Abul kalam Abdul Momen was sworn in as the new foreign minister on Monday
New Foreign Minister Dr Abulkalam Abdul Momen has said that his office will focus on economic diplomacy to realize Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s vision of elevating Bangladesh to a higher middle-income country by 2021, and achieve the sustainable development goals by 2030.
“My main focus will be enhancing economic diplomacy,” he told BSS on Monday, as the Awami League government was installed to power for the third consecutive term with the swearing-in of the new council of ministers under Sheikh Hasina’s premiership.
Momen, an economist by background, said he would engage the Foreign Ministry to do its part effectively to implement and expedite the prime minister’s visions —particularly her target to elevate the country’s status to a higher middle income by 2021.
He said development goals like the Delta Plan 2100 would be priority issues of his ministry as well as part of the government’s aspiration to make the country “Sonar Bangla” in real terms, as dreamt by the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The foreign minister 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 recent history, our relations with India was this good, we will maintain it and take it to further heights,” said Momen, who previously served as Bangladesh’s permanent envoy to the United Nations with concurrent accreditation to South American republics of Chile and Peru.
Simultaneously, he said, Dhaka would try to reap benefits of its ties with Beijing as it offered a huge amount as credit for Bangladesh’s development.
Momen identified the Rohingya crisis as a major challenge while he preferred to call it an “economic issue,” but feared it could affect the regional stability unless addressed through a consorted effort.
“The issue needs to be solved as soon as possible, otherwise it will affect the stability of the entire region,” he said.
The minister said the responsibility of the present government has immensely increased as Awami League came to power again with huge mandate of the people, whose expectations from the party now has also gotten bigger.
Momen took oath as foreign minister, along with his new colleagues in the cabinet, on Monday.
Under him, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam will continue in the same portfolio for the second consecutive term.
Momen has replaced AH Mahmood Ali, who was appointed as minister for foreign affairs following the formation of the all-party election-time government on November 21, 2013.
Ali was reappointed as the foreign minister on February 26, 2014, after Awami League came to power for a second consecutive term through the 10th general election that year.
Education and career
Abulkalam Abdul Momen, younger brother of former finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, was elected MP from the Sylhet 1 constituency in the 11th general election, held on December 30.
Muhith, who got elected from the same constituency in 2014, did not contest the polls this time, allowing his brother to follow his footsteps. Even though he contested an election for the first time, Momen secured an easy victory and has subsequently made his way to the cabinet.
Momen holds a PhD in economics as well as master in business administration from Northeastern University in Boston. He has also a master in public administration, public policy and international economics from Harvard University, and an LLB, MA in development economics and BA (Honours) from the University of Dhaka.
He taught economics and business administration at Merrimack College, Salem State College, Northeastern University, University of Massachusetts, and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
He also served as president of the Unicef Executive Board at the international level in 2010. He was vice president and acting president of the 67th United Nations General Assembly.
Momen was also president of the United Nations High-Level Committee on South-South Cooperation in 2014.