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Middle East ignored in BNP diplomacy

  • Published at 08:29 pm May 24th, 2018
  • Last updated at 08:29 pm May 24th, 2018
Khaleda Zia, then Bangladesh prime minister, centre, arrives at the conference centre in Doha for a two-day summit in June 2005AFP
Khaleda Zia, then Bangladesh prime minister, centre, arrives at the conference centre in Doha for a two-day summit in June 2005 AFP

There are over 30 members in the BNP’s international wing, but none of them is working to bolster relations with Middle Eastern countries

BNP has ignored the Middle East in its foreign policy plans ahead of the 11th national elections. Nobody in the party is assigned to the task of looking after relations with countries in that region.

The Middle East got special priority during the regimes of BNP founder and former president Ziaur Rahman and his wife, also current party chief, Khaleda Zia.

Analyzing activities of BNP’s diplomatic wing it was found that currently the party has no strategy to build up bilateral relations with 16 countries of the region, reported Bangla Tribune.

During her announcement of `Vision 2030’ in May last year, party Chairperson Khaleda Zia said in the foreign policy segment ‘BNP will build up special relations with the Muslim world and neighbouring countries’. But there is no sign of fulfilling the pledge.

Sabihuddin Ahmed, member of the BNP Chairperson’s advisory council and also a member of the party’s diplomatic wing, denied that the Middle East had been ignored. “Those who worked [for building up relation with the Middle East] before are working still,” he said.

According to sources, there are more than 30 members in the BNP’s international wing, but none of them is working to bolster ties with the Middle East.

The chairperson’s advisory council member Enamul Haque Chowdhury was assigned to look after the Middle East affairs but he is not active now.

He could not be contacted despite several attempts.

When BNP’s relation with the Middle East worsened

The matter of deterioration of relations between the Middle East and the BNP was noticed in 2015 when BNP Chief Khaleda Zia went to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah. During her stay she did not meet any high level official of the Saudi government.

In 2016, during his visit to Bangladesh, Qatar Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani did not meet with the BNP chief.   

The same year, BNP Joint Secretary General Aslam Chowdhury met a leader of Israel’s Likud Party. Following the incident, Palestine became angry with the BNP.

Later, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir visited the Palestine embassy in Dhaka to deliver the message that his party is always with the people of the Palestine who are struggling for an independent state.

Foreign policy during BNP founder Ziaur Rahman’s regime

In his article “Four decades of Foreign Policy” Jahangirnagar University Professor Tarek Shamsur Rahman said BNP has brought huge changes in its policy on Media East.

He said Khaleda Zia prioritized relation with Saudi Arabia in the foreign policy during her two terms in 1991-96 and 2001-06.

“General Zia worked a lot to build up relations with foreign countries by attached priorities to developing relations with the Muslim world and boosting ties with China.

“During Zia’s regime Bangladesh became the member of the permanent council at Islamic Solidarity Fund. Bangladesh was also a member of Al Quds committee and member of negotiation committee of Iran-Iraq war at the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) summit in 1981. During Zia’s term Bangladesh was also elected a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council,” said the professor.

A member of BNP diplomatic wing said: “As an opposition party BNP has no individual relations with any political party of any other country. This is not even possible. We never attempt to do so.

“We have only relations with the Chinese Communist Party. I have not seen building up any relation with any party of other countries in the last 10-12 years. There is no scope to maintain an individual relationship either.”

According to BNP’s diplomatic wing sources, Saudi Arabia is given the topmost priority in the Middle East policy.

It is known that the party chief has a good relation with the country.

Scenario after new Saudi crown prince was elected

However, after Mohammed bin Salman was elected crown prince in November last year, Saudi Arabia has rolled out a number of new equations and strategies. Following that it is necessary to think again about the relationship with the country.

BNP wants to get a clear indication about Bangladesh’s position in the country’s new foreign policy. 

The party high command is also considering the diplomatic row between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Explaining ties with the Middle East, BNP Vice Chairman Enam Ahmed Chowdhury said: “We have good relations with Saudi Arabia. The new crown prince was elected. His attitude [towards us] is not clear yet.

“Moreover, many new leaders have been elected in the countries of the region. [Even after that] I think we have excellent ties [with the Middle East].” 

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