PM Sheikh Hasina has told the foreign minister to intensify cooperation.
Bangladesh would cultivate more effective ties with India and China, pursuing a vigorous economic diplomacy, newly appointed foreign minister Abdul Kalam Abdul Momen said today.
Seventy-one year old Momen also said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina directed him to intensify cooperation with neighbours on the basis of “solid partnership” and ensure that the foreign office acts as a partner of other ministries to draw more foreign investments in the country.
“My main focus will be to pursue a vigorous economic diplomacy with all major countries and particularly the neighbours,” Mr Momen told PTI in an interview a day after assuming the office, indicating that the new government wanted to reap the benefit of the friendships with both India and China.
An economist by background, Mr Momen said his office would effectively do its part to elevate the country”s status as a higher middle income by 2021 as envisaged by the premier and draw the required foreign assistance in implementing the government”s ambitious development plans.
Mr Momen said intense relations with neighbours like India and China would remain as a major policy while he would try to cultivate more effective ties with all major foreign nations like the US, the UK and France keeping Bangladesh”s integrity intact.
“In no time in the recent history, our relations with India was so good. We will maintain it and rather take it to another level,” he said.
Simultaneously, Bangladesh would try to reap benefits of its ties with China as it offered a huge amount as credit for the country’s development, Mr Momen said.
Bangladesh’s ties with India last year grew steadily, with high-level visits from both sides. Prime Minister Hasina visited India in May last during which she held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The last few years have been a “golden chapter” in India-Bangladesh relationship when complicated issues of land and coastal boundaries were resolved, PM Modi said at the time.
During 2018, the two countries launched many development cooperation projects, including the construction of the Akhaura-Agartala rail line and the restoration of Kulaura-Shahbazpur section of railway line.
Asked about major challenges, Mr Momen referred to the Rohingya crisis and preferred to call it “an economic issue” but feared it could affect the regional stability unless addressed through a conserted effort involving nations in the neighbourhood.
“The issue needs to be solved as soon as possible, otherwise it would affect stability of the entire region,” he said.
More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed into Bangladesh from Rakhine since August 2017 when Myanmar launched a brutal military crackdown, dubbed by UN as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” by international rights watchdogs, sparking a global uproar.
Mr Momen is a new face in the ruling Awami League. He previously served as Bangladesh’s politically appointed permanent envoy to the UN with concurrent accreditation to South American republics of Chile and Peru. He started his career as a civil servant in early 1970s to later became an economics professor in the US.
Having a doctorate degree in economics and MBA in business from Boston’s Northeastern University and MPA in public administration, public policy and international economics from the Harvard University, Momen was elected from the northeastern Sylhet constituency.
His elder brother, AMA Muhith, was elected to parliament from the same constituency during the last parliament election and served as Bangladesh’s longest serving finance minister in Ms Hasina’s cabinet.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)