Nation traveled long way to fulfill its dreams
Today, 26 March, 2012 Bangladesh celebrates its 41st Anniversary of Independence and Sovereignty. It is the 4th such occasion on which I am privileged to address you as your Foreign Minister.
The Bangalee nation has travelled a long distance from its painful birth, from the sacrifices made by its men and women, young and old, as a nation united by the common cause of exercising sovereign statehood.
In the wake of the assumption of responsibility as a government by people’s representatives under a free and fair election a little over three years ago, the Awami League Government, together with the 14 Party Alliance, has made giant strides towards fulfilling our dreams. Most significantly, we have vigorously pursued the four fundamental principles of our Constitution and of our State Policy.
We have launched our pursuit of building a Sonar Bangla. We are able to envisage middle- income, digital, knowledge based Vision of Bangladesh in 2021. We have demonstrated intent and ability to forge partnerships with our neighbours and far beyond. We are deeply involved in the process of multilateralism, through global and regional commitments. We are involved in social and economic restructuring through the empowerment of women and children; we have embarked on fashioning intergenerational equity; we continue to address ourselves to cooperating with developing countries in the framework of a global economic and political order.
We stand on the threshold of redressing the injustices inflicted upon us, historically and in more recent times. We are embarked in the process of redressing the imbalance in the relationship between developed and developing countries. Our policy and purpose to claim our entitlements occasioned by the factum of climate change is a major feature of our foreign policy.
We seek to ensure better terms of trade with the United States and the European Union whilst at the same time pursuing greater fairness and equity in bilateral relations with our more resourceful neighbours and special friends. We have vastly improved our relations with our immediate neighbour, Myanmar, on such important issues as the Rohingya issue and in economic and cultural spheres.
We continue, with new attention and new measures, to serve our men and women who work abroad, now numbering about 8 million, and increasing every year, whose contribution to our economy and welfare has provided us with a new dimension of the sovereign state that they represent. Our ever evolving policy to serve our expatriate workers has brought about hope for a better future for their welfare than just the contribution that they render to the quality of life we enjoy within the country.
Bangladesh is now a role model for fighting poverty and extremism, empowering women, disaster management and in coping with the challenges posed by global warming and climate change. Bangladesh is often cited as one of the eleven emerging economies of the world. It has achieved remarkable success and recognition in the social sector.
The winning of the MDG award for achieving targeted reduction in infant mortality and the UN South South Award for the use of modern technology in the development of women and child health by the Prime Minister bears testimony in this regard.
Since the Awami League assumed responsibility for conducting the affairs of the State, we have brought a judicial closure to the assassination case of Bangabandhu and his family and although some of the convicted continue to remain fugitives abroad, we are encouraged to believe that the horrors of impunity are being addressed. We have initiated the difficult process of bringing to justice war criminals through fair trials consistent with high standards of fair trial under international law.
We have made much progress in the cases against the BDR mutineers who threatened to shock and derail the Government within weeks of its assumption of State responsibility. Following Judgements of the apex Court, we have undertaken constitutional legislation, through the Fifteenth Amendment, to remedy the aberrations inflicted by military dictators and usurpers upon the Constitution.
In Parliament, we have adopted significant legislation that has rendered the Constitution consistent with our founding principles of Statehood. We believe that these have made deep inroads to reverse the culture of impunity which had besieged the nation since the assassination of the Father of the Nation will effectively lay down a bedrock for the return, and advent, to the Rule of Law and Rule under the Constitution.
On foreign policy issues, the Government has continued to pursue its policy of friendship to all nations. Coupled with its elected character and the massive mandate it has received in the last general elections, Bangladesh now enjoys excellent relations with the outside world.
The resolution of some long running issues with India and considerable progress to solve remaining ones, the successful holding of the Climate Vulnerable Forum Ministerial Meeting in Dhaka, the unanimous adoption of the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s “people’s empowerment” model at the Second Committee of the UN, Bangladesh’s election to a record number of UN and international bodies, the decision to establish the Permanent Secretariat of the BIMSTEC in Dhaka, the prompt repatriation of about 37,000 Bangladesh nationals from Libya etc., securing the return of 35 Bangladesh nationals, including 26 crew members, seized by Somali pirates and the release and safe return of 7 Bangladesh nationals from Afghanistan, are the hallmarks of the foreign policy pursued by the present Government during last three years. The winning of ‘South South Award’ during the 66th UNGA and ‘MDG Award’ by the Hon’ble Prime Minister during the 65th UNGA for achieving impressive progress are eloquent testimonies in this regard.
Without prejudice to our other achievements, we have been able to participate meaningfully in an ever expanding multilateral world and contribute to world peace-keeping efforts through the UN. Our efforts have resulted in Bangladesh being called a stabilizing State in the region.
Then, of course, we have enjoyed high success in pursuing our interests in our maritime claims. Ever since the birth of our nation, our entitlement to the territorial sea, the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf appeared to be theoretical rights.
They were, indeed, neglected and Bangladesh was unable to exercise sovereignty and sovereign rights over these territories contemplated in our Constitution. Callous neglect by successive Governments, military and quasi military, had deprived our people over the resources over these areas. Our Government, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has successfully settled our maritime entitlements with our co-literal state Myanmar through arbitration at ITLOS. Not only have we been able settle this issue, we have settled it through peaceful means and respect for international law and the principles laid down in the UN Charter to which we are committed.
That although are maritime entitlements remain unsettled with India, we have every reason to believe that we will be able to settle our claims peacefully and successfully through the arbitration process we have initiated at the International Court of Arbitration and Bangladesh will emerge with vast new resources hitherto untapped and unavailed.
I wish to highlight that continuing engagement by, and efforts of, our Diaspora serve enormously towards the achievement of our foreign policy objectives. The introduction of MRP and MRV have been introduced in almost half of the Bangladesh Missions abroad, together with the on going process to do so in the remaining Missions, reflects the high degree of success in that area.
To find out business potentials and to aggressively explore employment for our nationals, the Government has sent fact-finding Missions to Latin America and Africa for the first time. We are planning to open new Missions abroad soon to support our commercial drive and at a time when our export volume, remittance flow and inbound FDI are witnessing an upward trend.
I take this opportunity to thank all our officials and staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our Missions abroad who have devoted themselves to achieving our foreign policy objectives. I also congratulate the Bangladesh Diaspora who has lent buoyancy of the economy of their country of origin as well as to their host countries.
No message, at this stage of our national life, can be complete without invoking the source of our inspiration, namely, the inspiration imbibed by Bangabandhu, the Father of our Bangalee Nation, our four national leaders who, in his absence, led us during the nine months to our ultimate victory, the martyrs who laid down their lives, our Freedom Fighters, who had risked their lives against a modern ruthless and genocidal army.
I recall their cause and contribution in the great struggle for our independence and statehood. With the entire nation, I also recall, with the highest regard, those who suffered in silence, moved from shelter to shelter within the country, or took refuge across the border in India, without assurances of food or money on their person, and to those who lost their closest relatives and friends. I take the opportunity to remind ourselves that their will and aspirations embodied in our Constitution will provide the basis of all our endeavours.
Joy Bangla. Joy Bangabandhu