Published:  12:47 AM, 09 August 2017

Let us practise smart diplomacy

The government has decided to open seven new consulates abroad. The reason given out is that the country means to enhance its trade, diplomatic and cultural relations with the rest of the world. That is surely understandable, given the complexities countries like Bangladesh face in coming to terms with an increasingly difficult global scene. In these days of post-modern diplomacy, it is absolutely essential that a developing country, which Bangladesh certainly is, shape its responses to the world around it in pragmatic fashion.

Our foreign policy, enunciated by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman soon after liberation, is based on the concept of friendship for all and malice toward none. Unfortunately, following Bangabandhu's assassination and the rise of rightwing, military-dominated politics in the twenty one years between 1975 and 1996, that principle lost some of its luster owing to the weak foreign policy pursued by the regimes then holding sway. Today, it is important that Bangladesh initiate a meaningful foreign policy for itself, the essence of which will be diplomacy aimed at developing and consolidating ties with other nations. That of course calls for a preservation of national self-esteem.

Indeed, now that these seven new consulates are being opened, it is of critical importance that they serve the purposes for which they are being set up. At this point, we have too many missions where the output is negligible. In some instances, there is an excess of manpower. And of course there have been regular complaints from people about the laid-back and non-cooperative attitude of many of those who man the missions.

Bangladeshis with dual citizenships often need assistance from the diplomatic missions regarding their passports, especially in the matter of such formalities as affixing 'no visa required' seals on them. Many of them travel long distances and have their jobs to look to. But when they are asked by mission staff to leave their documents with the missions and come another day, it is rather  vexing.

We expect an active diplomatic establishment, beginning with the Foreign Office in Dhaka and stretching all the way to each and every consulate, embassy and high commission representing the country abroad. Dynamism and a thorough knowledge of the world are called for. And, of course, there must be a change in policy where appointments to the nation's diplomatic missions are concerned.

Lobbying for appointments should be discouraged, for if it is not, we will end up conveying a poor image of Bangladesh abroad. Properly dedicated, articulate and competent diplomats, especially from among the young, must be sent abroad. We need smart diplomacy.

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