Revitalizing and rethinking Bangladesh’s diplomacy


The urgency to reinvigorate and restructure Bangladesh’s diplomacy has become evident, with concerns arising that the leadership within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) might be overlooking the complexity inherent in diplomatic endeavors. Diplomacy is inherently intricate, defying simplistic categorizations or hasty conclusions. It defies mathematical precision and the pursuit of perfection, instead revolving around adeptly navigating global interactions and safeguarding national interests abroad.

It is essential to recognize that diplomatic achievements don’t necessarily equate to global defeat. Viewing Bangladesh’s non-membership in BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) during the recent Johannesburg summit as a diplomatic setback is an oversimplification. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s invitation to the event and her presence among other aspirants signifies Bangladesh’s rising influence in global affairs.

Criticism concerning Bangladesh’s absence from BRICS disregards diplomatic principles. Notably, Indonesia also sought and failed to secure BRICS membership. To condemn the Bangladeshi government for not gaining entry into BRICS overlooks the inherent complexities of modern diplomacy. There will be opportunities for Bangladesh to join BRICS in the future; this should not overshadow our diplomatic efforts.

Effective diplomacy necessitates astute assessments of objective realities. China, for over two decades, was denied a United Nations seat due to US opposition, supporting Taiwan’s representation. China didn’t perceive this prolonged exclusion as diplomatic failure. Similarly, in the early 1970s, when China vetoed Bangladesh’s UN membership application, Dhaka didn’t interpret it as a diplomatic setback. Bangladesh’s entry into the UN was achieved in 1974.

Bangladesh has celebrated numerous diplomatic successes. After its liberation, countries swiftly recognized its sovereignty. Even the United States, initially Pakistan-oriented, acknowledged Bangladesh. The government facilitated Bengali Hajj pilgrims’ journey to Mecca in partnership with Saudi Arabia before diplomatic recognition. These instances underscore that diplomacy isn’t a trivial matter.

Bangladesh requires skillful diplomats capable of articulating national priorities adeptly on global platforms. Diplomats don’t merely write letters; they advocate for their nation abroad with conviction. The issue arises when, in Washington, diplomats were unable to address sanctions prior to their public announcement. Similarly, when a journalist linked to the 2001-2006 BNP-Jamaat government spreads anti-government propaganda in the U.S., questions emerge about our embassy’s narrative countering this disinformation.

Despite these complexities, the BRICS situation prompts inquiries about whether Dhaka’s diplomatic establishment exerted its full effort to advocate for membership. Although a positive outcome might not have been guaranteed, it’s essential to ensure thorough diplomacy was pursued. Premature statements regarding BRICS admission require scrutiny. Did MOFA communicate to the Prime Minister’s Office that BRICS membership was within reach?

Diplomacy isn’t binary; it hinges on presenting a potent foreign policy to the world. In the 1970s, led by Kamal Hossain, Bangladesh’s eloquent foreign policy compelled Pakistan to recognize its independence. Purposeful diplomacy facilitated the release of Pakistani prisoners of war in India in the interest of regional peace.

Bangladesh’s diplomacy necessitates revitalization and refinement.

Experienced diplomats aligned with global trends and national priorities must be positioned worldwide. As foreign governments attempt to influence political change in Bangladesh, diplomats must neutralize these efforts. Government coordination is crucial.

BRICS’ episode shouldn’t be seen as a failure but rather as an impetus to redefine diplomatic approaches. An expert body assisting the head of government in future foreign policy formulation is advised. Intellectual and inspirational leadership is essential at the top of MOFA’s foreign policy structure.

In essence, diplomacy requires constant evolution and engagement. Bangladesh must embrace this, ensuring its diplomatic corps remains adept and influential in an ever-changing world.


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