Dr Hasan Mahmud has paid his first go to to Brussels since his appointment as Bangladesh’s Overseas Minister, following his nation’s Basic Election in January. He’s very accustomed to the European capital, the place he studied environmental science earlier than starting his political profession. However there was little alternative to return to outdated haunts throughout his three-day go to, which was primarily to affix the threerd EU Indo-Pacific Ministerial Discussion board, writes Political Editor Nick Powell.
After I sat down with the minister, he advised me that the discussion board had been a possibility to debate frequent challenges, notably the worldwide financial shock attributable to the Russia-Ukraine struggle. He spoke of Bangladesh’s “willingness and eagerness” to see an finish to battle, not simply in Ukraine however all through the world -and most urgently in Gaza.
Dr Mahmud had additionally managed to slot in no fewer than 12 bilateral conferences throughout his go to. In addition to with overseas ministers from the Indo-Pacific area and a number of EU member states, he had what he described as two excellent conferences with the Commissioner for Worldwide Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, and the Commissioner for Disaster Administration, Janez Lenarčič.
He stated Bangladesh has an wonderful relationship with the European Union, which is its greatest buying and selling associate. In October 2023, in the course of the go to of the Bangladesh Prime Minister to Brussels, each the Prime Minister and the European Fee President collectively introduced the launching of negotiations on a brand new Partnership and Cooperation Settlement between Bangladesh and the EU. The Overseas Minister highlighted how this Settlement will body the future relations between either side, which is more and more taking over strategic dimensions.
Dr Mahmud confused to me the very important significance to Bangladesh of receiving GSP+ standing beneath the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences. The nation’s enormous financial progress implies that it’s graduating to center earnings standing and can now not robotically qualify for the tariff and quota-free entry to the European market obtainable to the world’s least developed international locations.
“It’s essential for us from 2029 as a result of the benefits that now we have been having fun with, we’d not get pleasure from any extra. Now we have to have another means that our exports to the EU aren’t hampered and our financial ties are additional strengthened”, he stated. Bangladesh is now sure to fulfill the GSP+ necessities that contain implementing 27 worldwide conventions associated to labour and human rights, environmental and local weather safety, and good governance.
Bangladesh has additionally taken on the burden of sheltering extra 1,000,000 Rohingya refugees, who fled persecution in Myanmar. Monetary assist from the worldwide group has been falling away as different international crises acquire extra consideration.
“That is the tough reality, that the worldwide focus has been shifted from the Rohingyas to the Russia-Ukraine Battle, particularly in Europe, additionally to the Gaza Battle. So final 12 months, the worldwide help has been diminished to half for the Rohingyas. That is troublesome for us, to feed them and deal with them, as now we have been doing”, the Overseas Minister advised me.
In the long run, there is just one answer, he defined, secure and voluntary repatriation of the Rohingyas to their homeland, Myanmar. It is troublesome for Bangladesh when the worldwide group has so many priorities however Dr Mahmud stated that he sees hope within the EU.
“The EU’s give attention to the Rohingyas has not been diminished, that’s what I’ve been advised by the EU Commissioners. Subsequent month there shall be a Joint Response Plan assembly in Geneva, I consider that shall be assembly and the help from the worldwide group will proceed”, he added.
The EU has to date dedicated €19.5 million this 12 months to Bangladesh to assist the Rohingya refugees, plus one other €7 million for catastrophe preparedness. However double that shall be wanted to match the help ultimately given in 2023. In the meantime, Bangladesh continues its diplomatic efforts to succeed in a repatriation settlement with Myanmar.
Battle with Myanmar has been averted, true to Bangladesh’s enduring overseas coverage of ‘friendship to all and malice in direction of none’, first enunciated by the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He led the nation to independence from Pakistan, which was secured solely after a bitter and bloody struggle of liberation in 1971.
Bangladesh is without doubt one of the prime contributors of troops for the UN’s peacekeeping forces and now it’s utilizing its ethical authority to press for an finish to the battle in Gaza. “This is certainly unacceptable”, the Overseas Minister advised me.
“Individuals who aren’t concerned in violence in any means are being killed they usually embody ladies and youngsters in massive numbers. This within the twenty-first century … That is very saddening, irritating and unacceptable that regardless of the decision from the UN, even the decision from the US, it appears that evidently the Israelis don’t hear”.
Bangladesh has additionally been utilizing its capacity to talk to all sides to induce an finish to the Russia-Ukraine struggle. Dr Mahmud noticed that it has destabilised the entire world via commodity value rises which have hit Bangladesh as a lot as any nation.
In the meantime, he warned, the worldwide group is nonetheless not doing sufficient about Local weather Change, a significant subject for Bangladesh, which has made a negligible contribution to international warming however is susceptible to the menace of extra excessive climate and rising sea ranges. Dr Mahmud identified that the world spends way more cash on the arms race than on saving the planet “however the understanding across the globe is significantly better than 15 years again”.
Till January, Hasan Mahmud was Bangladesh’s Info and Broadcasting Minister. So I concluded my interview by asking him what it was like dealing along with his nation’s extraordinarily vibrant and aggressive media, one of many strongest guarantors of its democracy.
“The media may be very vibrant, very robust, in comparison with many different international locations”, he defined. “So, coping with the media shouldn’t be simple. However I used to be publicity secretary of our get together for a few years, so I had relationship with the media personalities … after I left the ministry, the folks within the ministry, the folks within the media, all advised me they would miss me!”
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