In Brussels, the Cercle Gaulois celebrated the 52nd anniversary of Bangladesh’s Declaration of Independence.
According to Political Editor Nick Powell, Ambassador Mahbub hassan Saleh, the diplomats and politicians present were celebrating a momentous occasion, not only in the history his country but also in the history of mankind.
Bangladesh has become an important part of the international community. Its economy, which is worth nearly half a billion dollars, is the 33rd biggest in the world. With its rapid growth rate it is expected to reach the 24th place by 2030. Bangladesh’s National Day, as well as celebrating the achievements of its Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the nation’s Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Mujibur-Rahman, is also an opportunity to remember the long struggle of freedom led by her father.
The Pakistani army waged a brutal, genocidal conflict to prevent this independence. However, by the end the year the resistance in Bangladesh was able to defeat it with the help of the Indian military. The Pakistani army and its local collaborators killed three million people, violated more than 200 thousand women, and forced forty million people to flee their homes. Thirty million fled within Bangladesh, and ten millions went to India. European countries were the first to recognize and support the newly independent country and formal relations with the European Union began in 1973.
The celebration of Bangladesh National Day in Brussels was postponed this year until early May, as the actual date, 26 March, fell in the holy Ramadam month. The importance of Bangladesh to the European Union was demonstrated by a large gathering at the Cercle Gaulois with distinguished guests.
Enrique Mora, the Deputy secretary general of the European External Action Service (EEAS), said that Bangladesh was “a very close friend” of the European Union, with trade totaling EUR24 billion over the last year. He added that “we can do more” and recalled the first EU-Bangladesh political dialogue held in Dhaka, last year. He said that negotiations were underway for a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, or PCA. This would be “a new foundation for our partnership”, he explained.
Md. Shahriar Alam MP was the special guest of honor. Shahriar Alam MP. He said he was particularly proud to join the National Day Celebrations in Brussels, as his country and EU celebrate 50 years of partnership. This robust trade relationship accounts for over half of Bangladesh’s exports.
Mr Alam acknowledged the importance of the EU’s Everything But Arms Scheme, which grants unlimited tariff-free export access to Bangladesh. This scheme has been instrumental in the social and economic growth of his country. He said that under the visionary and dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina – a daughter of Bangabandhu Mujibur Raham, our Father of Nation – Bangladesh will graduate from the Least Developed Countries category in 2026, and strive to become a Higher Middle Income Country by 2031.
He added that “the contribution of the European Union to this impressive development in Bangladesh is immense”. Our common goals, including improving the quality and life of our peoples and empowering women, as well as addressing climate change and repatriating more than 1.2 millions forcibly displaced Myanmar citizens (Rohingyas), bringing them back to their homelands, expanding education and healthcare and countering Covid-19; and improving workplace safety and workers’ rights. We are also closer together in partnership.
He continued to say that, as Bangladesh moves towards becoming a country with a higher income, it is planning a future partnership focused on innovation, knowledge, and skills development. In this respect, we appreciate the EU initiative to include Bangladesh on the list of countries that the European Union will launch the Skills and Talent Partnership in order to facilitate legal immigration into the EU. “We would also like to expand our engagements in the EU, both traditional and non-traditional, into areas such as security, anti-terrorism, climate changes, connectivity, blue economies, circular economies, and beyond”.
The Bangladesh Embassy in Brussels organised the event. Mahbub Hassan Salh, the ambassador of Bangladesh in Brussels, reflected on his country’s National Day. “We, the Bengalis, and the entire humanity saw a glorious moment both in the history of our country and that of the world. The Father of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Mujibur Rahaman’s 23 year long struggle to free the Bengalis culminated in his Declaration of Independence of Bangladesh. The Poet Of Politics turned his long-held vision, his political epic, into reality.
He reminded that Bangabandhu articulated his peace-centric, humane foreign policies as ‘friendship towards all and malice toward none’. He said that “our contribution to the maintenance and security of international peace is a clear reflection of this”. “Bangladesh has been the largest contributor to UN peacekeeping operations. Since August 2017, Bangladesh has temporarily housed 1.2 Rohingyas who were forcibly expelled from Myanmar. The success of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s policy of ‘zero tolerance against extremism and terrorism’, and her zero-tolerance approach to terrorism and extremism, gives us confidence as a peaceful nation and a stable nation”.
The Ambassador spoke of Bangladesh’s remarkable development since Sheikh Hasina’s return to office in Bangladesh 14 years ago. He cited the realisation of the vision of “Digital Bangladesh”, the first time in South Asia that the country had 100% coverage of electricity, as well as rapid and massive infrastructure improvements, such the Padam Bridge, one of the longest bridges in the world, built without international aid or loans.
The Metro Rail system in Dhaka’s capital city, a tunnel beneath the Karnaphuli river, and Bangladesh’s launch of its first satellite were also notable achievements. The Ambassador concluded, “This is a new Bangladesh. It’s a modern Bangladesh. A digital Bangladesh.” “A society based on knowledge with an indomitable spirit, a nation that is triumphant and continues to overcome obstacles with firm determination, and sustained efforts. A country that continues earning a respectable position at the table of the world.” “The world is ours, and we are the people of the world”.
After the National Day celebrations, Md. Nick Powell is our Political Editor and he conducted an exclusive interview with Shahriar.
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