Looking back at 2015: Bangladesh in the world

AKM Moinuddin
Thursday, December 31st, 2015

The word Peace written with candles is reflected on large mirrored panels during a demonstration at the Old-Port, in Marseille, southern France, Monday Nov. 16, 2015, three days after the Paris attacks. (AP Photo)

The country, like elsewhere around the world, has faced diverse security challenges domestically along with attacks on some freethinkers, foreigners and religious establishments that kept Bangladesh’s foreign friends ‘worried’ most of the time in 2015.


The first three months of the year witnessed political violence during BNP’s political programmes while the last quarter of the year made people of the country, including foreign friends, concerned over fear of violent extremism, militant attacks and subsequent attacks on religious establishments. Bangladesh’s foreign friends continued expressing their concern over the attacks on bloggers and publishers of secular works, an alarming addition to the country’s security situation.


On February 26, Avijit Roy, a dual Bangladeshi-American citizen, writer, and founder of the Mukto Mona blog, was murdered by a group of men wielding machetes as he was leaving a book fair during a visit to Dhaka. His widow, Rafida Bonya Ahmed, was also injured in the attack as she tried to help him.


On March 30, secular blogger Washiqur Rahman was killed by a group of men armed with machetes when he was leaving his house for work in Dhaka.


On May 12, secular blogger Ananta Bijoy Das was murdered by masked men with machetes in the town of Sylhet on his way to his work. Das had applied for a Swedish visitors’ visa, but the government had turned down his visa request in April. On August 7, secular blogger Niloy Neel was hacked to death in his home in Dhaka.


On October 31, Faisal Arefin Dipan, a publisher of books including those written by Roy, was murdered by machete-wielding assailants in Dhaka. On the same day, another publisher, Ahmedur Rashid Tutul, and two other writers were attacked and seriously wounded.


Militant groups are apparently reaching new heights with each targeted attack on different religious groups and security forces while the government drives against the troublemakers remained on round the year. Killings of Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella and Japanese national Kunio Hoshi on September 28 and October 3 respectively made the foreign nationals ‘deeply worried’ that prompted the government to take tight security measures in the diplomatic zone in the capital and other parts of the country.


Diplomats from various countries stationed in Dhaka appreciated government efforts in ensuring safety of the foreign nationals here and sought continuation of the supports.


The country also witnessed recovery of sophisticated arms, suicide blast at an Ahmadiyya mosque in Rajshahi, attack on Shia Ashura ritual in the capital with increased threats of militancy this year meaning every minority group in society has been targeted.


The scenario was even worst in many parts of the world. For example, the November 13th Paris attacks claimed some 129 lives, one of them shot dead while celebrating her birthday. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had to cancel her three scheduled visits to Malta and Paris apparently amid the volatile global situation and domestic issues.


It seems that the global scenario had direct or indirect impacts on Bangladesh’s bilateral and multilateral relations and global security issues have been widely discussed in various forums round the year. Pakistan’s denial of genocide and crimes against humanity committed during the 1971 War of Liberation and withdrawal of its female diplomat following her reported involvement in financing militancy were two major events in closing weeks of 2015.


Another end-of-year issue – formation of Saudi-led alliance to counter terrorism and violent extremism – has widely been discussed. However, there is still some confusion over the nature of the alliance as Bangladesh has been describing it as a ‘centre’ based on ‘primary information’ from the Saudi government.


In this regard State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam said, “It’s a centre that’s still evolving. The first meeting (among 34 members) is yet to take place. Things will be clear once the first meeting is held.” Though Bangladesh calls it a ‘centre’ the international media described it ‘Saudi-led military alliance’ to fight terrorism. Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia in January first week during which the issue might come up for discussion.


Listing achievements of the outgoing year, Shahriar Alam said implementation of the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) allowing tens of thousands of people living in border area enclaves to choose their nationality after decades in a stateless limbo is the biggest success of the year 2015.


“Though it was a bilateral issue, I would rather term it a regional success having impact globally. It has given a shake-up to the world leaders as LBA was implemented peacefully without any tension, conflict and bloodshed,” he said adding that such settlement of a long-pending issue is rare in world history.


Evaluating overall performance of the year 2015, the State Minister said the government is ending a ‘successful year’ as Bangladesh has showed its leadership role in global issues.


Responding to a question on Bangladesh’s relations with the USA and European countries, Shahriar said the relations are very good and mentioned that the ties are now deeper and wider than anytime in the past.


“Our engagement with them is growing and we have been able to make them understand the ground reality though there was deficit of that in the past,” he added.


Addressing criticisms by the international community on war criminals trial has also been viewed as a success of the government. The State Minister said only one country – Pakistan – reacted negatively this time. Shahriar said the government will continue to explore new manpower markets for sending skilled workers.


Sharing government plan to open more missions abroad, he said, “We’re expanding our horizons. At the same time, at home, we have got approval for increasing workforces.”


In the outgoing year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been named as one of the world’s Top 100 leading global thinkers by Foreign Policy, a Washington-based prestigious magazine of global politics, economics and ideas. She has been named as a leading global thinker for her outstanding contribution towards addressing the issue of climate change.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and President of Mauritius Ameenah Gurib are the other Heads of state and government who have been named along with the prime minister of Bangladesh as leading global thinkers in this category this year.

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