Dr Mahfuz Kabir, Research Director, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), participated in the international conference on “Belt and Road for development and prosperity of South Asia” in Kathmandu, Nepal, on 20-21 June 2019
Dr Mahfuz Kabir, Research Director, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), participated in the international conference on “Belt and Road for development and prosperity of South Asia”. The conference was organized by Nepal China Friendship Forum (NCFF) and was held at Hotel Yak & Yeti, Kathmandu, Nepal, on 20-21 June 2019.
The main objective of the conference was to bring together policy makers, experts, researchers, private sector and other relevant stakeholders to discuss dynamics of BRI to identify the opportunities it may bring to Nepal and South Asian countries for their economic development. Specifically, it aimed to share country-specific BRI experiences from select South Asian and ASEAN countries; discuss ways for leveraging BRI for regional development in South Asia; and identify workable modalities for implementation of BRI projects in SAARC Countries.
The Chief Guest of the conference was Hon’ble Mr. Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal. Renowned scholars of different countries from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Malaysia, Philippines, Laos and China participated in the programme. They include Dr. Kalyan Raj Sharma, President, NCFF; Mr. Hasanul Haq Inu, MP, H.E. Ms. Hou Yanqi, Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to Nepal; Dr. Shankar Prasad Sharma, former Vice-chairman, National Planning Commission of Nepal and former Ambassador of Nepal to the USA; Prof. Atiur Rahman, Chairman, Unnayan Shamannay, Dhaka and former Governor of the Central Bank of Bangladesh; Mr. M. K. Bhadrakumar, former Diplomat, and Analyst, India; Dr. Surya Raj Acharya, Spokesperson, Sajha Bibeksheel Party, Nepal; Prof. Zhang Jiadong, Director, Centre for South Asian Studies, Fudan University, China; Mr. Kanak Mani Dixit, Founding Editor, Himal Southasian, Nepal; Mr. Gyan Chandra Acharya, former Foreign Secretary of Nepal and former United Nations Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States; Ms. Darlene V. Estrada, Foreign Affairs Research Specialist, Center of International Relations and Strategic Studies, Foreign Service Institute, Philippines; Dr. Nur Shahadah Jamil, Research Associate, East Asian International Relations (EAIR) Caucus, Malaysia; Mr. Vanxay Sayavong, Chief of Macroeconomic Monitoring and Forecasting Division, Centre for Macroeconomic Policy and Economic Restructuring (CMER), National Institute for Economic Research (NIER), Laos; Dr. Posh Raj Pandey, Chairman, South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE), Nepal; Prof. Di Fangyao, Director, Institute of South Asian Studies, Xizang Minzu University, Tibet Autonomous Region, China; Dr. Hina Aslam, Head of China Study Centre, Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Pakistan; Mr. Madhu Kumar Marasini, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Industry, Commerce & Supplies (MoICS), Government of Nepal; Dr. Wang Yuzhu, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Regional Cooperation Studies, National Institute of International Strategy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing; Mr. Yang Yabo, Associate Professor, South Asia Institute, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Tibet Autonomous Region, China; Prof. Mohammed Abu Eusuf, Professor & former Chair, Department of Development Studies, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh; and Dr. Krishna Prasad Oli, Member, National Planning Commission of Nepal.
Dr Kabir made a presentation titled “BRI, Trade and Connectivity: Bangladesh Perspective” on 21 June 2019. He highlighted that even though formally announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 with two-prong “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road”, BRI is still at its formative stage. Subsequently became a vital foreign policy for China in many aspects, mainly with the intention of promoting economic cooperation amongst countries along the “Belt” &“Road” routes. South Asian countries have substantial trade volume with China. In 2018 the value of Bangladesh’s imports from China was US$17.76 billion while the value of exports was around US$1 billion. Currently it is also the biggest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Bangladesh (US$1.03 billion in 2018) while the main areas of investment are power (81 per cent), financial sector (11 per cent) and textiles-clothing (4 per cent). Chinese companies are involved in establishing a number of mega infrastructures in the country, which include Padma Bridge and widening of national highways. Currently a Chinese Economic and Industrial Zone (CEIZ) is being established at Anwara, Chattogram while the country has proposed establishing another special economic zone (SEZ) for its industries on the southern bank of the Karnaphuli in Chattogram. Given the dynamics of economic growth and development in Bangladesh and other countries in South Asia, it is imperative to remove investment and trade barriers with China. Bangladesh-China trade is conducted mainly through Chittagong sea port while Bangladesh is left out of maritime connectivity in the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Land connectivity, viz. proposed Kunming to Kolkata route (K2K), can substantially reduce time to source raw materials, intermediate goods and capital machinery. Other South Asian countries can also view BRI to ease barriers of trade connectivity through establishing a transnational zone of commercial engagements enabled by hard and soft connectivity infrastructures for substantially increasing economic welfare of the region.
Dr Mahfuz Kabir, Research Director, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), participated in the international conference on “Synergising India Bangladesh Relations for a Mutually Beneficial Future” in Kolkata, India, on 7-9 June 2019
Dr Mahfuz Kabir, Research Director, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies, participated in the international conference on “Synergising India Bangladesh Relations for a Mutually Beneficial Future”. The conference was organized jointly by Antar Rashtriya Sahayog Parishad (ARSP)/the Indian Council for International Co-operation, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies (MAKAIAS), and Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR); Kolkata, India, on 7-9 June 2019.
The conference aimed to address the following questions: (i) Can shared culture and history contribute to enduring ties? (ii) What are the avenues of strengthening trade and business ties? (iii) To what extent Bangladesh is a factor in the development of Northeast? (iv) What are the common challenges the two countries face and how to meet those challenges? (v) How to implement an effective border management mechanism? (vi) What are the opportunities for greater cooperation in the maritime domain in terms of building synergy for maritime cooperation? (vii) What potential does the blue economy have for the two countries? (viii) What are the prospects of coastal shipping and exploring maritime trade? (ix) What will be the future of connectivity projects? and (x) How to optimize energy cooperation?
The Chief Guest of the conference was Shri Keshari Nath Tripathi, the Governor of West Bengal, India. Renowned scholars of different countries participated in the programme. They include Ambassador (Ret’d) Virendra Gupta (President, ARSP); Professor Mohit Roy; Dr Subhadeep Bhattacharya; Professor Saroj Mohanty; Dr Rajiv Nayan and Dr Smruti Pattanaik (IDSA); Mr Pritam Ranjan Bose; Dr Himanshu Bose; Dr Uttam Kumar Sinha; Professor Bimal Shankar Nanda, Dr Markandey Rai (Chairman of the Committee of International Relations, ARSP); Sham Parande (Secretary General, ARSP); and Professor Dr Mohammad Selim (Chairman of Department of History at Jagannath University); Air Commodore (Ret’d) Ishfaq Ilahi Choudhury (University of Asia Pacific); and Dr Bushra Nishat (International Water Association) from Bangladesh.
Dr Kabir made a presentation titled “Promoting Bangladesh-India Trade: Bangladesh Perspective” on 08 June 2019. He highlighted that for Bangladesh, India is the third largest trade partner and the second largest source of import. Bangladesh and India specialize and export dissimilar products. Thus, the two countries should be able to expand trade between them in a complementary manner. While tariffs have been reduced to zero across all the major products of Bangladesh, various NTBs act as constraints to export expansion. Indian investment is likely to be one of the major drivers of Bangladesh’s overall exports to India. He suggested that a high-level committee should be formed to look into the NTM and NTB issues case-by-case basis and to develop guidelines for dealing with them. Cooperation between Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) should be strengthened. Finally, he suggested that India’s role would be important to achieve ‘Vision 2021’, addressing uncertainties in trade and investment after Bangladesh’s graduation from LDCs; achieve SDGs together through partnership in learning from each other; and the country needs support from India to achieve ‘Vision 2041’ as well as a big economy.
Participation of Dr. Shaheen Afroze in Raisina Dialogue, 8-10 January 2019, New Delhi
Dr. Shaheen Afroze, Research Director, BIISS participated as a delegate in the Raisina Dialogue 2019, India’s flagship conference on geopolitics and geoeconomics in New Delhi from January 8-January 10 jointly organized by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) and the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. The theme of this dialogue was “A World Reorder: New Geometries, Fluid Partnerships, Uncertain Outcomes.”
The three days of deliberation at the Raisina Dialogue 2019 was based on five pillars: Political Histories vs. Power Geographies; Globalization and Anti-Globalization; Trade, Tech, and Turbulence; All for One: State, Enterprise, and the Well-Being of the Individual; Engineering a New Ethic in 3-D; and, iDecide: Leading by Impulse or Leadership by Institution.
The Dialogue was inaugurated by Ms. Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway and Mr. Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India. There were 1,500 participants including 600 delegates and speakers from over 92 countries. Apart from Panel Discussion, there were Lunch and Dinner Conversations as well as Ministerial Addresses. In the Ministerial Address sessions, the Foreign Ministers of India, Nepal, Mongolia, Iran, Australia and Spain spoke.
Dr. Shaheen Afroze, Research Director, BIISS participated in the 11th South Asia Conference on Non-traditional Security Challenges in South Asia: Agenda for Cooperation organized by IDSA from 18th December to 19th December 2018 in Delhi, India.
Dr. Shaheen Afroze, Research Director, BIISS participated in the 11th South Asia Conference on Non-traditional Security Challenges in South Asia: Agenda for Cooperation organized by Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) from 18th December to 19th December 2018 in Delhi, India. The main objective of the conference was to identify and deliberate on various challenges the region is confronted with and to identify mechanisms to meet such challenges. The conference was participated by a cross section of policy makers, academics, members of civil society and professionals from all countries of South Asian region to provide a platform for shared reflection on issues of common interests. Dr. Afroze presented a paper on “Prospects of Renewable Energy Cooperation in South Asia”. In her paper she argued that countries all over the world are increasingly focusing on renewable energy sources like solar, hydro power, wind, biogas, geothermal and ocean energy. Conventional energy in South Asia has reached its limits. Countries such as Sri Lanka and Maldives lack in conventional energy sources of their own while others such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are rapidly running out of their indigenous sources, thus increasing the region’s reliance on energy imports. She mentioned that two key features make South Asia also a potential area for renewable energy cooperation. First, in South Asia, there are countries which already have excess energy potential. For example, Bhutan has hydropower potential of about 30000MW while the country requires 400-800MW over the year. Same goes to Nepal. On the contrary, other South Asian countries like Bangladesh are grappling with increasing demand for electricity which makes them a lucrative renewable power market for countries like Nepal and Bhutan. Second, the seasonal complementarities of demand and supply of electricity that exist in South Asian countries makes renewable energy cooperation highly viable. For example, being a tropical country, the demand of electricity in Bangladesh is very high during the summer and demand goes down during winter while being mountainous countries, electricity demand of Nepal and Bhutan show just the opposite trend. Moreover, electricity generation in Nepal and Bhutan reaches its peak during summer and drops down significantly during the winter when the water discharge is low in the snow-fed rivers of Nepal and Bhutan where majority of the power plants are located. Thus the pattern of demand is a perfect match to supply in this region. To see South Asia fly freely towards progress thus requires a coherent and clear strategy to address energy insecurities and look forward to renewable energy cooperation.
Dr. Shaheen Afroze, Research Director, BIISS participated in the “Women in Conflict 1325 Fellowship Programme” from 19th August to 27th August 2018 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Dr. Shaheen Afroze, Research Director, BIISS participated in the “Women in Conflict 1325 Fellowship Programme” from 19th August to 27th August 2018 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The programme was organized by Beyond Borders and funded by the Scottish Government. The purpose of the Women in Conflict 1325 Fellowship was to explore principles set out in UN Security Council Resolution 1325 concerning women’s participation in peace-making and peace-building initiatives in conflict affected regions. The fellowship programme explored methodologies for promoting the role of women in peace-building processes, and identifying and utilising entry points to those processes. It provided capacity building training in conflict resolution and shared experience models for constitutional drafting, and representation of women in political and government institutions. The Fellowship combined both seminar and facilitated workshop formats.
Participation in International Seminer on “The Age of Multilateralism and Connecting India’s North East: Opportunities and Challenges” organised by the Asian Confluence- India East Asia Center, Shillong; the Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi, and the Ministry of DONER, Government of India on March 19th and 20th 2018 at Sapru House, New Delhi, India.
Lam-ya Mostaque, Research Officer, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), participated and presented ina seminar on the theme “The Age of Multilateralism and Connecting India’s North East: Opportunities and Challenges” on March 19th and 20th 2018 at Sapru House, New Delhi. The seminar was jointly organised by the Asian Confluence- India East Asia Center, Shillong; the Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi and the Ministry of DONER, Government of India. The seminar endeavoured to promote scholarship on unique opportunities presented by North Eastern India in the backdrop of India’s ‘ActAsia’ furtheringan agenda of convergence between multilateral cooperation, local development and national security consideration to foster inclusive and sustainable development.
The seminar was divided into two parts, the Policy Dialogue and Young Scholar’s Forum. Day one of the seminar was dedicated to High Level Policy Dialogue. The sessions were joined by many current and former high-level officials of the Indian government as well as scholars from India and abroad such as Shri. Jitendra Singh, Minister of State, DONER, Government of India; Ambassador Nalin Surie, Director General, ICWA, Shri Naveen Verma, Secretary, Ministry of DONER, Dr, Rakhee Bhattacharya, Asoc. Prof. North East Studies Program, JNU, New Delhi, Ambassador Rajib Bhattia, Ambassador Ranjit Rae, Dr. Sreeradha Dutta, ASCON;Dorji Penjore, Center for Bhutan Studies, Thimpu etc. The main focus of the day one was the current status of government development initiatives in the North East India where issues such as unevendevelopment, security, and connectivity were discussed. Ambassadors from neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal were also present at the forum and shared their views on the current initiatives and future prospects of connectivity in North East Region as well as the challenges they face.
The second day of the seminar was focused on various issues regarding the North East India and neighbouring countries including border, migration and environment. This day was actually moderated round table discussion, where young scholars from North Eastern India studying in various universities in Delhi joined and debated passionately on various issues and expressed their concerns regarding central government initiatives in North East India.
Ms. Lam-ya Mostaque presented “Trans-boundary Cooperation in North East: Opportunities in Energy sector”in the session titled “Trans-Boundary Ecological Contiguity and Sustainable Development”. The session was focused on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) explored issues of nature preservation, unplanned development and Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness concept. In her presentation, she focused on “Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy” of the SDGs. She assessed the status on current energy cooperation in the region and explored the areas where countries can cooperate with each other. She emphasised that due to the transnational nature of the ecology in the region, there is a need for cooperation from all countries of the region in order to ensure that the development is environment friendly and sustainable. She expressed the view that, since energy is one of the sectors where all countries of the region are willing to cooperate on; cooperation on the basis of increasing interdependence in this sector will act as a catalyst in stabilising their long-term relations.
Participation in International Seminar on“North-East India and its International Neighbours: New Directions”, organised by Department of Political Science, North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong, India; 27-28March 2018
Dr Mahfuz Kabir,Acting Research Director, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), participated inInternational Seminar on “North-East India and its International Neighbours: New Directions” inShillong, India; 27-28 March 2018 as speaker and session chair. The conference was organised by Department of Political Science, North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU). The seminar aimed at bringing together scholarsin the field for an intensive discussion on the following: 1. Border and Sovereignty:In what ways do sovereign states reach out to their borderlands and theirneighbouring countries? 2. Politics of gateway: what are the manifestations of borderpolitics? 3. Border community: How does flow of goods and people affect theecology of border towns and the livelihoods of border communities? 4. India’sneighborhood policy: How can Northeast Indian states act as the space to bringabout a better network of interconnections, develop cross border linkages, bilateralties/ etc., with its International neighbors?
Renowned scholars of different countries participated in the programme. They includeProf. S.K. Srivastava, Vice-Chancellor, NEHU; Professor DrMahendra P Lama, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; DrBishnu Pant, Professor and Executive Director, Institute of Integrated Development Studies, Kathmandu, Nepal;Dr SAM Pasha, Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, Jamia MilliaIslamia, New Delhi; Karma Lhendup, Economics and Environmental Consultancy, Thimphu, Bhutan;and Dr Hu Xiaowen, Associate Research Fellow, Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, China among others.
Dr Kabir made a presentation titled “Potentials of New Business Corridors betweenBangladesh and India’s Northeast: Bangladesh Perspective” on 28 March 2018. He highlighted thatfor Bangladesh, India’s Northeast has been an area of considerable business and economic interest. Beside improving infrastructure and easing movement of goods and passengers through the existing land ports, the initiative of increasing the number ‘border haats’ has been playing catalytic to strengthen business tie between Bangladesh and the Northeast. Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement (BBIN MVA) has given the most recent formal space at sub-regional level to best utilize the infrastructure, river and sea ports, and business opportunities in Bangladesh. However, despite states like Tripura, Assam Meghalaya are utilising the benefits of coming closer to Bangladesh and accessing the mainland India through the country, the other Northeastern states, such as Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram are yet to tap benefit of accessing the rest of India via Bangladesh and accessing infrastructure and market of Bangladesh. Dr Kabir suggested that Bangladesh is potentially its most important business and economic partner for India’s Northeast given its size and location which has begun to be tapped but needs to be utilised at desired level. Subsequently, he also chaired an AcademicSession titled “Trade, Security and Connectivity” in the international seminar on the same day.
Dr. Shaheen Afroze, Research Director, BIISS, participated and presented a paper at the Regional Seminar on “Increasing Women in UN Peacekeeping” held from 08 to 10 March 2018, at the Hilton Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Dr. Shaheen Afroze, Research Director, BIISS, participated and presented a paper at the Regional Seminar on “Increasing Women in UN Peacekeeping” held from 08 to 10 March 2018, at the Hilton Colombo, Sri Lanka, sponsored by the Canadian High Commission under the direction of the Canadian government and organized by the Office of the Chief of Defense Staff, Sri Lanka.. The seminar was a follow up of the panel discussion that was held in October 2017 among Ms Visaka Dharmadasa, Chairperson, the Association of War Affected Women, the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations, and the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations together with the International Civil Society Action Network.
Thirty six participants, who consisted of a combination of civilians and military personnel from the regional countries in South Asia participated of which 22 were from Sri Lanka and the remaining 14 participants represented Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan. The seminar’s main aim was to discuss about increasing the number of women in UN peacekeeping missions. The seminar addressed a variety of topics that were relevant or linked to the main theme of the seminar, including the obstacles faced during the process of increasing and deploying women, the challenges faced by the female peacekeepers and the deploying country as well as the host country and the communities of the host country, the steps to be taken as individual countries of the region and as a region in whole to improve and lead as the countries and region to deploy the highest number of women peacekeepers. The seminar further focused on the draw backs, the restorations, rewriting and renewing that should be made in the set of rules and regulations as well as the current resolution that were passed by the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping.
Dr. Shaheen Afroze in her paper, “Challenges of Female Peacekeepers” argued that although the UNSC resolution 1325 espouses gender equality, the peacekeeping environment remains hostile to women. Long-held gender stereotypes, while justifies more female peacekeepers in the context of changing role of the military and peacekeepers, are at the core of entrenched gender imbalances and structural inequalities that limit the role of female peacekeepers and their ability to effect meaningful change. Therefore, the mere increase in the number of female peacekeepers is not adequate. What is important is to overcome stereotypes that privilege masculinity over femininity, allowing both masculinity and femininity to be equally valued within PKOs.
Myanmar–Bangladesh Experts Meeting in Singapore on 14 December 2017
Ambassador Munshi Faiz Ahmad, Chairman, Board of Governors, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) and Colonel Sheikh Masud Ahmed, SPP, psc, Research Director, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) attended Myanmar–Bangladesh Experts Meeting on 14 December 2017 in Singapore. The meeting was hosted by Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.
The discussions took place between representatives from various organizations/institutions from Myanmar and Bangladesh on the current challenges in bilateral relations and the opportunities for building confidence between the two countries with the goal of strengthening mutual understanding and bilateral cooperation. The participants included representatives from prominent think-tanks, former government officials, academics and civil society of both the Countries. Since the current Rohingya exodus from Myanmar to Bangladesh was the central challenge in Bangladesh- Myanmar relations now, it always remained as the focus of the discussion throughout.
The Salient Aspects of the Meeting
1. All the participants had an open, free and frank discussion on the current situation in Rakhine State of Myanmar. The discussants from Bangladesh highlighted the large scale migration of Rohingya people from the Rakhine State to Bangladesh and its effects on the broader bilateral relation between Bangladesh and Myanmar. Participants from both countries stressed on the current crisis and underscored the importance of addressing the root causes.
2. Trust deficit affecting both bilateral relations as well as relations between the affected communities was identified as important element to be addressed comprehensively. The role of think tanks, research institutions and the media were recognized as important in order to generate common understanding in place of the divergent narratives that are currently contributing to misunderstandings between the two countries and different communities. However, the participants acknowledged the recent diplomatic efforts of both countries and the mutual willingness to continue to engage with each other in promoting friendship, cooperation, inter-communal cohesion and preventing violence. In this regard exposure trips for community leaders were seen as an important instrument in changing negative perceptions of people on the ground and overcoming stereotypes. The need for addressing the negative narrative about the Rohingyas in Myanmar with an alternative and positive narrative was also considered important. The participants agreed that there should be more frequent people-to-people exchanges from both countries including stakeholders like civil society organizations, religious leaders, academics and the media. The same was suggested with regards to exchanges in the security sector including exchanges between military officials, between academics and think tanks considering their role in bridging misunderstanding and generating trust building measures.
3. More specifically, participants underscored the importance of consultation including inter community and inter faith dialogues involving the affected communities, host communities and other relevant groups impacted by recent events. To this end, participants suggested establishing an “Intra- and intercommunity Consultation Mechanism”. The outcomes of consultations could be provided to the respective Governments to inform them on ways to promote inter-communal cohesion as well as to support the bilateral discussions on voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar. Participants supported a facilitation role of international agencies in the process of repatriation of Rohingya people from Bangladesh to Myanmar as well. Participants from Bangladesh emphasized on the need to end the violence and atrocities against the Rohingyas and repeatedly called for ending the crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and genocide immediately as essential for creating the appropriate environment for safe and sustainable return of the Rohingyas to their homes and hearths in full dignity and honour. They also emphasized that restoring the citizenship to the Rohingyas was essential for ensuring a long term, sustainable solution to the crisis.
4. Participants highlighted the need to also look beyond the current crisis in Rakhine State and to make sure that bilateral relation would not only be defined by the developments of the recent months. To further build confidence between the two countries, participants discussed other areas of mutual interest and potential cooperation including issues such as promotion of strengthened economic cooperation through BIMSTEC, BCIM-EC, regional connectivity, addressing drug trafficking, and mitigating the effects of climate change. Opportunities were identified for collaboration and exchanges in disaster preparedness especially drawing on the technical expertise of Bangladesh and the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance (AHA) in this regard. Improved border crossing arrangements and “border passes” were noted as having the potential to reduce sensitivities and promote positive arrangements around labour migration given increasing economic development and potential for job opportunities on both sides of the border.
The List of Participants
Ambassador Munshi Faiz Ahmad
Chairman, Bangladesh Institute of International Strategic Studies (BIISS)
Colonel Sheikh Masud Ahmed, SPP, psc
Research Director, Bangladesh Institute of International Strategic Studies (BIISS)
Dr. Meghna Guhathakurta
Member of the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh and Executive Director Research Initiatives Bangladesh (RIB)
Mr. Faiz Sobhan
Research Director, Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI)
Ambassador Nyunt Maung Shein, Chairman, Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies (MISIS)
Ambassador Wynn Lwin, Member, Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies (MISIS)
Mrs. Kyi Kyi Hla, Member, Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies (MISIS)
Mr. Ko Ko Hlaing, Chairman, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
Mr. Nyunt Swe, Commissioner, Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC)
Mr. Kyaw Yin Hlaing, Director, Center for Diversity and National Harmony (CDNH)
Ms. Moe Thuzar, Lead Researcher, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS)
Ms. Khet Khet Tin, Independent Researcher
Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue
Mr. Dennis McNamara, Senior Humanitarian Adviser
Ms. Nilar Oo, Myanmar Deputy Country Representative
Ms. Sarah Dewhurst, Project Manager
Mr. Willem Punt, Project Officer
Ms. Ni Jue, Administrative Officer
Participation in Young Thinkers Conference on “BBIN: Challenges & Opportunities”The Oberoi Grand, Kolkata, India, 8-9 November 2017
Dr Mahfuz Kabir,Acting Research Director, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), participated inYoung Thinkers Conference on “BBIN: Challenges & Opportunities” as speaker. The conference was organised jointly byObserver Research Foundation Kolkata Chapter and British Deputy High Commission Kolkata. The objective of the Conference to bring together academics, thinkers, government policymakers, journalists, entrepreneurs, and other related stakeholders from the BBIN countries to address different facets of this sub-regional initiative on three major themes, viz. (a) Connectivity and business opportunities in BBIN; (b) security concerns; and (c) the way ahead building on achievements so far.
Important officials and renowned scholars were present in the programme. They include Dr Alexander Evans, British Deputy High Commissioner to India, Mr Bruce Bucknell, British Deputy High Commissioner, Kolkata; MrToufique Hasan, Deputy High Commissioner. Bangladesh Deputy High Commission, Kolkata;Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, former Indian Foreign Secretary and Ambassador to Bangladesh, Rakhahari Chatterjee, Advisor of the Kolkata Chapter of ORF, Sita Basnet, Nepal Consul to Kolkata, Pema Tobgay, the Vice Consul, Royal Bhutan Consulate General, Kolkata;Sanjib Subba, CEO of Nepal Banking Institute; and KhampaTshering, Business Consultant, Bhutan. Scholars, officials and renowned activists participated from the member countries of BBIN.
Dr Kabir made a presentation titled “BBIN and Connectivity-Led Business Opportunities” in the first working session of the Conference on 08 November 2017. He highlighted thatBangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) initiative was mooted to promote trade and business among the collaborating countries in the sub-region. To implement this initiative, it is essential to realise the seamless connectivity especially among the underdeveloped and seemingly disconnected parts of this sub-region. The signing of the historic Motor Vehicle Agreement (BBIN-MVA) gave rise to considerable optimism among its members to enter a comprehensive connectivity regime through road, rail and waterways (both inland waterways and accessing the sea ports by land-locked countries and areas of the sub-region). Subsequently, uncertainty in full implementation due to Bhutan’s pullout has partially faded it’s colourful promise even though there is no last word in geo-politics when the geo-economic interest is involved. Given this context, it is important to comprehend the necessity of the getting the poorly connected parts on board through multi-modal connectivity projects. However, no sub-regional connectivity project has been initiated under BBIN MVA so far even though it is related with the stake of all parties, especially with the Northeast India, Bhutan and Nepal with Bangladesh as an important gateway with the world through sea. Augmented connectivity infrastructure, with access to sea ports, would promote access to Southeast and East Asian markets by the BBIN countries. Keeping in mind these opportunities, private for-profit sector of all members countries should come out with a doable comprehensive multi-modal connectivity proposal within the perimeter and spirit of the MVA.
BIISS Delegation’s Visit to Myanmar on the occasion of MoU signing between BIISS and Myanmar-ISIS on 21 to 23 August 2017.
A delegation of BIISS visited Myanmar from 21 to 23 August 2017 for the purpose of signing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) and Myanmar Institute of Strategic Studies (Myanmar-ISIS). Members of the delegation were Ambassador Munshi Faiz Ahmad, Chairman, Board of Governors, BIISS, Major General A K M Abdur Rahman, ndc, psc, Director General, BIISS and Abu Salah Md. Yousuf, Senior Research Fellow, BIISS.
On 22 August 2017, Major General A K M Abdur Rahman, ndc, psc, Director General, BIISS and H. E. U Nyunt Maung Shein, Chairman, Myanmar-ISIS, signed the MoU on behalf of their respective organisations. Ambassador Munshi Faiz Ahmad, Chairman, Board of Governors, BIISS, H. E. Mr. Mohammad Sufiur Rahman, Ambassador of Bangladesh to Myanmar, Dennis McNamara, Senior Humanitarian Adviser, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Geneva and high officials of Myanmar-ISIS were present in the occasion.
Before the signing of MoU, Chairman, Myanmar-ISIS, Chairman, Board of Governors, BIISS and Director General, BIISS expressed their views that both organisations can work together to further future relations between Bangladesh and Myanmar.
The organisations can also contribute to promote new ideas for regional cooperation in the areas of security, development, energy and connectivity. They also expressed their gratitude to H. E. Mr. Mohammad Sufiur Rahman and Dennis McNamara for their contribution for making the connection between the organisations, BIISS and Myanmar-ISIS.
H. E. Mr. Mohammad Sufiur Rahman briefly discussed on how Bangladesh values its relations with Myanmar. He hoped that BIISS and Myanmar-ISIS would find out new avenues of cooperation between the countries and collaboration between the organisations would help both the countries to deepen their relations in future.
After the signing of the MoU, both organisations shared their priorities in the research arena and discussed common areas to work together. The Director General of BIISS emphasised that there are huge potentials for energy cooperation between the countries. BIISS and Myanmar-ISIS can take research projects together in this area. He also mentioned that Bangladesh and Myanmar are common members of different regional connectivity initiatives. Hence, BIISS and Myanmar-ISIS can be a platform for discussing this issue. The Chairman of Myanmar-ISIS emphasised that sharing of research data between the countries can enrich the research endeavours of both countries. Ambassador Munshi Faiz Ahmad said that the improving relations between the countries emanate that cooperation between BIISS and Myanmar-ISIS would help policy makers to determine the future destinations of both countries.
At the end, Ambassador Munshi Faiz Ahmad and H. E. U Nyunt Maung Shein thanked the participants and desired that in future both organisations will contribute in the development of bilateral relations between the countries.
Dr. Mohammad Jasim Uddin, Senior Research Fellow, BIISS attended an International Seminar on “Cross Border Connectivity and Inclusive Growth: Possibilities and Challenges with Special Reference to the North Eastern Region”.
Dr. Mohammad Jasim Uddin, Senior Research Fellow, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) attended an International Seminar on “Cross Border Connectivity and Inclusive Growth: Possibilities and Challenges with Special Reference to the North Eastern Region”, organised by Shillong College, Meghalaya, India on 24-25 August 2017. Resource persons from Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and India, including many from the North East India attended the International Seminar and made their presentations. Besides Introductory and Concluding Sessions, there were four Technical/Business Sessions – (a) Historical Linkages of Connectivity between North East and South East Asia: Ongoing Projects and Its Challenges and Opportunities (b) Market Linkages and International Trade (c) Act East Policy: Significance and Impact, and (d) Environmental Impact-Assessment and Socio-Cultural Continuum. In the first Technical Session, Dr. Mohammad Jasim Uddin was the Keynote Presenter. Professor Mahendra P. Lama, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University was the Session Chair.
The International Seminar had an in-depth analysis of opportunities and challenges of trans-border connectivity, inter- and intra- regional trade and business, India’s Act East Policy, environmental and tourism aspects of North East India. Dr. Jasim presented a paper on “BBIN and Sub-Regional Connectivity” that covered a background, development so far made on BBIN connectivity issues, challenges ahead and what to do.
Highlights on BBIN and sub-regional connectivity:
- Ratifying BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) by all members
- Concluding a comprehensive transport agreement (including transit and vehicle agreements, shipping and air transport agreements)
- Identifying routes (e.g. having cargo trial run from Bhutan or Nepal to Bangladesh and then to India) and mutual consent on the routes by all members
- Harmonising fees, charges and taxes
- Immediately undertaking some early harvest projects
- (a) Upgrading sections to provide landlocked countries immediate access to nearest seaports and improving substandard sections
- (b) Improving roadside amenities and warehouses
- (c) Some road stretches to have concurrent development on both sides of the border
- (d) Introducing electronic data management system and screening
- (e) Introducing GPS-enabled transport vehicles and biometrics for transport licenses
BIISS Delegation Visit to CIISS, China
Major General AKM Abdur Rahman, ndc, psc, Director General, along with 5 member delegation from Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) visited China from 17th to 21st July, 2017 on the invitation of China Institute for International Strategic Studies (CIISS). The visit was in accordance with the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two institutions. The delegation includes Dr. Mohammad Mahfuz Kabir, Acting Research Director; Mr. Ashique Rahman, Research Fellow; Mr. A.S.M. Tarek Hassan Semul, Research Officer, Ms. Shanjida Shahab Uddin, Research Officer and Major Md. Khurshidul Islam, SUP, psc, Deputy Director.
Major General Rahman and his team took part in a day long dialogue at CIISS Headquarters, Beijing. CIISS delegation was led by Major General (Retd.) Xu Nanfeng, Vice Chairman, CIISS. The Dialogue had three sessions. In the Dialogue, various important issues related to potential Bangladesh-China Cooperation was discussed. The Discussion included regional connectivity initiatives such as, Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) previously known as One Belt One Road (OBOR), Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM-EC); Bangladesh-China Cooperation in Couterterrorism effort as well as trade, commerce and investment opportunities. The topic of discussion also included energy, research and technology transfer, and infrastructural development.
The Dialogue ended with the commitment of intimate institutional cooperation to engage in joint research collaboration, exchange of delegation visits, joint fellowship programme and joint organisation of conferences. The visit had enormous achievements in terms of Track-II initiatives to strengthen Bangladesh-China bilateral relations.
The delegation also visited Peacekeeping Center in Beijing, a facility for international exchanges in peacekeeping including international conferences and training the peacekeepers from home and abroad. During the visit to the Centre, Senior Colonel Zhou Zhe, Deputy Director of the Centre gave a short appraisal where possible institutional collaboration on peacekeeping and peacebuilding was also discussed. General Rahman emphasised on stronger Bangladesh-China cooperation in UN peacekeeping operations in terms of civilian engagement as well as training/expertise sharing between the two countries. He also mentioned Bangladesh Government’s initiative on building the Bangladesh Peacebuilding Centre (BPC) to bolster the global peace efforts. General Rahman and the BIISS delegation also visited various training facilities of the Centre, which was significant for future references.
The Peacekeeping Center, China offers training facilities for developing peacekeeping skills, including simulated UN peacekeeping camps and de-mining training grounds as well as swimming and driving facilities.
As part of the visit, the BIISS delegation visited few historical landmarks in China, which includes Yuexiu Park, Ancestral Temple of the Chen Family and Shamian Island.
Dr Mahfuz Kabir, Acting Research Director, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), attended "South Asia Trade and Integration Conference" in World Bank, Washington DC on 28 June 2017
Dr Mahfuz Kabir attended “South Asia Trade and Integration Conference” in World Bank Headquarters in Washington DC on 28 June 2017. The conference was sponsored by the World Bank Group’s Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice, the South Asia Region, as well as the Development Economics Vice Presidency, Trade Team of the World Bank. The conference focused on, among others, policy, institutional and infrastructural barriers in increasing intra-South Asian trade flow; how to strengthen the value chains in textiles and clothing within the region and between South Asia and the world; problems of trade negotiations, SAFTA, intra-regional tariff and non-tariff barriers; and how to utilise the potential of South Asia through increasing trade and investment.In the conference, Dr Kabir explained the issues of Bangladesh’s trade and economic integration with India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka through strengthening value chain in textiles and clothing (T&C) in which Bangladesh has achieved strong comparative advantage as downstream country. He shared his thoughts on Bangladesh’s regional trade in T&C with India in the context of regional value chain and how to smoothen the value chain for deriving maximum benefit for Bangladesh. Dr Kabir also interacted with some of the top international experts of international trade, such as Uri Dadush (Bruegel, Washington, DC), Caroline Freund (Peterson Institute for International Economics, Washington, DC) and Will Martin (International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC). Among others, Muhammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, Alternative Executive Director of World Bank Headquarters for Bangladesh;Sanjay Kathuria, Lead Economist and Coordinator, Regional Integration, South Asia, Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice; Shanta Devarajan, Chief Economist, MENA region, and Senior Director, Development Economics; Michael Ferrantino, Lead Economist, World Bank; andMarinosTsigas, Lead Economist, United States International Trade Commission were present in the conference.
Participation in the National Conference on “Advancing the BBIN Sub regional Cooperation” at India Habitat Centre in New Delhi, May 2017
Dr. Shaheen Afroze, Research Director, BIISS participated in the National Conference on “Advancing the BBIN Sub regional Cooperation” at India Habitat Centre in New Delhi on the 04-05 May 2017 organised by Delhi Policy Group (DPG) in collaboration with the Asia Foundation. The participants of this Conference came from Bhutan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal. Dr. Shaheen Afroze was invited in the conference as speaker at the two sessions: Energy, Hydropower and Water Resource Management and People to People Connectivity Issues.
On Day 1 (04 May 2017) there was an interactive session where the participants discussed, deliberated and came up with concrete solutions, outcomes and recommendations to solve the real issues within the BBIN Framework and advance the sub-regional cooperation. The purpose of this session was to encourage greater levels of interactions among the participants that will lead to the formation of BBIN Core Group which will continue to forward ideas to the Track 1 level officials.
On Day 2 (05 May 2017), the core group participants spoke and presented their findings on BBIN related issues to a bigger audience comprising of stakeholders from various sectors including government, academia, think tanks and civil society.
Participation in “Tobacco Control Workshop”, Kathmandu, Nepal
Dr Mahfuz Kabir, Acting Research Director, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies, participated in “Tobacco Control Workshop” Organised by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (TFK). It was held in Radisson Hotel,Kathmandu, Nepal on 10 March 2016. The objectives of the programme were to
• Review the law implementation progress on smoke-free provisions, tax, Tobacco Advertising, Promotion and Sponsorship (TAPS) and health warning violations and on smokeless tobacco.
• Review the achievements in Bangladesh and plan for the remainder of the year 2017 with a visionary look towards achieving the government goal of Tobacco Free Bangladesh by 2040 and reducing 30 per cent tobacco consumption by 2025.
• Discuss the progress of institutionalisation of tobacco control law implementation in Bangladesh.
• Highlight the success in regional countries through good practices that include India and Sri Lanka.
• Promote the government officials and activists in Bangladesh to institutionalise the tobacco control according to FCTC and tobacco control act 2013.
Notable participants of the programme were Mr Ruhul Quddus, Joint Secretary and Coordinator, National Tobacco Control Cell (NTCC), Government of Bangladesh; Mr SM Ahsanul Aziz and Dr Md. Sarwar Bari, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Bangladesh; Ms Ferdous Rawshon Ara, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of Bangladesh; Md. Shaiful Islam, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Public Administration, Government of Bangladesh; Ms Vandana Shah, Director of South Asia, TFK; Ms Jaspreet Kaur Pal,Communications Director, TFK India; and Mr Claudio Tanca, Associate Director of International Communications, TFK.
Dr Kabir I highlighted the following points in the programme:
• The tobacco control act 2013 is a commendable initiative by the Government of Bangladesh. However, the tax and price measures taken by the Government are not as per the Act because the pledges made in the FCTC regarding the price and tax measures have not been reflected in the Act. Indeed, the Act does not reflect all the clauses of the FCTC. Therefore, the Act should be revised in order to incorporate at least the price and tax measures to reduce tobacco use and incidence of tobacco related non-traditional security threats.
• The government has been receiving increasingly higher revenue through raising tobacco tax and prices except the year 2012-13. Therefore, the Government has both comfort and apprehension in raising tobacco price and tax. In addition, these measures are ad hoc in nature.
• Global evidence reveals that increasing price of tobacco through tax measures is an effective way to reduce tobacco use and raise government revenue. The increased revenue can be spent on tobacco-related diseases. Therefore, there is need for conducting rigorous quantitative research to understand the trajectories of increasing tobacco tax to reduce tobacco use and increase government revenue in Bangladesh.