THE relations between Bangladesh and Pakistan have developed over the years into one of substantial cooperation. There have been ups and downs too. However, any challenge in the relation can be tackled by fostering greater understanding and bilateral interactions, said the BD High Commissioner Tarik Ahsan during the course of an interview.
He explained that Bangladesh pursues a policy of ‘friendship to all and malice towards none’, which is robustly applied in all fields of foreign relations. Bangladesh believes that only an atmosphere of cooperation, non-confrontation, can support the much-needed economic and social development in the countries in the region. The country desires good relations with all countries, including Pakistan, based on the cardinal principles of inter-state relations, i.e., mutual respect and non-interference. Bangladesh does not believe in zero sum game. Her good relationship with one country is not at the cost of relation with another country.
He said he hopes ties with Pakistan will gradually improve. He believes, bilateral contacts are important and Dhaka is open to deliberations. He said a chance of bilateral talks between the two countries had been missed with the postponement of the long-overdue 6th round of Foreign Secretary Level Consultations that was scheduled for September this year. However, he is optimistic that it will take place in near future.
He indicated that Bangladesh favours regional peace and cooperation so as to concentrate on endeavours for improving the lives of people. A land boundary agreement with neighbouring India implemented last year has resolved an historic issue of a segment of under-marketed land border and enclaves, which had been pending since partition of the Subcontinent in 1947. Bangladesh also resolved longstanding maritime boundary disputes with India and Myanmar through international arbitrations based on mutual consent. The country is also promoting different mechanisms of regional connectivity such as Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Transport Agreement and Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor.
On the domestic front, the government’s constructive policies and people’s indomitable drive have led to noteworthy economic development of Bangladesh in recent years. The country’s per capita income has crossed $1,400 per annum, an increase that graduated the country from low income classification to lower middle income classification by World Bank recently. This has been possible in view of a consistent growth rate of GDP above six per cent over the last decade. This rate crossed 7.1 per cent in the last financial year.
He continued, while annual remittances have remained in the vicinity of $15 billion, the annual exports reached $34 billion. With imports remaining in the neighbourhood of $38 billion, the foreign exchange reserve is on an upward trajectory, crossing $32 billion. Power generation was at 13,500MW last month, and it is increasing constantly. Load shedding has become a thing of past, at least, in major cities. Foreign direct investment last year was $2 billion. With greater political stability now prevailing, it is expected to rise even higher. During recent visit of Chinese President to Bangladesh, the Chinese government signed agreements worth $24 billion in projects, in addition to MOUs worth $13 billion in private investment. Some more countries have shown similar interest.
He said, as a developing country, Bangladesh has challenges. However, the country has made impressive strides in social development, particularly in women empowerment. Bangladesh achieved most of the Millennium Development Goals and has already been categorized as a country of medium human development index by UNDP.
While literacy rate has already reached 62 per cent, he said, emphasis is now on improving the quality of education with focus on technical education. He added that, availability of basic health care, especially in rural areas with the establishment of community health clinics, has resulted in significant cut in child and maternal mortality rates, reduced population growth rate and increased life expectancy to over 70 years. The country has substantially developed road network, particularly in rural areas. This has helped social mobilization and economic activities at the grass roots level.
Mr Ahsan acknowledged that realizing the Sustainable Development Goals recently set by the United Nations, particularly the goal of reducing poverty level to zero by 2030, will call for a sizeable amount of funding. However, the country is confident to achieve these goals, given the mutually supportive impact of economic development and social development in a virtuous cycle that is already in motion.
The High Commissioner, posted not very long ago, is an extremely charming and courteous person. With a polished record of postings at United Nations in New York, Riyadh and Jakarta, also High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, he is now here. Mr Ahsan is eloquent and wants to see relations with Pakistan touch new heights. Bangladesh, he felt proud, was on the road to progress under a government determined to improve the life of the people. It has achieved substantial success and wishes to continue its onward march uninterruptedly, said Tarik Ahsan.