Mohammad Amjad Hossain :
I have had privilege to read interesting articles in some dailies on the performance of diplomacy by our diplomats.
Since ancient time diplomacy has been played by political leaders and diplomats in different style. The concept of diplomacy is as old as civilization. During reign of Chandra Gupta in ancient India Kautilaya's Orthoshastro on economic policy, war and diplomacy had played significant role until 12th century. In Europe, the Italian state first established permanent legation in the fifteenth century which was followed by introduction of Ambassadorial system. Diplomats have been in communication and negotiations with foreign governments since then though nature of these negotiations has grown very complex in the present-day world. Prophet Muhammed (Sm) also followed diplomacy to contact foreign governments on the basis of a just and fair world order in which all States, strong or weak, big or small, should enjoy peace,stability,freedom of conscience and human welfare.
Otto von Bismarck, German Chancellor, who conducted Germany's foreign policy from 1871 to 1890 has long had reputation in the field of foreign policy whose main principle was merely extension of domestic policy. His policy practically kept France isolated while maintained relations with Russia and Austria on good terms. According to W.W.Rostow, national interest is the conception which nations apply in trying to influence the world environment to their advantage. In the formulation of foreign policy national interest obviously enjoys priority. There are three fundamental objectives which should determine goal of foreign policy. The safeguarding and protection of the security of the country should receive priority. Second objective should be promotion of economic development which is essential pre-requisite for national stability and progress. Economic aid, therefore, be viewed as a means achieving self-reliance and eventually self-sustaining economic development. The third objective should be to promote and sustain the image of the country as one which pursues its position as a respectable member in the comity of nations.
Following partition of British India in 1947 professionalism of diplomacy had taken shape. Competitive examination requiring high standard educational competence had been introduced. Every year selection has been made for entry into diplomatic service through competitive examination. Last batch of 1971 of Pakistan foreign service were inducted in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh in 1974.From 1973 first batch was recruited mostly from freedom fighters in Bangladesh foreign service. Recruitment in Bangladesh foreign service was minimal until 1991.The number of recruitment to the BCS(FA) cadre was kept to the bare minimum merely low cadre strength and partly because of maintaining good standard of the recruits.
In 1986 batch engineers, doctors, agricultural graduate and architect have been selected through competitive examination but they have undergone severe nature of training course in Bangladesh Civil Service cum Foreign Service Academy since 1990 after Foreign affairs Training Institute ( FATI) merged with it. Here they were taught history, international relations, political science, Bengali and diplomacy and formulation of foreign policy by teachers from Dhaka University, apart from former Foreign Secretary and Foreign Secretary during 1991-1992 and Director-Generals of Foreign Ministry. During my two and a half years on deputation from the Ministry of Foreign affairs I introduced simulation programmes on international conflicts. Students were divided into two groups who were assigned to talk in favor of the conflicts and counter to find solution to the conflicts. A Director-General from Foreign Ministry presided over the session. A video obtained from American embassy was shown to trainee officers on the function of the United Nations under the guidance of Professor Nurul Momen. This writer also organized seminar of climate change for the benefit of recruited officers where Professor Aminul Islam, Geography Department of Dacca University was key note speaker while Dr.Ainun Nishat of BUET and Dr. Atiq, Consultant for Centre for Research on NIEO in Oxford University being participant in Rio Conference on Climate Change, were discussants. It was presided over by retired Foreign Secretary Mr. Nazrul Islam. This writer also introduced familiarization programmes for trainee officers. They were taken to Tin bigha corridor, near Bhutan border, Tamabil border and Cox's Bazar to see the plight of Rohingya refugees in the camps in 1992. Presently, all of them are serving as Ambassadors in different countries. Now Foreign Service Academy re-established in 1996 at Sugandha.Therefore, training course for newly recruited diplomats are continuing. Apart from training course they are imparted in different language course as well which includes Arabic, French and Chinese. Many of them obtained post-graduation from Fletcher School of Diplomacy in USA.
Direction of formulation of foreign policy is dictated by the government in power. Foreign policy was successful during the period of Awami League led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Nationalist Party led by Gen.Ziaur Rahman. During his time Bangladesh acclaimed non-permanent seat in the Security Council of the United Nations defeating donor country Japan while Asian group endorsed Bangladesh candidate Ambassador Khajwa Mohammad Kaiser for Presidency of the General Assembly when he lost in tie vote against Iraqi representative in 1981.President Ziaur Rahman was assigned by OIC single handedly to resolve conflicts between Iraq and Iran while Ambassador Arshad -uz Zaman was elected as Assistant Secretary-General of OIC. During the same period foreign Secretary SMS Kibria became Executive Secretary of UN Economic and Social Commission (ESCAP) from Asia and Pacific in 1981. The idea of formation of SAARC of Gen.Ziaur Rahman was floated during the reign of President Ziaur Rahman by foreign secretary SMS Kibria. On the other hand, President Ershad's pro- Iraq policy vis-a-vis Iran had caused widespread displeasure in Tehran. In spite of recommendation by foreign office President Ershad did not honor his commitment to pay a visit to Tehran. Ironically, Gen Ershad jumped on the bandwagon of western power led by the United States to drive Iraq from Kuwait during Gulf war in 1991.The major diplomatic debacle was the announcement by President Ershad of recognition of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on 16 November 1983. Bangladesh government had reversed its decision following requests made by UN, Non-Aligned movement, Common wealth Secretariat, US and Great Britain while Greece and Cyprus decided to break diplomatic ties with Bangladesh. Another wrong decision was made by President Ershad to establish ties with Democratic Kampuchea while President was on a visit to China which caused embarrassing situation for China.
According to former Ambassador M. Sirajul Islam, Awami League led present government "has shown an approach to foreign policy and diplomacy that is difficult to comprehend." He added Dr. Gowhar Rizvi and Dr. Mashiur Rahman, two advisors to the Prime Minister, were given power over foreign policy and conduct of foreign relations'. They have no acumen in diplomacy. Presently, Foreign Minister, who is career diplomat, apart from freedom fighter as well is holding portfolio of the Ministry of Foreign affairs. Present foreign Secretary has obtained MA and was awarded Chancellor Gold Medal from Dhaka University while he obtained M.A degree from the Fletcher School of diplomacy in 1988.
National interest should not be compromised under any circumstances. Present government in power does not have any card to play to resolve outstanding problems with neighboring countries. It is no use of blaming diplomats. Most of our diplomats have good educational backgrounds.
Diplomats needs to learn chess, badminton and golf as well to cultivate foreign diplomats during their foreign assignments. Yes, articulately dressed is necessary to represent a country. Ambassador Humayun Kabir had established stunt in diplomatic arena by presenting credential to Imam Khomeini, supreme leader of Islamic Republic of Iran, as Bangladesh Ambassador. Instead of wearing western suit Humayun Kabir presented credential in 1979 wearing lungi,Panjabi and cane hat to Imam Khomeini while presenting his credential to UN Secretary-General Perez de Culler in that dress in 1993 as Permanent representative of Bangladesh. Ambassador Humayun Kabir drew the attention of western media widely while he faced criticism at home. Success lies if a diplomat should be suave and at the same time extrovert in dealing with host government to pursue national interests, but government in power should attach national importance in formulating foreign policy. Experience in public relations also add success to diplomats. Last but not the least, this writer agrees with some columnists that foreign entertainment and education allowances are woefully inadequate. These need to be increased to have reasonable respectable lives of diplomats in foreign countries.
(Mohammad Amjad Hossain, retired diplomat and former President of Nova chapter of Toastmaster International club of America, writes from Virginia)