Activities 2014

 

Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) organised its Country Lecture on 21 October 2014 at BIISS auditorium, Dhaka. The Country Lecture was delivered by H. E. Mr. Shiro Sadoshima, Ambassador, Embassy of Japan in Bangladesh. He spoke about comprehensive partnership of Japan-Bangladesh relations. Major General A K M Abdur Rahman, ndc, psc, Director General of BIISS, delivered the Welcome Address. Ambassador Munshi Faiz Ahmad, Chairman, Board of Governors, BIISS chaired the session and summed up with the concluding speech.

In his Welcome Address, Major General A K M Abdur Rahman, ndc, psc, Director General of BIISS, said that Bangladesh and Japan have a long history of friendship and deep understanding of each others culture. The people of Bangladesh recall with deep gratitude the support and sympathy of Japan during our War of Liberation in 1971. He said that Japan is the only non-Western industrial democracy which has become a role model for socio-economic development globally. As a credible friend and development partner, Japan has always been generous in providing assistance to Bangladesh. The recent visits of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Japan and her counterpart the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Bangladesh have brought mutual benefits for the people of the countries. Regarding trade relations, he added that the trade relations between Bangladesh and Japan have been flourishing. They have a great potential. Bangladesh's export to Japan has increased 2.5 times in the last five years. General Rahman said that as a littoral of Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh is now more significant both economically and strategically. He mentioned the significance of the Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt initiative which is known as BIG-B proposed by Japan. He stressed on more people-to-people contact, exchange and joint collaboration among the academic institutions of the two countries. Similarly, he further added that exchange of music, drama, art should be helpful to know each other more and can make the ties stronger. He said that he still have a great liking for the Japanese TV serial Oshin where he found the rural cultures of Japan and Bangladesh are rooted quite in a similar way.

H. E. Mr. Shiro Sadoshima, Ambassador, Embassy of Japan in Bangladesh, in his lecture on Japan-Bangladesh Relations: Comprehensive Partnership, noted that Bangladesh is turning into a very important strategic corner. While talking about the significant geographic location of Bangladesh, he highlighted the confluence of two oceans Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean. He said that Japan is expanding its economic activity and industrial bases from Asia-Pacific region to this part of the world. From this strategic perspective, Bangladesh occupies a very important position and he termed the country as lynchpin. He mentioned that although the country does not have much mineral resources but it has natural gas. Nevertheless, he predicted in the next 15-20 years time, natural gas will be difficult to be commercially tapped. As Bangladesh aspires to become a middle income country, that also means Bangladesh has to compete in a level playing field. He opined that current major export items of Bangladesh would not be able to sustain the import of energy. Bangladesh would inevitably need to have a segment of value-added items in its list of exported goods. He stressed on the need to reorient industrial base of the country. And to do so, Bangladesh will have to start to move now. He added that Japan is ready to help out to achieve these goals. This diversification of industrial base is the key to industrial development, he added.

He suggested that Bangladesh can reorient its industrial products to quality parts and unfinished products and provide to Japan's productions line in Southeast Asia and India. Bangladesh has great potential in this regard, he added. He gave example of one company in Chittagong that manufactures parts of vending machines and that industry is booming. He further added that major exporting goods of Bangladesh like RMG and textiles are going to North America and EU. Very little of these exported goods goes to East Asian market. There are other countries that can be destinations of Bangladeshi products like China, South Korea and Japan. He said that Bangladesh should further explore the market. To invite potential Japanese investors, Japan has started discussing with the Bangladesh government to start an industrial park for itself. He informed that BEPZA agreed to provide two buildings for this purpose. He also stressed on importance of pharmaceutical industries of Bangladesh and suggested Bangladesh to seriously look at the industry and export.

Ambassador Munshi Faiz Ahmad, Chairman, Board of Governors, BIISS, noted that Japan and Bangladesh have maintained friendly relations since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries through economic and technical cooperation, cultural exchange and mutual visits. A bond of mutual goodwill and respect has since developed between the two peoples. Mutual Support and cooperation in international arena have also produced excellent results and deepened the trust between the two countries. Japan is one of the most important development partners of Bangladesh. Japanese development assistance has deliberately been directed to sectors that are crucial for Bangladesh's economic development. These includeinfrastructure building and human resources development, poverty alleviation programmes, good governance, etc. Japan is also a major trading partner and source of foreign direct investment. Although the volume of bilateral trade and investment is yet to reach the full potentials, joint and new efforts may substantially raise the level for mutual gains. To conclude the session, he thanked everyone, particularly Ambassador Shiro Sadoshima and his colleagues from the Embassy of Japan, for contributing to the success of today's Country Lecture Session. He also thanked other ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps, senior civil-military officials including former officials, members of the academia, businessmen, representatives of think-tanks and the media, for taking time out to attend the lecture.

Senior civil and military officials including former ambassadors, members of the academia, businessmen, representatives of think-tanks, scholars, and policy makers participated in the open discussion session and raised their valuable opinions, suggestions and questions on Japan-Bangladesh relations. Participants of the open discussion session thanked H. E. Mr. Shiro Sadoshima, Ambassador, Embassy of Japan in Bangladesh, for his valuable speech, and raised their opinions on how to increase Japan-Bangladesh relations in case of BIG-B plan, academic and cultural exchange, renewable and non-renewable energy, human resource development, environment, technology, maritime science, disaster management, etc. While responding to the opinions, H. E. Mr. Shiro Sadoshima, noted that development of power sector, transportation and infrastructure is very important for implementing BIG-B plan in Bangladesh. He informed that Japan is eager to provide assistance in the cases of energy efficiency, vocational training, maritime science, environmental aspects of Bangladesh. He also focused on increasing cultural exchange and people-to-people contact between Japan and Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) organised its Country Lecture on 07 April 2014 at BIISS auditorium, Dhaka. The Country Lecture was delivered by H. E. Mr. Pankaj Saran, High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh. He spoke about India's role in international arena and highlighted various aspects of India-Bangladesh relations. Major General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed, ndu, psc, Director General of BIISS, delivered the Opening Address. Ambassador Munshi Faiz Ahmad, Chairman, Board of Governors, BIISS chaired the session and summed up with the concluding speech.

In his Opening Address, Major General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed, ndu, psc, Director General, BIISS, mentioned that the purpose of the Country Lecture is to enhance the understanding about specific countries with which Bangladesh has bilateral relations and to explore the potentials and avenues to promote and strengthen further our relations with these countries. He highlighted India's extraordinary assistance to our War of Liberation in 1971 and for that expressed his sincerest thanks and gratitude to the people of India through the high commissioner for their unstinted support. He noted that India nowadays is often attributed as a political and economic powerhouse and in terms of Purchasing Power Parity it now stands as the fourth largest economy of the world. He described the bilateral relations between the two county is important and they need to explore every opportunity to work together to guarantee all potential enhancements of this relations for the sake of mutual progress and prosperity.

H. E. Mr. Pankaj Saran, High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh, in his lecture on India and India-Bangladesh Relations focused various aspects of India's external policy and its relation with Bangladesh. Noting that work for peace, development, prosperity and cooperation with neighbouring countries as fundamental principles of Indian foreign policy, he added that India aspires to engage with countries for promoting mutual sovereignty, trade, environmental security and prosperity. He mentioned that Indian economy is heading towards rapid development basing on democracy and fundamental rights of people. He noted that after its economic reform in 1991, the economy is booming and since 2004-2005 twenty million people were taken out of poverty every year. The major strengths of Indian economy are its huge domestic market, high savings and large scale investments, he added. Admitting poverty reduction as a big challenge for the country, the high commissioner noted that beside alleviating poverty it is giving more emphasis on food security, energy security, environmental security and water security.

While discussing India-Bangladesh relations, he told the audience that both economies are growing fast together. He noted that Bangladesh has excellent economic ties with the eastern part of India. He opined that India-Bangladesh relation is going forward through right track. He added that in recent years both countries have become able to increase the trade volume and in last year Bangladesh's export to India was the highest than any other year and there are still scopes to increase and diversify the trade volume. Mr. Saran mentioned that the two countries are jointly working on water sharing issue of Ganges, Feni and Teesta river. He hoped that the two neighbouring countries will be able to peacefully resolve the issues of Tipaimukh dam and the maritime boundary disputes.

Munshi Faiz Ahmad, Chairman, Board of Governors, BIISS, noted that Bangladesh and India are two closest neighbours in South Asia whose history, culture and values of peoples have been evolving together, side by side, for millennia. He gratefully recalled India's support to our War of Liberation and paid homage to the brave Indian soldiers and others who sacrificed their lives for our liberation. He added the country is also a key player in ongoing multilateral negotiations on major global issues, namely trade, climate change, energy security, counter terrorism and transnational crimes etc. He hoped that Bangladesh and India will resolve the issue of maritime boundary dispute in June this year which will help to remove an important irritant between the two countries and will usher in a new era of cooperation.

Senior civil and military officials including former ambassadors, members of the academia, businessmen, representatives of think-tanks, scholars, and policy makers participated in the open discussion session and raised their valuable opinions, suggestions and questions on India-Bangladesh relations. Participants of the open discussion session thanked the Indian govt. for easing the Indian visa process and raised questions on trade and trade barriers, Tipaimukh dam, border agreement etc. While answering those questions, Mr. Saran noted that India has given Duty Free and Quota Free (DFQF) access to almost all Bangladeshi products and is thinking to give DFQF access for rest of the products. And to remove the para tariff and non-tariff barriers the country is working closely with Bangladesh. He mentioned that the custom facilities are being developed which will enhance the trade volume of both countries. The high commissioner told that a group under the Joint River Commission (JRC) is studying extensively about the probable impact of Tipaimukh dam (click here for the summary of the proceedings).

Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) organised its 5th Country Lecture on 30 March 2014 at BIISS auditorium, Dhaka. The 5th Country Lecture was delivered by H. E. Mr. Alexander A. Nikolaev, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Bangladesh. He spoke about Russia's role in international arena and highlighted various aspects of Bangladesh-Russia relations. Major General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed, ndu, psc, Director General of BIISS delivered the Address of Welcome. Ambassador Munshi Faiz Ahmad, Chairman, Board of Governors, BIISS chaired the session and summed up with the concluding speech.

In his Welcome Address, Major General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed, ndu, psc, Director General, BIISS, said that the purpose of the Country Lecture is to enhance the understanding about specific countries with whom Bangladesh has bilateral relations and to explore scopes to strengthen the relations. He noted that the year 2013 was a year of major foreign policy victories for Russia and the country was out to prove its ability to significantly influence world events. Regarding bilateral relations, he said that during our Liberation War in 1971, the leaders of the former USSR played extra-ordinary supportive role. Recently, relations between the two countries are gaining impetus in many spheres such as exploration of prospects for cooperation in peaceful use of nuclear energy, further promotion of bilateral trade and cultural ties. Bangladesh signed its biggest defence deal with Russia worth US$ 1 billion, including US $500 million for the country's first nuclear power plant. He opined that Bangladesh and Russia need to explore every opportunity to work together for the sake of progress and prosperity of their people.

H. E. Alexander A. Nikolaev, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Bangladesh in his lecture on Russia in Modern International Policy focused various aspects related to Russia's international policy and its relation with Bangladesh. He noted that Russia started to develop a very good relation with Bangladesh from the very first day of the country as an independent state. The people of the then Soviet Union raised their voice against atrocities against the people of Bangladesh by the then military administration. That was not simply a political decision but the deep emotion of the Russian people who are always supportive of national liberation movements all over the world. Immediately after the liberation war, Russia rendered political support to Bangladesh. It also assisted to restore and develop the war-ravaged country. He mentioned that the former USSR navy helped to sweep mines in the Bay of Bengal to make Chittagong port operational. He added that cooperation between Bangladesh and Russia has always been comprehensive and covers a wide range of fields from politics to culture. Russia and Bangladesh share common approach to ideas of multipolar world architecture and fair economic system. He especially highlighted the cooperation between the two countries in energy sector. Regarding the Crimea issue, he said that the case of Crimea is not an annexation but re-unification. Russia did not violate any international law and no single fire was shot during the re-unification. He further added that case of Crimea is of national self-determination similar to those of Kosovo, East Timor and South Sudan.

Munshi Faiz Ahmad, Chairman, Board of Governors, BIISS, mentioned that in March 1972, Father of the Nation, Prime Minister Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman visited Moscow, which was his first formal overseas trip, to express the nation's appreciation for their role in liberation war. Trade flourished between the two countries under mutually beneficial barter arrangements. He added, the two countries enjoy excellent friendship and cooperation. There is ample scope and need to expand trade with Russia. Presently, Bangladesh trade with Russia stands at $ 700 million.

Senior civil and military officials including former officials, members of the academia, businessmen, representatives of think-tanks, scholars, and policy makers participated in the open discussion session. It was highlighted that Bangladesh-Russia trade relation has huge potential to exceed US$ 1.52 billion in the next five years. In replying to the questions emerged during the open discussion, the Russian Ambassador identified the lack of direct banking as obstacle to the growth of trade volume. He noted that Russia is helping to modernise some units of Ghorashal power plant. He further mentioned that if the government invites further tenders, Russian companies will participate in the renovation of other units. He hoped that direct flight between Moscow and Dhaka can be operational in the future. In order to enhance cultural cooperation, the Russian government will welcome any initiative from the Bangladesh government (click here for the summary of the proceedings).

Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) organised a Seminar on Contemporary Development Debate: Bangladesh in the Global Context on 05 February 2014 at BIISS auditorium, Dhaka. Mr Md Shahriar Alam, MP, Honourable State Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh was present at the inaugural session of the seminar as the Chief Guest. Major General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed, ndu, psc, Director General of BIISS delivered the Address of Welcome. Ambassador Munshi Faiz Ahmad, Chairman, Board of Governors, BIISS concluded the inaugural session.

In his Welcome Address, Major General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed, ndu, psc, Director General, BIISS, noted that economic and social indicators described in the Vision 2021 of the government are closely associated with the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDG frameworks have helped the member countries galvanise development initiatives and guide global and national development priorities. He added that further efforts and a strong global partnership are needed to accelerate the pace of current development targets and formulate a new set of goals for the post-2015 era. The Rio+20 outcome document is very much significant from Bangladesh perspective too. And we have to work hard in order to endorse a concrete policy to achieve the sustainable development goals as well as the current MDGs. Simultaneously, we need to make sure that our development aspirations are fulfilled and climate change issues are also addressed properly in the emerging perspectives within and the architecture of post-2015 development agenda, he said.

Mr Md Shahriar Alam, MP, in his address as the Chief Guest, said that we are around 700 days away from completion timeline of the MDGs. While Bangladesh has fared well in terms of most of the MDG targets and indicators, the global scenario vis--vis many MDG targets may not give us enough to cheer about. Some of the populous and climatically vulnerable regions lag behind on a number of targets, he added. He further said that by now, it is widely recognised that resources for attainment of the MDGs was inadequate in the developing world. Mid way through last decade, as the world faced challenging and often uncertain period, especially in the wake of Triple F (Food-Fuel-Finance) crisis, we saw how the efforts of much of the developing world got constrained. Much of their precious development gains got wiped out. Hence, within the emerging development architecture, the new set of Goals and corresponding Targets must have clear and robust support mechanism. And, also an enabling environment, globally. He noted that countries like Bangladesh want the Goals should be framed based on values and principles like equity, inclusion, common but differentiated responsibility, respective capacities, etc. Before the global process began, Bangladesh undertook broader, national consultations and developed her own perspective on Post-2015. By the middle of last year, we did submit a set of indicative goals, targets and indicators as well to the UN. Given the spread of the exercise and the intricacies, Bangladesh is deeply engaged within traditional group formations - like LDCs, G77  as also within groups of countries with specific interest. Both the evolving substance and the process appears crucial. The areas that are of particular interest to us include, for instance, population dynamics, water. Our approach is determined taking into account a balanced view of our broader national orientation, interests, long-term growth and development perspectives and evolving regional dimensions, he added.

Munshi Faiz Ahmad, Chairman, Board of Governors, BIISS, noted that Bangladesh has achieved commendable success in efforts to pursue the Millennium Development Goals. Targeted policies and proactive programmes of the government, supplemented by private sector and NGO efforts, generated enthusiastic and effective participation of the target groups, resulting in this success. Inspite of severe limitations, the country is also making serious efforts at achieving environmental sustainability through addressing mitigation and adaptation issues. We are making our best efforts to enhance cooperation with our development partners in all these areas, he added. Issues such as increasing inequality and a changing poverty landscape, human mobility and migration, insecurity and social exclusion, climate change, degradation of the environment and consequent challenges to sustainability of development require a comprehensive approach to the post-2015 framework, he added. For that approach to be successful, it must take into account efficient integration of all aspects of population dynamics into policy, operation and implementation.

The seminar was divided into three Working Sessions. The Working Session I titled Millennium Declaration, the MDGs and Bangladesh: Achievements Made, Challenges Faced and Remaining Tasks was moderated by Ambassador Munshi Faiz Ahmad, Chairman, Board of Governors of BIISS. Professor Dr Shamsul Alam, Member, General Economics Division of Bangladesh Planning Commission made a presentation, while Mr Ashadul Islam, Additional Secretary, Economic Relations Division and Ms Saida Muna Tasneem, Director General (UN), Ministry of Foreign Affairs spoke as designated discussants in the session. The Working Session II titled Rio+20 Outcome and Other Global Processes Related to Sustainable Development: Bangladesh Perspective was moderated by Mr Mesbah ul Alam, Secretary, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, Government of Bangladesh. A presentation was given by Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Chairman, Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation in this session. The designated discussants in the Session II included Professor Dr Ainun Nishat, Vice-Chancellor of BRAC University and Dr Mahfuz Kabir, Senior Research Fellow of BIISS. The Working Session III titled Emerging Perspectives Within and Architecture of Post-2015 Development Agenda: Bangladesh Perspective was moderated by Mr Shahidul Haque, Foreign Secretary, Government of Bangladesh. Mr Neal Walker, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh, Ms Sarah Cooke, DFID Country Representative to Bangladesh, Mr M Riaz Hamidullah, Director General (Economic Affairs), Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Professor Dr Mustafizur Rahman, Executive Director, Centre for Policy Dialogue spoke as designated discussants.

Scholars, members of academia, policy makers, former and current government officials, members of diplomatic corps as well as representatives from development partner organisations participated in the open discussion session. Different speakers on the seminar highlighted various aspects related to the post-MDG agenda and sustainability issues (click here for the summary of the proceedings).