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Recognition of Kosovo by Bangladesh and its implications

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18th-Mar-2017       
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S.M Rashed Ahmed :
We have a shared history with Kosovo. Both the countries have fought for their independence. Like us, they are also victims of genocide and have long history of denial of rights and autonomy that eventually gave birth to an independent Kosovo after long political struggle and bloody war of Independence.  Like us they also started their struggle for independence peacefully under the leadership of Ibrahim Rugova who is called the Gandhi of the Balkans. He wanted a non-violent resolution of the Kosovo crisis with Serbian dictator Milosovice and his military responded with bullets. They have freedom fighters like Hashim Thaçi, former prime minister who is now the President of Kosovo, Adam Jeshari one of the the bravest freedom fighters of Kosovo, who was the founder of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and other freedom fighters. Adam Jeshari single handedly fought against the Serbian Security forces and was killed along with his entire family. The birth of KLA was due to disproportionate us of force by Serbian dictator Milosovic. Instead of a negotiated settlement of the Kosovo crisis with the Albanians leadership, he decided to opt for a military solution to the conflict by policy of ethnic and religious cleansing of Kosovo Albanians. This led to bloody arm struggle including forcible expulsion of million of Albanian men, women and children who fled as refugees into neighboring countries.
All diplomatic efforts by the West failed to persuade Milosovic to cease the policy of brutal repression and Force to resolve the crisis peacefully though a negotiated settlement of the crisis acceptable to all parties. NATO decided on humanitarian intervention on 24th Mach 1999 by air strikes against strategic targets inside Yugoslovia.
Milosovic countered through a coordinated operation of ethnic cleansing of Kosovo Albanians on an unprecedented scale forcing nearly six hundred thousand Kosovo Albanians mostly women, children and elderly to leave Kosovo as refugees while killing, maiming and detaining the Albanians young men. In the ensuing battle between the Serbian security forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) backed by the NATO the
Serbian security forces suffered heavy causalities in the hills and village of Kosovo. When NATO threatened to take military action on the ground, Milosovice decided to accept the UN Security Council resolution 1244 for a cease-fire. Consequently NATO also decided to suspend further military action against Serbian military targets in Kosovo.
UN resolution 1244, inter-alia, placed Kosovo under a UN interim Administration (UNMIK) to oversee administration of Kosovo, holding of local elections, ensuring return of the refugees and displaced persons, withdrawal of Serbian armed forces from Kosovo and disarming of the KLA.
The recognition of Kosovo by Bangladesh is a welcome development. It has added a new dimension to our diplomacy. The implications for the international community are important. Bangladesh has joined other countries, which have recognized Kosovo in reaffirming the principle that there would be no reward for ethnic or religious cleansing wherever it takes place. Bangladesh also upholds the principle of humanitarian intervention when a massive violation of human rights takes place in any country forcing its citizens to flee to other countries for safety and security and become refugees.
At this point the plea of the country involved in such massive violation of human rights that the issue is an internal matter for that country is unacceptable under humanitarian international law. In this context the humanitarian intervention by NATO forces in Kosovo, at the initiative of president Clinton in 1999 involving air strikes on the Serbian security forces following decision of Milosovic to embark on massive ethnic cleansing of Kosovo Albanians sets a welcome precedent in international humanitarian law. This paved the way for the return of millions of Kosovo Albanians refugees and displaced person to their homes and setting up of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Under Security Council (UNSC) resolution 1244. The UN resolution 1244, also eventually led to a negotiated settlement of the Kosovo crisis.
In my capacity as the UN Regional Administrator of Kosovo, the first diplomat from a developing country to hold the post, I was fortunate to be able to make my modest contribution to the process of peaceful resolution of the Kosovo crisis. As the Regional Administrator of Mitrovica I sustained the process of direct negotiations initiated by my predecessor David Mitchels involving the elected presidents of three Albanian municipalities in the south of Mitrovica region and three presidents of the Serbian municipalities in the north of Mitrovica. Mitrovica was characterized a de facto partition between the Kosovo Albanians in the South and the Kosovo Sarbians in the North separated by river Ibar and connected by a bridge on the river. The bloody Kosovo conflict started from this region. Even after the conflict was over there were frequent interethnic clashes on the bridge between the two ethnic groups. The agonizing negotiations and dialogue took place in the UN Regional head quarters in Mitrovica and lasted for months.  
I was ably assisted by the French KFOR General, the Irish police commander and the UNMIK Municipal Administrators of the region, among others. The Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) in Kosovo also gave his personal support by visiting Mitrovica region, and participating in the discussions between the Albanian and Serbian municipal elective presidents whenever possible. The fact that the two antagonistic parties involving local elected Albanian and Serbian leaders had begun to talk among themselves with the UN Regional Administrator acting as an honest broker was by it self a diplomatic success considering that there were no direct communication between them after the bloody conflict. There were frequent outburst of violence between the two ethnic communities separated by the bridge dividing the Albanian majority in the South and the Serbian majority in the north.
This painstaking process of dialogue and negotiations between Kosovo Albanians and the Serbian leadership in Mitrovica region significantly contributed to the eventual resolution of the complex issue of the status of Kosovo. Though there was continued opposition from Belgrade backed by Russia, Kosovo declared its independence through a vote of the parliament on February 17, 2008.
I wish to place on record that during my tenure with UNMIK I received invaluable support and guidance from the Deputy Secretary General (DSRG) Mr. Tom Koenig. He is to my mind, one of the finest and dedicated breed of eminent German personalities I had the privilege of interacting and working with him among other distinguish personalities.
The historic process of building a democratic, multi-religious and multi-cultural Kosovo is ongoing. Its success is crucial to building democratic multi cultural, multi religious societies in other states of former Yugoslavia particularly in Serbia dominated by the rise of the radicals and haunted by the ghost of Melosovic. The international community support to the process of Ensuring peace and stability in the Balkans is essential for achieving global peace and for success in the fight against the menace of terrorism, militancy and extremism afflicting the world at large.
The recognition of Kosovo by Bangladesh would be mutually benefited. Politically, the vision of two countries is more or less identical. Both Bangladesh and Kosovo are Muslim majority countries with secular orientations.  About 90 percent of the Kosovo people are Muslims but they are secular and tolerant like Bangladeshis. They are more proud of their Albanian culture than their religion,which they consider as a personal matter. They are culturally rich nation music, dance, art, literature, painting etc. are part of their life like Bangladeshis.  Kosovo is an excellent example of multi cultural, religious, tolerant, and democratic society in the heart of Europe. This is significant. Bangladesh is also multi cultural, religious, tolerant, democratic, and secular state. Hence two muslim majority tolerant democratic and secular states would have favorable impact on other emerging nations with muslim majority populations.
The aspiration of Kosovo to join European Union is much significant. They have scarce resources but with dynamic young population they want to create a modern, forward looking nation. Currently their emphasis is on revamping their education sector to lay the basis of an enlightened society, among other priorities.  When I asked a gathering of young people as to what kind of university they want to have. They said that, they want first class English medium Universities along with Albanian ones so that they can integrate with modern world and become competitive. A war ravaged economy needs everything to rebuild their economy for development. Kosovo is seeking economic cooperation involving joint venture projects, investments, banking and need help in agriculture sector etc.  Kosovans see Bangladesh as model of war ravaged country, which has achieved remarkable development since its Independence. Kosovo can, therefore, be a promising destination for our businessmen and Private sector investments in particular as the price of goods in Europe are increasingly becoming costlier. Bangladesh would need to tap the opportunity in Kosovo given its needs.
Of the lessons learnt from UN experience in Kosovo is that there is no durable military solution to essentially political, religious, sectarian ethnic and such conflicts. It is time for the world to opt for patient negotiations and diplomacy. The outcome achieved through such peaceful means are generally more lasting as violence, conflicts and wars create perpetual hatred in the hearts and minds of the people.
It is said 'If war begins in the hearts and minds of the people, it is in their hearts that defenses of peace should be built'. In the ultimate analysis nations and peoples cutting across geographical boundaries and all forms of divides and differences. We will have to work collectively to find non-violent resolutions to all problems, disputes afflicting the globe for peace and development, to banish the scourge of poverty, illiteracy and to overcome man made and natural disasters.
I would like to thank Prime Minister of Bangladesh and her Government for giving Republic of Kosovo official recognition. This would pave the way for a strong bond of friendship between the two countries, the governments and the peoples. I also wish to express my sincere appreciation and thanks to Prof Dr Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah Secretary General Bangladesh Kosovo Forum (BKF) along with other colleagues for their tiring effort and support for the recognition of Kosovo by Bangladesh.
[The writer is a career diplomat and a former UN Regional Administrator in Kosovo]

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