| Message from Bangladesh High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam Air Vice Marshal (Rtd) Mahmud Hussain |
BANGLADESH is celebrating its 49th Independence and National Day today. In this context, we pay our deepest respects to our Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and millions of martyrs who laid down their lives for the independence of Bangladesh in 1971.
On this momentous occasion, we express our deepest gratitude to His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam for the opportunity given to our expatriates and the care and hospitality extended to them by his government as well as the people of Brunei. We also take this opportunity to offer our prayers for good health, long life and well-being of His Majesty, and members of the royal family.
The history of Bangladesh is somewhat complex; therefore, a brief idea about its genesis will be interesting to our Bruneian friends.
Bangladesh, as a state, has been independent only for the last 49 years but its cultural and linguistic history is very old.
The Bangla language, whose English rendering as Bengali given by the British colonial heritage, is the seventh most spoken language of the world.
The history of Bangladesh is intertwined with that of India, Pakistan and other countries of South Asia. lts national character within a broader South Asian context dates to the ancient past.
Religion has also tended to set the Bangla-speaking people apart. From the 3rd Century BC, Buddhism flourished in Bengal.
Hinduism reestablished its hold from the late 6th Century AD, but Buddhism did not fully disappear. The two religions coexisted until 12th Century.
lslam made its first appearance in Bangladesh during the 7th Century through Arab Muslim traders and Sufism. About 1200 AD, the first Muslim ruler, Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khalji, a Turk, captured Bengal, established Muslim rule and spread Islam across entire Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is the world’s eighth most populous country. The current population of Bangladesh is 167,529,756 as of March 9, 2019, based on the latest UN estimates.
Bangladesh population is equivalent to 2.18 per cent of the total world population. Bangladesh ranks eighth in the list of countries (and dependencies) by population.
The population density in Bangladesh is 1291 per km2. The total land area is 130,170 km2. Around 37.2 per cent of the population is urban (62,561,286 people in 2019).
The median age in Bangladesh is 26 years. For the last three years, the annual population growth is 1.03.
Bangladesh’s Success Story
Bangladesh has also become one of the world’s economic success stories.
The market-based economy of Bangladesh is the 46th largest in the world in nominal terms, and 33rd largest by purchasing power parity; it is classified among the ‘Next Eleven’ emerging market economies and a ‘Frontier Market’.
Per capita income has risen nearly threefold since 2009, reaching USD1,750 in 2018.
In 2018, Bangladesh reached a pivotal moment when it met the UN criteria to graduate from ‘least developed country’ status by 2024.
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the elevation of status to ‘developing economy’ is a significant boost to the nation’s self-image.
Bangladesh’s garment industry is second only to China in the global market. This sector is on track to meet the government’s goal of USD39 billion in 2019, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged the industry to reach a USD50 billion valuation by 2021 to mark the 50th anniversary of independence.
A vast community of about 2.5 million Bangladeshi overseas workers further buoys the economy with remittances that jumped an annual 1800 to top USD15 billion in 2018. Sheikh Hasina launched a ‘Digital Bangladesh’ strategy in 2009 backed by generous incentives.
Now, Dhaka, the nation’s capital, is home to a small but growing technology sector led by CEOs who talk boldly about ‘leapfrogging’ in IT.
Bangladesh’s exports of software and IT services reached nearly USD800 million in 2018, and are on track to exceed USD1 billion this fiscal year.
Pharmaceutical manufacturing is also on the rise. With its “least developed country” status, the country has enjoyed a waiver on drug patents. This has fuelled intensifying competition in the field of generic and bulk drugs. This sector provides 97 per cent of the total medicinal requirement of the local market.
Shipbuilding has great potentials in Bangladesh since it has a long history of shipbuilding dating back to early modern era.
Recently, Bangladesh has started exporting locally made ships to Europe.
It has now over 200 shipbuilding companies.
Bangladesh is considered one of the most suitable regions for fisheries in the world, with the world’s largest flooded wetland. Shrimp culture is of central importance to Bangladesh as a source of earning.
lt contributes about four per cent to GDP, and three per cent to foreign exchange earnings, with Europe and the United States being the major destinations.
Under its Belt and Road Initiative, China has financed various mega projects in Bangladesh, including most of the nearly USD4 billion Padma Bridge rail link, which will connect the country’s southwest with the northern and eastern regions.
In all, China has committed USD38 billion in loans, aid, and other assistance for Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is now the second-largest importer of Chinese military hardware after Pakistan.
Foreign Policy of Bangladesh
The foreign policy of Bangladesh emanates from the principle of ‘Friendship towards all, malice towards none’. Bangladesh follows a pragmatic approach to develop, continue and sustain friendly relations with other nations in consonance with its national interests.
It stands to protect the rights and dignity of the oppressed and the persecuted and collaborates with the international community for humanity.
It will be a close observant of the evolving political dynamics of the world and embark on innovativeness to formulate, maintain and/or modify its foreign relations.
Bangladesh supports rule of law, justice and good governance. It adheres to international law and principles enunciated in the UN Charter and other international treaties of which Bangladesh is a party.
It stands to support all global peace initiatives and dialogues. It aims at building alliances for the well being of its people and for realising common interests.
The Asia-Pacific region is all set to assume great significance in future. Around the middle of the present century, China’s economy is predicted to be overtaking that of the United States, India would be a close third and BRlCs would be a match for G-7.
Bangladesh is a star performer in UN peacekeeping missions. It is one of the top five troop contributors in the world.
The appointment of several Bangladeshi military generals as the commander of the UN peacekeeping missions, and senior military liaison officers may be seen as further recogni-tion of the Bangladesh Forces’ growing esteem in the world community.
Brunei recognised Bangladesh quickly after its independence in 1971. Bangladesh’s historical tie with Brunei is very old. People from Bengal coast would make sea voyages through Malacca straits to Borneo island for trade and business.
Borneo, the home to Brunei Darussalam and Bengal Delta, the home to Bangladesh, shared similar nature and environment; rain, hot climate, sunny weather, mangrove forest, river, seashore and common cultural values.
This historical bond is reflected in our deep friendship and mutual respect.
The largest gathering of Muslims in Bangladesh is during the Bishwa Ijtema, held annually.
The Ijtema is the second-largest Muslim congregation in the world.
The year 2018 has been significant in improving bilateral relations between our friendly countries. Bangladesh established its residential diplomatic mission in 1985, and Brunei in 1999.
It is almost after 20 years that the first ever Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) was held in last year.
The consultations were fruitful, and opened up new areas of business and trade, particularly in agriculture, fishery, Halal food, ship repair and maintenance, and petroleum. Following the FOC, a number of visits by different trade bodies of both sides have taken place.
There are about 20,000 expatriate Bangladeshis employed in Brunei. They are working in petroleum and gas, infrastructure building such as bridges, roads and land renovation. Bangladeshi doctors are spread all across the four districts in Brunei.
Besides, Universiti Brunei Darussalam and Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB)have a good number of faculty and students from Bangladesh.
In 2018, Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for cooperation in education sector at tertiary level between Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) and Islamic University of Bangladesh, UTB and Dhaka University of Engineering were signed.
Dimension Strata, a Bruneian Company involved in Geoscience research visited Dhaka University in February to hold lectures and workshops on ‘Earth Modelling in the 21st Century: Advanced Techniques & Techniques’ and explore areas of cooperation in energy, power and geological experimentation.
Defence relation is improving. Bangladesh and Brunei exchange officers for courses on regular basis. In 2019, a major from Bangladesh army is attending Brunei Staff College.
It is expected that Brunei will reciprocate by sending its officers to attend courses at Bangladesh Staff and National Defence Colleges.
Bruneians’ commitment to supporting the Bangladesh government to tackle the humanitarian crisis is highly commendable.
Different aid groups from Brunei are regularly visiting Bangladesh with food, medicine, clothing, shelter items and reading materials.
Bangladesh deeply acknowledges the contribution of the Bruneians in providing succour to the millions of Rohingya stranded in Bangladesh.