2014: YEAR OF SHEIKH HASINA ON THE INTERNATIONAL ARENA
Right after Awami League formed government under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in January 2014, in a manifestation of unanimous support, world leaders and chiefs of different regional blocs and international consortiums welcomed her on her assumption of state leadership for the straight second term, calling the January 5 election a triumph of democracy in Bangladesh.
With a renewed pledge to extend bilateral ties in marching towards progress and prosperity, heads of different states including Russia, China, Nepal, Myanmar, India, Cambodia and Vietnam conveyed their heartiest congratulations to the Bangladesh Premier. Secretary General of the D-8 (Developing-8) as well as OIC representatives reiterated their commitment to remain engaged with the Sheikh Hasina led government. During a visit to Bangladesh, UK Secretary of State for International Development Alan Duncan said that the formation of the government is a new chapter in the history of Bangladesh. In this Special Report, we look at the various highlights from the year that demonstrate the Bangladesh Prime Minister’s growing significance in the world arena and the international recognition for her leadership credentials.
Maritime Boundary Victory over India
Under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh won a long-standing sea claim battle with India. On July 7, 2014, a Netherland-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) awarded Bangladesh 19,467square kilometres out of 25,602 sq km disputed area in the Bay of Bengal. It was Sheikh Hasina’s government that placed the issue to the international court in 2009. As a result, Bangladesh now owns 1,18,813 sq Km territorial sea along with the ownership of all the 10 blocks India had claimed before. An exclusive economic zone extending to 200 nautical miles has also been owned by the country. This followed her earlier success in winning significant marine territories from Bangladesh’s other neighbor, Myanmar.
Breakthrough in Rohingya repatriation
Myanmar has agreed to resume the repatriation of its nationals, currently living in the Cox’s Bazar district, after a decade of the process being stalled. The decision came at a successful meeting marking the 8th round of Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) between Bangladesh and Myanmar. In a bid to make sure all the stranded Rohingyas are able to go home, the government will launch a detailed survey on unregistered Myanmarese nationals. The move of repatriation emerges towards strengthening bilateral ties between the two countries. Initially, Myanmar agreed to take back 2,415 people of the 32,000, who have already been verified by the country’s authorities as its nationals.Official estimates show about 2,50,877 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh in 1991 following persecution.
Positive moves in Settling Pending Issues with India
Throughout last year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made hectic efforts pushing her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to take sincere steps to resolve the longstanding Modi meets PMunsettled matters including the two most important issues – Teesta water sharing treaty and the land boundary agreement.As part of that move, President Abdul Hamid flew India in last December. In response, the India premier expressed hopes that it will be possible to ‘settle’ the issues ‘soon’. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has been sternly opposing the exchange, recently announced her changed position at a rally in Cooch Behar. Once the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) is passed, 14,215 residents of 51 Bangladeshi enclaves inside India’s Cooch Behar and Jalpaigurhi will become Indian citizens. In the same way, 37,369 residents of 111 Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh will become Bangladeshi citizens.
Forbes ranks PM among top 100 Asian women
After assuming to power, Sheikh Hasina, also the president of Ruling Awami League, has been ranked 47th in Forbes list of the world’s 100 most powerful women in 2014. Like previous year, Forbes named her in its list in recognisition of her untiring efforts to keep the practice of democracy running in the country. The list was prepared from a preliminary group of over 250 candidates from around the world, and the top 100 was selected from eight categories or power bases: billionaires, business, celebrity, finance, media, philanthropy and NGOs, politics and technology.
PM receives UNESCO’s International Literacy Award
Sheikh Hasian remained as a centre of attention for her relentless campaignfor promoting girls right to education.Adoption of a series of visionary policies in this regard resulted in outpouring global support for the premier. In acknowledgment of the various educational milestones achieved by Bangladesh in recent years, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) held last year’s ceremony in Bangladesh, outside of Paris for the first time. On the occasion, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina handed over UNESCO’s 2014 International Literacy Prizes to the awardees in Dhaka on September 8, marking the International Literacy day.
Various awards for women empowerment
Moreover, UNESCO honored Sheikh Hasina for her outstanding contributions to girls and women education by awarding her with a ‘Tree of Peace’. UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova handed over the award to the Bangladesh Premier. The Bangladesh PM dedicated her award to the women, especially young girls, all over the world. United Nations bestowed its “South-South Cooperation Visionary Award” upon Sheikh Hasina for her extraordinary role in advancing Bangladesh towards digital system and the expansion of education through revolutionary concepts. The award was given on the concluding day of the five-day “Global South South Development Expo-2014” held in the US capital of Washington last year.
A2i receives WSIS
Access to Information (a2i) program, initiated by Sheikh Hasina, and part of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) won the World Summit on Information Society Award-2014. International community recognized the programee as it brought fundamental changes in providing services to ‘Citizen’s Doorstep’ towards the pursuit of good governance.
UK reaffirms cooperation to Sheikh Hasina led government
British Prime Minister David Cameron praised the progress achieved by Bangladesh in the fields of economy and women development. Expressing his government faith in the Sheikh Hasina led Awami League government, David Cameron assured that UK would continue providing assistance to Bangladesh. The British Premier also expressed his intention of visiting Bangladesh to see the success stories for himself. The statement came as the Bangladesh PM called on her British counterpart at 10, Downing Street while visiting London for attending the Girl Summit 2014.
PM Leads Climate Discourse
Speaking at the Climate Summit 2014, the Bangladesh premier urged leaders of developed and large carbon emitting nations to help least developed countries fight climate change challenges. She reiterated her country’s firm commitment to low-carbon, climate-resilient development path and outlined the steps taken by Bangladesh so far in this regard. Addressing a high-level meeting of the ‘Global Education First Initiative’ (GEFI) , she requested the world leaders to invest in education, and not weapons, to ensure peace and non-violence.
Bangladesh presents success stories in UNGA
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led the country in the 69th session of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). This session is a great success as Bangladesh has been able to uphold itself before the world. PM at UNGAThe session of 69th UN General Assembly, the premier has upheld her stance before the world about restoring and maintaining global peace. The country believes in the centrality and legitimacy of the UN as the custodian of global peace, security and development. Zero tolerance to terrorism and extremism has been maintained by the country for a long period of time.
Bangladesh has completed its forty years as a member of United Nations. At the ceremony to celebrate the anniversary in UN headquarters, New York, UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon said, “Bangladesh advanced much in establishing “Sonar Bangla” as dreamt by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina”. Bangladesh has been the most active partner in UN Peacekeeping Operations as the country has provided unequivocal support to UN Secretary General’s strategic review on peacekeeping.
In a high level summit on UN Peacekeeping, Sheikh Hasina reassured that Bangladesh will continue to provide assistance to build a world without terrorism, war and conflicts. Since the first time Bangladesh sent its sons to Africa in 1988, more than 103,000 forces have been deployed around the world. One hundred and nineteen soldiers have laid their lives for restoring peace in an alien nation. In a high level discussion of UN Secretary Generals Global Education First Initiative at UN Headquarter she said, “We must divert billions we spend for creating war machines and violence to educating our progeny for the ‘world we want.”
PM on Commonwealth
On the UNGA sidelines, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina attended a meeting on the reforms of the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. At the meeting, shegave three proposals including renaming the CHOGM Summit as Commonwealth Summit, reducing the duration of retreat from three days to two days and making the joint communiqué , more focused, businesslike and time-bound.
PM at SAARC Summit
Participating in the 18thSouth Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Nepal,Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called upon member states of to set aside their mutual differences and work together for the shared prosperity of the region’s people. When uncertainty looms large on the fate of the signing of a major SAARC deal, Bangladesh put serious diplomatic efforts that brought all the leaders into one table and led the signing of the deal to share electricity from a common grid.
Bangladesh has pressed at the last moment for energy cooperation and finally realised it which will benefit all the SAARC countries.Moreover, several Bangladesh proposals have been incorporated in the ‘Kathmandu declaration’ at the end of the SAARC summit.Migration, blue economy and post-2015 development agenda in the 36-point SAARC declaration were Bangladesh’s proposals.
PM at ASEM Summit
PM attended the 10thAsia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit whereshe upheld the modern image of Bangladesh at the global stage. The Bangladesh Premier made powerful statements about the country’s position on terrorism, climate change, migration, connectivity, MDGs and post-2015 development goals.
In addressing the issue of terrorism, the Bangladesh PM urged the world community not to confuse terrorism with Islam or to judge terrorists on the basis of religion or nationality. On climate change, the PM reiterated her country’s commitment to low-carbon and climate resilient development. On migration, the Bangladesh Premier urged the world leaders to include the issue in the post-2015 development agenda. On the sidelines of the ASEM Summit, the Bangladesh PM held a number of meetings with her European counterparts.
In meeting the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the latter expressed her satisfaction over the prevailing political situation and stability in Bangladesh and highly praised the role of Sheikh Hasina in settling the maritime disputes with India and Myanmar. As the Bangladesh Premier met with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, the two leaders stressed on the need to strengthen socio-economic relations between the two countries.
The PM also held a number of important bilateral meetings with the Prime Ministers of Italy, Netherlands, Sweden and Greece and projected Bangladesh as an ideal spot for international investment. The Italian Prime Minister assured of encouraging more investment in Bangladesh, while the Netherlands Premier showed interest to invest in Bangladesh’s mega projects, including the proposed deep-sea port at Sonadia.
PM at Girl Summit 2014
In her address to the Girl Summit 2014, Sheikh Hasina said “Child marriage certainly deserves our focused attention, but it can’t be treated in isolation. In Bangladesh, we, therefore, are addressing the issue in a holistic manner which helped us achieve a sustained decline in the last two decades.”Sheikh Hasina was the only head of government invited to the event due to her long standing commitment to empowering women. The summit was aimed at mobilizing international efforts to end child, early and forced marriages.
PM addresses students at Waseda University
As an acknowledgement towards the untiring efforts Sheikh Hasina put in ensuring education for the next generation, the reputed Waseda University of Japan invited the PM to deliver a speechon “Education and Empowerment of the Youth”. Reiterating her firm commitment to ensure education for the new generation, PM said the educated new generation would be able to create a safe and secure world for future generations to ensure peace and development instead of war and destruction.In this regard, she urged the young generation to work closely together as one family and said the day is not too far when they would sweep away all challenges and barriers caused by the climate change and natural disasters.
PM in Malaysia
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina flew to Malaysia in a three-day official visit last year. During her stay, the Bangladesh PM oversaw the signing of four deals with Malaysia aimed to enhance bilateral ties between the two countries in the sectors of manpower export, tourism, arts and culture. PM also addressed a meet of investors and business people in Malaysia. During her meet with the Malaysian PM Najib Razak, the latter expressed his intention to elevate the already warm ties between the two countries to ‘greater heights’. Talks were also held regarding car giant Proton opening plant in Bangladesh, Malaysia building low cost housing for the poor at the outskirts of Dhaka, Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries and the convening of a Joint Commission meeting next year to explore further areas of cooperation.
PM’s at UAE
In October 2014,Prime Minister paid a three-day official visit to United Arab Emirates(UAE) whichhas propelled bilateral ties between the countries into a historic phase and opened up new avenues of cooperation on trade and investment.Upon the invitation of UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Sheikh Hasina paid the visit and held talks with Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and Crown Prince and Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
During her tour, Bangladesh signed three agreements with UAE on prisoners’ transfer, security collaboration and diplomacy. Talks were held successfully with Dubai Ports World authority to conduct feasibility studies on a deep-sea port at Payra, a marine drive in Chittagong and a Special Economic Zone for UAE investors. A separate MoU was signed to ensure security and rights of the Bangladesh women working in UAE and recruitment of up to 2000 female workers from Bangladesh each month. The two countries agreed to promote bilateral cooperation in higher education, culture and tourism, energy, climate change, blue economy, terrorism and security issues.
Upward Swing in Bangladesh Japan ties
Bangladesh witnessed the first visit of a Japanese PM in 14 years. Sinzo Abe paid a two-day visit to Bangladesh, signaling the developed countries that Bangladesh has the potential of becomingPM japan an trusted investment hub in a big way. On this brief but significant visit, Abe announced big investment proposals alongside financial and technical supports to help Bangladesh build up industrial base.In a major policy decision in favour of Japan, Bangladesh has withdrawn its candidature for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2016-17.Japanese entrepreneurs expressed their interest in investing more on Bangladesh’s transport, infrastructure, power, energy and garment sectors mainly to boost bilateral trade.
Bangladesh also plans to establish an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) solely for Japanese investors looking to invest in various manufacturing sectors in Bangladesh while Sinzo Abe emphasized on its location, competitive incentives, improvement of infrastructure and smooth labor supply. Japan assured to relax its rules of origin provisions for importing knitwear products from Bangladesh.The two Prime Ministers agreed to share information for research on, and management of natural disasters. Both sides also decided to cooperate in the sector of disaster risk reduction (DRR), particularly mitigating earthquake disaster, through technology transfer and to work out a framework of cooperation in this regard.
In her first bilateral tour abroad since taking oath of office, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina went on a four day official visit to Japan which infused dynamism into the existing relationship between the country. Both the premiers launched the “Japan-Bangladesh Comprehensive Partnership” agreement. Under the agreement, the Japanese PM assured of providing Bangladesh with $6 billion in additional assistance for four years. The assistance will be spent on implementing the “Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt (BIG-B) concept and constructing the multipurpose tunnel under Jamuna river alongside cleaning of four rivers and completing other mega projects. Bangladesh and Japan signed the Exchange of Notes concerning the 35th Official Development Assistance (ODA), which was pledged by the Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida during his visit to Bangladesh in March 2014.
China Expands strategic partnership with Bangladesh
In a visit to China, Prime Minister put forth serious diplomatic efforts resulting in singing of five deals between the countries including one for building a large power plant in Patuakhali with Chinese assistance. During official talks with Chinese premier Li Keqiang in Beijing , Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also sought support for five other mega infrastructure projects, and Keqiang assured her of taking necessary steps.
The four other deals signed include an agreement, a memorandum of understanding and two Exchange of Letters to enhance cooperation in sectors like trade and investment and climate change. Premiers of both countries pledged to make joint efforts to build an economic corridor linking Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar.Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid a two day visit to Bangladesh recently signaling further consolidation of bilateral relations for mutual benefit.Being convinced by the serious diplomatic efforts put in by the Awami League led government, China has expressed its interest to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Bangladesh to expand trade between the two countries and reduce trade-gap tilted against Bangladesh.Commerce, agriculture, industrial development, energy and infrastructure development—are the sectors China has indentified and pledged to expand bilateral support to Bangladesh.
Global leaders praise PM
Demonstrating unparallel courage and persistence to change the progress of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasinaleapt into the world as a champion of peace, progress and prosperity. In recognition to her struggle, world leaders came up with resounding praises for Sheikh Hasina:”You (Sheikh Hasina) are the symbol of liberal progressive global leader and your government’s steps to protect child rights, especially the girl child are praiseworthy” said UNICEF Executive Director. UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova praised Sheikh Hasina for her outstanding contribution to promoting girls and women education and raising literacy rate in Bangladesh. According to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “Bangabandhu founded Bangladesh and his daughter Sheikh Hasina saved it.”
“The Government of Bangladesh has demonstrated political will and firm commitment to combat domestic and transnational terrorist groups, and its counter terrorism efforts made it harder for…terrorists to operate or establish safe havens in Bangladesh”, stated the US State Department in its Country Reports on Terrorism 2013. Special Envoy of New Zealand Prime Minister Sir Jim Bolger highly appreciated Bangladesh’s stunning successes in human development and millennium development goals (MDGs) under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamad highly appreciated Bangladesh’s development in recent times in various areas, particularly in the field of infrastructure under Sheikh Hasina led government. Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma praised PM Sheikh Hasina for the rapid development in the health sector and women empowerment of Bangladesh.
JANUARY 31, 2015