Dhaka, Delhi to hold foreign secretary-level talks in Dhaka Wednesday
Bangladesh and India are scheduled to hold Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) on Wednesday, which will review the ongoing cooperation between the two countries apart from the issues of mutual interests. Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra will arrive in Dhaka after the completion of his two-day official visit to Nepal from February 13 to 14. Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen and his Indian counterpart will discuss all the bilateral issues at the FOC. Kwatra assumed charge as foreign secretary on May 1 last year, and this will be his first Bangladesh visit after that. Preparatory works regarding the FOC are now underway, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Seheli Sabrin told the reporters at a weekly briefing Thursday. She said the last FOC was held on January 29, 2021, in New Delhi, India. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is likely to attend the 18th Group of Twenty (G20) Summit which will take place in New Delhi on September 9-10 this year. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited her Bangladesh counterpart Hasina to attend the Summit. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen will attend the G20 foreign ministers' meeting in New Delhi on March 1-2. The issues related to the upcoming visits by the prime minister and foreign minister are likely to be discussed during the Indian foreign secretary’s visits, said a diplomatic source. Kwatra is likely to meet the prime minister and foreign minister during his visit. India, which holds the presidency of the G20 from December 1 2022 to November 30, 2023, invited Bangladesh as a "guest country" in its all meetings, Seheli said. Bangladesh sees its series of engagements with the G20 under India's presidency this year as a "big honour" for it. "We will raise our issues there. It is a big honour for us. We should be prudent," Momen told the reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently, noting that Bangladesh is the only South Asian country invited by the host. The G20 is the premier forum for international economic cooperation, which plays an "important role" in shaping and strengthening global architecture and governance on all major international economic issues. India invited Bangladesh, Egypt, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Singapore, Spain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as guest countries to its meetings and summit, according to the Ministry of External Affairs, India. Apart from the G20 leaders, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil El-Sisi, Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, Oman Head of State Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan were invited to the G20 Summit. Hasina paid a state visit to India from September 5 to 8 last year at the invitation of Modi. The G20 comprises 19 countries – Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Türkiye, the UK, the US and the European Union. The G20 members represent around 85 percent of the global GDP, over 75 percent of the global trade, and about two-thirds of the world population. Read more: Being invited to G20 Summit is a big honour for Bangladesh, says Momen
50 years of ties with Thailand: Dhaka calls for regional cohesion
Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen has appreciated Thailand’s continuous support to the development journey of Bangladesh in the last fifty years. He hoped for the continuation of the same for transforming Bangladesh into a knowledge-based, developed country by 2041 under the visionary and able leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Masud also stressed greater regional cohesion for reaping the benefits of the Asian momentum. Read more: Jaishankar greets Bangladesh on Victory Day On the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Bangladesh and Thailand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized a seminar on Thursday titled “50 Years of Bangladesh-Thailand Friendship: Prospects and Way Forward”. Foreign Secretary Masud graced the seminar as the chief guest. Ambassador of Thailand to Bangladesh Makawadee Sumitmor spoke as guest of honour while Secretary (East) Mashfee Binte Shams chaired the session. The speakers of the seminar were Ambassador Kazi Imtiaz Hossain, Chairman, BIISS, Prof. Dr. Delwar Hossain, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka and Jibon Krishna Saha Roy, Director, BIDA. The foreign secretary recalled with gratitude the early recognition of Bangladesh by Thailand in 1972, immediately following the independence of Bangladesh.
No scope to see Shaheenbagh incident as security threat: Foreign Secretary
Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen has said the situation that US Ambassador Peter Haas faced cannot be seen as a security threat. “There is no scope to see it as a security threat,” he told reporters at the Foreign Service Academy on Thursday evening, noting that the incident will have no impact on the Dhaka-Washington relations of long 50 years. Ambassador Haas visited the residence of Sanjida Islam, coordinator of Mayer Dak, an organisation of the relatives of the victims of enforced disappearance, at Shaheenbagh in the city on Wednesday morning. Sanjida is the sister of BNP leader Sajedul Islam Sumon, who was reportedly disappeared in 2013.As Haas arrived there though, he was intercepted and confronted by members of another organisation - Maayer Kanna (Mother's Tears) - a platform of family members of victims of earlier regimes, specifically the administration of BNP founder Ziaur Rahman. Read: DUTA slams US Ambassador for ‘contradictory’ behaviour The US Ambassador met Foreign Minister Momen on emergency basis at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs right after the incident. The Foreign Secretary said Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen tried to explain the situation on Wednesday. “I told him that it is our responsibility to ensure security for you and your people. I asked him (Haas) whether anybody attacked him or on his people. He replied, no,” the foreign minister told reporters, adding that they will provide the Ambassador additional security if he wants. The Ambassador's security escort asked him to leave the place as soon as possible fearing blockade by people there. “Due to security reasons he left quickly. He is very unhappy with that incident. He is a bit worried,” Momen said. Read: Families of armed forces officers executed during Zia regime seek US ambassador’s intervention for justice The US Ambassador and embassy staff concluded the meeting early on December 14 due to “security concerns”. The US side said they have raised their “concerns” about this matter at the “highest levels” of the Bangladesh government.
FS Masud gets 2-year extension as senior secretary
The government has extended the tenure of Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen by two more years under a contractual appointment effective from December 6, 2022 or from the date of his joining. The Public Administration Ministry issued a gazette notification on Wednesday regarding his contractual appointment as Senior Secretary of the government. Read more: COP27: Bangladesh urges developed nations to double provision of adaptation finance by 2025 Masud joined as Foreign Secretary on 31 December 2019. As a career diplomat, he has long been serving in different capacities at the Headquarters and Bangladesh’s Missions abroad. Prior to his appointment as the Foreign Secretary, he had been Bangladesh’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations since 2015. Before that, he served as Bangladesh’s Ambassador to Japan from 2012 to 2015. Read more: Energy supply to Bangladesh: Turkey will be “more than happy” to be a transit country, says ambassador He also served as Ambassador to Italy and Permanent Representative to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and International Fund for Agricultural Development from 2008 to 2012. Masud served at the Headquarters in different capacities. From 2006 to 2008, he was the Director-General in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dhaka and was responsible for matters related to South Asia, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Human Rights and the United Nations.
Human trafficking hurts lives, country’s image: Foreign Secretary
Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen on Thursday said human trafficking is like a cancer in a society that undermines the lives of individuals and future of their families, and tarnishes the country’s image. “We cannot allow some irresponsible people to slap on the face of the people who are working hard to develop the country,” Masud said. Bangladeshis are one of the top ten nationals who crossed the Mediterranean Sea during 2014-2022, and such statistics go against the achievements Bangladesh made, he said. The foreign secretary was talking to journalists at the closing session of a workshop on "Migration and Media" organised by International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in cooperation with Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) at a city hotel. On the bilateral front, the foreign secretary said, they have signed an MoU with Greece that will see Bangladeshi workers migrating to Greece each year in a regular and orderly manner. Under the MoU, Greece will create employment for 4,000 new Bangladeshi workers each year by providing them with temporary work permits for five years, he said. "We hope to see a sharp decline in illegal migration and trafficking of Bangladeshi workers," Masud said. Also, similar arrangements are on the way with Italy, Malta and a number of European countries, he said. Bangladeshis were found as irregular migrants reaching the shores of Italy in the first six months this year. Of the 28,405 irregular migrants in the first six months this year, there were a total of 4,606 Bangladeshis followed by Egyptians, Tunisians, and Afghans. They take risky boat journeys in the Mediterranean sea to reach Europe and many of them die. Read: Bangladesh wants discussion to avert border tension with Myanmar: Foreign Secretary “We need to empower our workers with skills," Masud said adding that if the workers are not empowered there are more scopes for abuses. Despite sustained efforts, human trafficking continues to thrive through trans-national networks. "We need to work on prevention, interception and prosecution on both ends of the spectrum. Here, media can play a constructive role to educate our people about the risk of choosing irregular pathways of migration," said the foreign secretary. Media can empower migrants and the communities they live to shape positive public perceptions about migration and migrants, he said. "We should remain committed collectively to harnessing the benefits of sound human mobility for the sustainable development of our peoples and the planet," he said. Former foreign secretary and Senior Policy Advisor IOM Bangladesh Shahidul Haque said while there are socio-economic factors for migration, climate change and conflicts are becoming major reasons for migration recently. Bangladesh has played important role at the international level, especially in having the Global Compact on Migration in place, a UN-led global deal, but migration governance at home is not in a very good shape, he said. Haque said Bangladesh should not be seen only as a source country of migrant, but it is also a receiving and transit country. EU Ambassador to Bangladesh Charles Whiteley said EU is working on finding legal migration pathways for Bangladeshis, alongside other nationalities. It has been supporting and will continue to do so to Bangladesh to improve migration governance and reintegration efforts as it is doing under the Standard Operating Procedures now under the project PROTTASHA. IOM Bangladesh Chief of Mission Abdusattor Esoev and Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh President Rezaul Karim Lotus also spoke.
Bangladesh on right track to holding 'free, fair, participatory' polls: FS
Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen has said Bangladesh is on the right track to holding a "free, fair and participatory" national election, noting that there is no issue of interference by foreign countries. "A new election commission has been formed and it is talking to all parties. So, it is preparing for a free fair and participatory election. There is no issue of interference by the foreign countries," he said. As a nation, he said, Bangladesh is heading on the right path and if anyone has any doubt about it is up to them. The foreign secretary said they lodge protests when they see any interference in domestic affairs beyond the Vienna Convention and other diplomatic norms. He, however, said the government finds no problem if there is a "healthy and constructive" dialogue that benefits all. The foreign secretary, while talking to Jamuna Television, said these countries had faced some problems or are still facing some problems, and they also have come to this point by overcoming each stage. "So, we can learn from them, too." Sunday, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Habibul Awal reiterated the commission's commitment to hold an "inclusive and acceptable" national election to fulfil the expectation of all. Heads of missions representing the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries had a "constructive meeting” with the CEC and discussed the preparations for the next parliamentary polls. "They (foreign envoys) will be happy, too, if there is an inclusive, acceptable, free and fair election," he told reporters after the meeting. Kazi Habibul said they will do whatever they need to do to ensure a free and fair election. Also Read: Foreign diplomats better not comment on Bangladesh's election, says foreign secretary The CEC said the envoys know very well that some political parties are still telling them that they will not take part in the election. He, however, hoped that they would be able to reach a consensus by removing the distance. British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Chatterton Dickson who attended the meeting said fair and transparent elections are vital for democracy. "The UK and like-minded partners will continue to encourage a free and participatory process," Dickson tweeted after the meeting. The OECD is a group of countries including the US, Canada, Turkey, Germany and France which aims to assist economic development, raise living standards and promote growth in world trade. European Union (EU) Ambassador to Bangladesh Charles Whiteley also attended the meeting. "Wide-ranging exchange today between heads of mission from the OECD countries and the Bangladesh Election Commission on preparations for the December 2023 parliamentary polls," he tweeted. US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas and Swiss Ambassador to Bangladesh Nathalie Chuard were present. "There was a constructive and open exchange between the Bangladesh Election Commission and the OECD countries' heads of mission. We welcome the commitment made by the commission to hold free, fair and credible national elections," Ambassador Nathalie tweeted. CEC Kazi Habibul said such a meeting is a tradition before the election and they wanted to know about the rules and regulations of the upcoming parliamentary elections and the preparations. "We have informed them of our activities."
Rohingya repatriation: Bangladesh seeks more support from Singapore, ASEAN
Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen has sought more support from Singapore and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for the early repatriation of Rohingya people from Bangladesh to their homeland Myanmar. Masud made the call as Derek Loh, non-resident high commissioner of Singapore to Bangladesh, met him at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Dhaka Thursday. The foreign secretary also exchanged greetings on the golden jubilee of diplomatic ties between the two countries. He hoped that the multifaceted bilateral relations would grow further with expanded engagements in many areas of cooperation. Masud also stressed kick-starting a formal negotiation process to sign a free trade agreement between the two countries. Also read: Singapore to help Bangladesh to build ecosystem in e-commerce sector
India gets new Foreign Secretary
Veteran diplomat Vinay Mohan Kwatra on Sunday assumed charge as India's new Foreign Secretary. A career diplomat with over 32 years of experience, Kwatra succeeded Harsh Vardhan Shringla who retired from service on Saturday. He was previously the Indian Ambassador to Nepal. "Shri Vinay Kwatra assumed charge as Foreign Secretary today morning. #TeamMEA wishes Foreign Secretary Kwatra a productive and successful tenure ahead,” Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted. Kwatra joined the country's coveted Indian Foreign Service way back in 1988. Before his Nepal assignment, he served as India's ambassador to France from August 2017 to February 2020. The 59-year-old also worked in India's diplomatic missions in the US and China, and also served in the Prime Minister's Office, touted as a prestigious posting. READ: New army chief SM Shafiuddin adorned with rank badge of General Shringla was appointed the Indian Foreign Secretary in January 2020. He had earlier served as India's envoy to the US and Bangladesh.
Jaishankar leaves Dhaka after his "positive discussions" with leaders
Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday left Dhaka for Bhutan after his "positive discussions" in Bangladesh.Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen saw him off at BAS Base Bangabandhu on Friday morning as he left for Paro by a special flight of Indian Air Force.Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Vikram Kumar Doraiswami was also present. Also read: Growing Dhaka-Delhi interactions good reflection of trust: JaishankarDuring his brief stay in Dhaka, Jaishankar met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her official residence Gonobhaban on Thursday afternoon and invited her to visit India on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
No defence procurement from US now; signing GSOMIA to take time: FS
Bangladesh is not going to procure any arms from the United States at this moment but instead focusing on its economic development for the welfare of its people, Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen has said. “At this moment there’s no procurement (arms) issue. Our key aim is economic development,” he said, adding that they are still in the third stage of the five-stage process before signing the proposed General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with the USA. The foreign secretary said the US is interested to sign the GSOMIA for some “safeguards” on any possible advanced defence equipment procurement in the future but it will take time to complete the remaining stages. He made it clear that there is no reason to think that Bangladesh is going for a big procurement from the US. GSOMIA is seen as a "gateway" to do more on the security front including procurement of heavy-duty defence equipment and Bangladesh says it will take the final decision after analyzing national interests. “It’s not something that we need to procure equipment (defence) at this moment.” Read: Bhasan Char needs more resources to fulfill Rohingyas’ expectations: Ambassador Naoki While talking to a small group of journalists this week, the foreign secretary said the US side handed over the latest version of the GSOMIA draft to the Bangladesh side during US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland’s Dhaka visit last month. Responding to a question, he said the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) is also under consideration but it is not Bangladesh’s priority right now. The US says GSOMIA and ACSA are "essential" to enabling a closer defense relationship, expanding opportunities for defense trade, information sharing, and military-to-military cooperation between the two countries. The GSOMIA is a foundational government-to-government bilateral agreement that will permit greater collaboration and sharing of classified military information in the form of intelligence and classified information on US defense equipment. GSOMIA is a reciprocal, legally binding agreement that ensures governments understand and commit to protect classified military information at an equivalent level of security, according to US documents. Foreign Secretary Masud, However, said Bangladesh wants to diversify sourcing different kinds of equipment and defence related materials as part of the “Forces Goal-2030.” Read: Difficult to adjust ties with Russia: FS Obviously, Bangladesh will think of procuring equipment from the US as per Bangladesh’s requirement in the future, he added. Bangladesh finds good performance of the used equipment (boats) already given by the US to Bangladesh Coastguard and there was discussion between the two sides to get such boats in the future. Masud recently visited the United States and accompanied Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen at the bilateral meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the US State Department on April 4. The foreign secretary also led the Bangladesh delegation at the 8th Bangladesh-US Security Dialogue held in Washington.