Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) organized a Webinar on “Bangabandhu and Bangladesh: Leadership and Foreign Policy” on 13 December 2020 from 1100 to 1400 hours. His Excellency Md Shahriar Alam, MP, Honourble State Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, was present at the webinar as the Chief Guest. Six scholars presented their views in the webinar. The event was chaired by Ambassador M Fazlul Karim, Chairman, BIISS. Major General Md Emdad Ul Bari, ndc, psc, te, Director General of BIISS delivered the welcome remarks. The webinar was attended by senior officials from the Bangladesh government, representatives from different foreign missions, retired ambassadors, businessmen, members of academia, researchers, faculties of various universities and media representatives.
While chairing the session, Ambassador M Fazlul Karim, Chairman of BIISS, highlighted different aspects of Bangabandhu’s leadership especially in the realm of foreign policy. He emphasized on Bangabandhu’s secular morality and values which was reflected in the first constitution of the country. He also mentioned that the secular policy reflects the inclusive nature of statehood irrespective of any race or religion.
In his welcome address, Major General Md Emdad Ul Bari, ndc, psc, te, Director General of BIISS highlighted the transformational leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman which shaped the fate of Bangali national identity, and rendered a great enthusiasm in every nationalist movement of this country. He also mentioned about Bangabandhu’s charismatic capability, idealistic influence, intellectual stimulation, and individualistic communication that had molded the spirit of autonomy and emancipation of this nation. He also emphasized on Bangabandhu’s efforts towards policy-making and institution-building in the independent Bangladesh.
Professor Dr Gobinda Chakraborty, Department of Political Science, University of Dhaka has focused on the post-war reconstruction efforts of Bangabandhu. He highlighted on how the discerning leadership and far-sighted policy of Bangabandhu steered the reconstruction process of the war-torn country from the wreckage and helped to consolidate Bangladesh’s position at the international arena as an independent nation.
Dr Smruti Pattanaik, Research Fellow, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, highlighted on Bangabandhu’s leadership for the oppressed people. Dr Pattanaik, in her articulation, modelled Bangabandhu as the leader of the oppressed and explained how he became the voice of the suppressed and subjugated people around the globe.
Dr Sufia Khanom, Senior Research Fellow, BIISS discussed about the role of Bangabandhu on women’s empowerment. She highlighted how Bangabandhu’s leadership and personal view on women’s rights paved the way for empowering women in various stages of life and sectors of the society.
Professor Shahab Enam Khan, Department of International Relations, Jahangirnagar University shed lights on idea of regional cooperation of Bangabandhu. He elaborately discussed the regional politics and policies of Bangabandhu during the period of 1971-1975.
Professor Dr. ASM Ali Ashraf, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka highlighted on Bangabandhu’s strategy in balancing divergent global powers. He argued that the foreign policy priorities, choices and decisions made by Bangabandhu clearly demonstrate a transformational leadership.
Mr M Ashique Rahman, Research Fellow, BIISS discussed in detail about the roots of the basic principles of Bangladesh foreign policy, especially the foreign policy doctrine of ‘friendship to all, malice to none’ and their genealogy to the ideas and philosophies of Bangabandhu. He argued that Bangabandhu’s idea of foreign policy was not collected or influenced by others, rather he gathered them over the years, especially from his lifelong political career and feelings for the humanity.
The Chief Guest H. E. Md Shahriar Alam, MP, mentioned that like a true statesman, Bangabandhu beautifully juxtaposed, Bengalis’ nationalist aspiration for freedom with the global yearning for peace and justice in a world that was intensely polarized by the Cold War. Considering the Cold War situation, it was not surprising that another newly independent nation, born out of the War of Liberation, was caught between the superpower tussle for supremacy. Thus, the main challenge for Bangabandhu was to reconstruct a war-ravaged country, and under this demanding condition, he had to secure international recognition, assistance for reconstruction of the country and put Bangladesh on the world map as a self-reliant nation.
The webinar also included a lively open discussion session.