajorshi Roy, Research Analyst, IDSA. Theme 2 was “Bangladesh-India Maritime Cooperation” while the presenters were Dr. Smruti S Pattnaik, Research Fellow, IDSA and Mr. ASM Tarek Hasan Semul, Research Fellow, BIISS. The third theme was “Enhancing Security Cooperation between Bangladesh and India” and the presenters were Dr. Smruti S Patanaik, Research Fellow, IDSA and Mr. M Ashique Rahman, Research Fellow, BIISS. Theme of the fourth session was “Managing Water Resources” while the presenters were Dr. Sufia Khanom, Senior Research Fellow, BIISS and Dr. Ashok Behuria, Senior Fellow, IDSA.
The seminar included two lively open discussion sessions where senior officials from different ministries of Bangladesh, representatives from different foreign missions, business personalities, media, academia, researchers, and teachers from various universities participated and expressed their valuable opinions and observations on the subject. They expected a strongly bonded relationship between Bangladesh and India in the field of development and mutual cooperation.
Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) organised a public lecture on “Bangladesh and United Kingdom Relations in the context of UK’s exit from the European Union” on 24 April 2019 at BIISS auditorium. H E Sir Simon McDonald, Parmanent Under Secretary of British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) was present as the Guest Speaker. Major General A K M Abdur Rahman, ndc, psc, Director General, BIISS, delivered the Welcome Address.
In his address, Major General A K M Abdur Rahman highlighted on the long standing relationship between Bangladesh and United Kingdom. He mentioned that the UK, for long, has been one of the largest development partners of Bangladesh and It also remains the country’s largest foreign investor. In his speech, H E Sir Simon McDonald mentioned that the United Kingdom is looking for strengthened relations with the Commonwealth countries and for sharing opportunities with Bangladesh. He added that the UK is investing in different sectors of Bangladesh including retail, banking, energy, infrastructure, consultancy and education
The programme included a lively open discussion where Senior officials from different ministries of Bangladesh, representatives from different foreign missions, business personalities, media, academia, researchers, teachers from various universities participated and expressed their valuable opinions and observations on the subject. They expected a strongly bonded relationship between Bangladesh and UK in the field of development and mutual cooperation.
Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) organized a Seminar on “Importance and Challenges of Protecting Heritage of Small Ethnic Groups in Promoting National Culture” on 18 April 2019 at BIISS Auditorium in Dhaka. Mr. K M Khalid, MP, honourable State Minister, Ministry of Cultural Affairs was the Chief Guest of the Seminar. Professor Dr. Syed Anwar Husain, Bangabandhu Chair, Bangladesh University of Professionals delivered the keynote presentation. Mr. Naba Bikram Kishore Tripura, ndc, Chairman, Chattogram Hill Tracts Development Board; Professor Dr. Pradanendu Bikash Chakma, Vice-Chancellor, Rangamati Science and Technology University; Md. Mesbahul Islam, Acting Secretary, Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs and Brig Gen Khandaker Md Shahidul Emran, afwc, psc, Region Commandar, Bandarban Region were present as the panel discussants. Major General A K M Abdur Rahman, ndc, psc, Director General, BIISS chaired the seminar and delivered the address of welcome.
Professor Dr. Syed Anwar Husain explored different important aspects of ethnic groups’ culture that include language, tradition, festivals etc. He also highlighted on how these groups are contributing to enrich the cultural diversity of Bangladesh through diverse social customs and cultures. He discussed the opportunities of cultural exchange and cooperation for their development. He added that the development of ethnic culture could bring unity in diversity which ultimately could promote and strengthen national solidarity.
In his welcome address, Major General A K M Abdur Rahman, ndc, psc, Director General, BIISS, noted that the active participation of small ethnic groups with their creative thoughts, perception and knowledge is important for the successful implementation of vision 2021. He also added that understanding cultural diversity would help Bangladesh to prevent racial and ethnic divisions. In his remarks as the Chief Guest, K M Khalid, MP said that this seminar would contribute in strengthening communal harmony between the Bengali people and people of different small ethnic groups in Bangladesh through cultural exchange and co-operation. He also said that current government has been working to realize CHT Peace Accord and has taken all kinds of initiative for promoting the cultures of ethnic minorities.
Representatives of different small ethnic groups in Bangladesh, scholars, academia, policy makers, former and current government officials, former ambassadors, military officials, students, representatives from media were present in the seminar. They highlighted and deliberated on various aspects of promoting cultural diversity of different small ethnic groups in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) and Embassy of Japan in Bangladesh jointly organised a lecture on “Bangladesh-Japan Development Cooperation for Enhanced Connectivity” on 21 March 2019 at BIISS auditorium. Professor Naohiro Kitano, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Waseda University & Visiting Fellow, JICA Research Institute was present as the Guest Speaker. Mr. Takeshi Ito, Minister, Embassy of Japan was also present in the programme. Major General A K M Abdur Rahman, ndc, psc, Director General, BIISS, delivered the Welcome Address.
In his speech, Major General A K M Abdur Rahman highlighted on the long standing relationship between Bangladesh and Japan which is based on shared values of peace and prosperity. In his speech, Professor Naohiro Kitano menti