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The killing of a Bangladeshi peacekeeper in Sudan’s western Darfur region this week highlighted yet again the dangers faced by our men and women in uniform while operating under the UN banner. Since 1988, more than a hundred thousand of our brave soldiers have helped to keep the peace in war-torn and sensitive hot spots.
Bangladesh’s participation in UN peacekeeping operations contains much symbolism. From the point of view of maintenance of peace and security, all countries are not in the same boat. For small states, protection of their security and sovereignty has always been difficult. Unlike the case of the major powers, foreign policy options are very restricted for them. In a turbulent world marked by arms race, terrorism and evil designs, the task is even more baffling for a least developed country like Bangladesh.
Since Bangladesh fervently needs peace and security, and since these are precisely the main aims of the United Nations, close understanding and co-operation between the UN and Bangladesh seems to be a foregone conclusion. As a matter of fact, although Bangladesh became a full-member of the United Nations in September 1974, Bangladesh-UN co-operation started on humanitarian grounds, immediately after the attainment of its statehood.
This is something of which Bangladesh can be justly proud. Being an ardent and active proponent of UN’s call for preservation and promotion of international peace and security Bangladesh showed no reservation in participating in UN peacekeeping missions. Bangladesh’s involvement in peacekeeping operations began in 1988 when it participated in two operations – one in Iraq (UNIIMOG) and the other in Namibia (UNTAG) and in subsequent 17 years or so it was associated with as many as 30 UNPKOs in 25 countries around the globe.
Bangladesh has punched above its weight when it comes to UN peacekeeping – becoming one of the largest contributors to UN missions. UN-Bangladesh partnership in peacekeeping has been mutually rewarding. The experience and expertise gained by Bangladeshi contingents in different peacekeeping operations can now be profitably utilised elsewhere under similar circumstances. The work of the United Nations in the area of peace and security is much broader than is generally realised. In all these fields Bangladesh-UN co-operation has been noticeable.
By all means, this is a partnership that has become a proud tradition. Constable Asgar Ali can rest in peace. He died serving his country in a corner of Sudan that will be forever Bangladesh.
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