Published:  12:20 AM, 12 July 2019

A question of diplomacy

Diplomacy gets to be a pool of stagnant water as long as it does not constantly get replenished with vitality. And vitality comes through the infusion of new blood, through placing at key points around the world men and women ready and able to project the image of the nation abroad.

Such vitality, unfortunately, has not been observed in the Foreign Office for years on end. The more appropriate point here would be a little more truculent: over the years, the nation's foreign policy edifice in Shegun Bagicha has increasingly been made redundant, for no fault of the men and women who are part of it.

There certainly is no dearth of qualified individuals among the present crop of Bengali diplomats for important postings anywhere around the world. On a wider scale, the appointment of former diplomats as envoys to important global capitals sometimes raises a number of uncomfortable questions.

There is the moral side to the issue: if retired individuals are called back to work and that too in crucial spots around the world, how do we deal with the frustration that rapidly and surely builds up in those who have been preparing themselves for years to walk away into the sunset once they have served as top diplomats for the country abroad?

Of course it remains the prerogative of a government to post its own people at missions abroad. But should such selections of diplomats not be based on intellectual considerations as well?

One may appoint an academic as high commissioner or ambassador, but only on the ground that he or she will inject an aesthetic purpose into the working of the mission he or she will lead. In the 1970s, Khan Sarwar Murshid did a good job as ambassador in Poland (truth be told, he should have been sent to serve in London or Washington). Azizur Rahman Mallick was a powerful presence in India as high commissioner.

The point here is that men and women of talent have in the past set forth on voyages as the faces of Bangladesh's foreign policy overseas. But when governments decide that former diplomats are good enough to speak for us around the world, they do us grievous wrong. And they do the Foreign Office grievous wrong.

It is time for a reinvention of Bangladesh's diplomacy through a rejuvenation of its diplomatic service. The appointment in certain instances of mediocre individuals as top diplomats since the mid 1970s has taken a toll on not just the Foreign Office but on the country as well.

Then again, there are the tales of senior diplomats going all the way to come by extensions in their plum postings. To what degree these men have made Bangladesh a centerpiece of global activity is a question one really does not have a response to.

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