Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has said Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's foreign policy was marked by dynamism coupled with neutrality and high moral standing in the global arena.
"Bangabandhu was ideologically very upright, yet essentially pragmatic to uphold the best interest of his country. He, therefore, decided to pursue a neutral foreign policy based on universal values and principles," he said.The Foreign Minister said Bangabandhu projected Bangladesh as a peace-loving nation with a high aspiration for transformative change in the lives and livelihood of its people. “It earned Bangladesh the recognition of almost all the countries of the world within a very short span of time.”
Momen made the remarks while speaking at a webinar organised by the Bangladesh Permanent Mission to the United Nations, New York in collaboration with the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies, University of California, Berkeley.
The webinar titled “Foreign Policy Visions of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman” was held on Monday as part of the ‘Mujib Barsho’ celebrations.
Eminent international speakers -- Salil Tripathi, award-winning author and journalist; Tom A Dine, senior diplomat, US foreign services & friends of Bangladesh Liberation War honouree; and Prof Syed Anwar Husain, Bangabandhu Chair, Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP), were present virtually as panelists.
Permanent Representative (PR) of Bangladesh to the UN Ambassador Rabab Fatima made the welcome remarks at the programme.
Rabab Fatima paid deep homage to Bangabandhu, whose visions and ideals as articulated in his maiden speech to the UN General Assembly in 1974, continue to shape the foreign relations of Bangladesh. “Bangabandhu called for the revival of human unity and brotherhood to change the inequality that prevailed in the economic situation of the world at that period of time – an idea we find even more relevant today, when the COVID-19 pandemic has made fractures in the current international development system strikingly visible,” she said.Referring to the recent graduation of Bangladesh from the group of least developed countries (LDCs), she thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for leading the country to prosperity as dreamt by Bangabandhu.
Foreign Minister Momen in his remarks reiterated the historic dictum of Bangabandhu, "friendship to all and malice to none”, as the bedrock of Bangladesh’s foreign policy which will continue to define it in the future.
He said Bangabandhu was a charismatic leader and an unforgettable hero. “In the thousand years of history of Bangalees, Bangabandhu is the only one to earn them a free nation-state for themselves.”
Bangabandhu endured unimaginable personal sacrifices throughout his life to establish the rights of his own people and end discrimination, disparity, and deprivation, Momen said. “Prison was like a second home for him as he had to remain behind the bars for more than half of his prime years of his life. Yet his love and compassion for his people and the entire humanity remained unwavering.”
Salil Tripathi praised Bangabandhu for advocating ‘inclusive nationalism’, which is rooted in the 1952 Language Movement and opined that such concept remains very relevant in today’s world.
He has also invited the international community to learn few principles that Bangabandhu established by example – his dignified treatment to the survivors of sexual violence.
Tom A Dine shed light on the political climate in the US administration during the War of Liberation in 1971 and lauded Bangladesh for proving the then US leadership wrong through transformative development and progress in 50 years’ time.
As the Bangabandhu Chair of BUP, Prof Anwar Husain focused on Bangabandhu’s role in placing Bangladesh in the international stage.
The Foreign Minister and other speakers responded to questions raised by participants. Momen also expressed regret that subsequent governments after Bangabandhu’s tragic assassination tried to erase his ideals and contributions.
The speakers emphasised on conducting more research and campaigns to spread the ideals of Bangabandhu among the young generations.
Salil Tripathi is the author of “The Colonel Who Would Not Repent: The Bangladesh War and its Unquiet Legacy” and an award-winning journalist who chairs Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International.
Tom A Dine, a former US diplomat, received Friends of Bangladesh Liberation War honour for his contribution to Bangladesh’s independence.
Dr Sanchita B Saxena, who moderated the event, is the Director of the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies and also the Executive Director of the Institute for South Asia Studies of University of California, Berkeley.
The webinar was full to its capacity with the presence of a large number of foreign students, academics, diplomats, media personalities and civil society representatives.