Bangladesh this year celebrates not just the centenary of birth of the Father of our nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman but also the golden jubilee anniversary of its Independence. In the month of August, the nation also mourns the brutal assassination of Bangabandhu and almost his entire family 46 years ago. While war for Liberation was triggered by the perfidious "Operation Searchlight" launched by the Pakistani occupation army on the midnight of March 25/26, 1971, when Bangabandhu was also arrested, whisked away to Pakistan, and incarcerated there, the birth of the liberated new state of Bangladesh took place full nine months later that year, on 16th December.
When Bangabandhu was finally released from incarceration on January 8, 1972, and enabled to return home to his free Bangladesh, I imagine he perceived, behind the tumultuous adulation of the veritable sea of humanity that turned out to welcome home their returning hero, that his beloved country was in shambles, rendered a veritable wasteland by the nine-month liberation war. He realized immediately that his real struggle for total emancipation of his people was only just beginning, after the wresting of independence following the bloody, painful struggle. In a sense, when Bangladesh was described contemptuously by US Ambassador U Alexis Johnson (but attributed erroneously to his boss Henry Kissinger), as doomed to be "a perpetual basket case", any political economist at time might well be forgiven for jumping to this hasty conclusion. Bangabandhu was acutely aware that having fired the imagination of his people and having led them to victory, the real challenge now would be how to ensure the very survival of his newly found state of Bangladesh and qualitatively improve the lives of his people. Characteristically, he embarked without hesitation on undetteredly taking on this herculean and daunting task. In this context, I view his assassination as the dastardliest act of a deep conspiracy that was designed to erase all that he stood for and, indeed, roll back history to revert to status quo ante.
I also imagine Bangabandhu surveying the geo-political landscape and the times in which his beloved Bangladesh was born. He saw his state almost totally "India-locked" so to speak, located in a region marked by visceral animosities between other sub-continental states sparring with or sniping at each other; a world sharply divided ideologically; many countries still wary of, and shying away from, legally recognizing his new state born out of what conventional thinking in those times decried as a secessionist struggle; with no remarkable resource or economic and industrial infrastructure to rely on for sustenance; no monies in his treasury; a huge population at risk from the vagaries of nature, their inherited institutions very fragile or brittle. How was he going to protect this infant child of his and ensure its survival?
I have always asserted that Bangladesh's birth in 1971 was midwifed by the Cold War that virtually divided the world into two ideologically opposed camps, and even our early politics was wet nursed by it. The Cold War in turn was birthed on the embers of the two World Wars of the twentieth century that destroyed the colonial world order and replaced it by what I chose to describe as the "Post-Colonial, Neo-Westphalian Disorder" of which we all became denizens. As we know from Bangabandhu's own writings and recorded reflections, he was not only a product of his own times, but also adapted pragmatically to changing times and situations without compromising on his core principles and objectives. The world in 1971, when his beloved Bangladesh was born, was vastly different to the world he was himself born in. He was no doubt acutely aware of the stark reality, that Bangladesh was born in the midst of not only a very deeply divided subcontinent but also a very extremely divided world, and that states do not live or survive in isolation. John Donne, great metaphysical poet of the 16-17 century had prophetically asserted,
"No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;...
Bangabandhu well understood that in the post-colonial world, every state is part of a greater comity of nations. He was better aware than most that his newly independent nation-state, in order to survive viably, had to first navigate through very treacherous mined waters and numerous hidden shoals that lay ahead in its path. So, while he resolutely embarked on the gigantic, even monumental task of nation-building, he also simultaneously set about putting in place the foreign policy framework, and the tools that go with it, to protect and project his new-found state and seek support for its nurture and growth from the international community. In doing so, he laid the foundations of our foreign policy.
A fundamental dictum in foreign policy formulation and analysis is unquestionably this: each country, as a sovereign, independent nation-state, contextualizes its every move or action within the overall rubric of preservation and advancement of its own national interest. These foundational precepts must be buttressed by a hard-nosed pragmatism and understanding that while one may choose one's friends, one cannot choose one's neighbourhood; and that while friendship may exist between peoples and persons (and even then, vulnerable to change), "friendship" between states is primarily driven by the national demands of each state professing such friendship, rendering such friendship very protean in nature. In this context, friendship between states may best be described as being the state of relatively happy equilibrium between two or more states that have managed to arrive at a mutually acceptable alignment or co-existence of their national interests that serves everyone in perceptibly equitable measure.
Having been an insignificant cog in the wheel of a fledgling Foreign Ministry, assisting in the designing our foreign policy framework of in the early seventies, from the perceptions I gained through that experience I would describe Bangabandhu's foreign policy as being acutely aware of the national, regional and global challenges that his new nation had to contend with before it could make any headway to transformation into his dream of "Sonar Bangla". Through a process of very intense and extensive in-house discussions between Bangabandhu and his handful of closest principal aides at the helm of his Foreign Ministry, a comprehensive policy framework was adopted, our lode star for the future in pursuit of relations with the world, which had at its heart several principles on which there could be no compromise and became our essential foreign policy moorings. Those principles, were: respect for each other's sovereignty, independence, non-interference in each other's internal affairs and mutual respect; a deep and abiding commitment to "non-alignment based on the principles of peaceful coexistence and friendship to all", avoiding being caught in the jaws of competing powers regionally or globally, (even aspiring to becoming a "Switzerland of the east"); being one of the largest Muslim countries of the world, fostering close relations with all other Muslim countries; to support the right of all struggling people, everywhere, to self-determination and taking control of their own destinies; an abiding commitment to ensuring universal peace based upon justice for all peoples to combat "the scourges of poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy and unemployment" (enunciated in his historic speech, the first by any leader from Bangladesh, at the United Nations in October 1974); and most importantly to build national resilience and self-reliance among his own people and of his newly born state to be able to stand the test of time. Based on these principles, we would seek to develop and foster good relations with all countries (shunning only two at that point of time, Israel and South Africa), beginning with neighbors in our immediate subcontinental region (yes, even with a still very viscerally hostile Pakistan), as well as the larger Asian region (including reaching out to China which had ranged itself with Pakistan and against our war of Liberation and shied away from recognizing us), and indeed the world at large, on the basis of several fundamental principles; and in the International fora, he directed the closest of cooperation, leading the charge himself at all summit meetings, in international organizations particularly the United Nations, The Commonwealth, the Non Alignment Movement (NAM), and the OIC.
Therefore, now as we celebrate hundred years of his life and our nation's fiftieth birth anniversary, and also mournfully commemorate the 46th anniversary of his brutal murder, it would well behoove us all to look around us and take stock of the world we live in and the challenges we as a nation face today, to reevaluate our foreign policy that will govern our relations with other countries as well as test the validity and viability of the Lodestar that he set for us to steer the ship of state through treacherous global waters and its applicability to our times.
50 years later today, the wheels of history have turned full circle. The world is, once again, in the grip of another cold war brewing, with a somewhat different configuration of protagonist and antagonists still in the process of kaleidoscopically fluctuating alliances. Tearing at us all globally today are ranged deeply divisive forces, some new, some malevolent offspring of the old.
Keeping the above in mind, what are the challenges that threaten us or are likely to impact on us as a nation today, and how should we cope with them? What do we see as we survey the world around us, standing at the heart of Bangladesh and gazing panoramically out on the global map?
We see conflict still raging between nations, indirectly and directly. On our western horizon, in our immediate regional neighborhood, we are witnessing live the internal churning that is a darkly foreboding resurrection of the narrative of the thirties, that drove and tore the sub-continent apart, and that will not leave any neighbour untouched; the "cold-hot" conflict between our fraternal twins, India and Pakistan is much worse than it was at the time of our independence, the dangers exacerbated by their both being armed to the teeth, primarily against each other, with conventional and nuclear weapons; complicating the already complex situation on our western front we see our first cousin at one stage of separation in the west, Afghanistan, now plunging into uncertain implosion with the established government in imminent danger of disintegration and capitulating to the inexorable advance of the Taliban that appears all set to return to power even as I write this, their reported entry into Kabul and news reports flashing US Embassy evacuating its personnel by helicopter playing out a surreal reprise of in 1975 fall of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City).
Panning further west, we see horrendous effects on multitude of innocents caused by the continuing hostility between the states that control the heartland of fossil fuel reserves of the world - the Persian Gulf. The continuing "war-fought- at- distance" between two major Gulf powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran in Yemen shows no sign of abatement, being culturally and ideologically inimical to each other even though professing to share the same faith. An extension of this struggle magnifies and becomes more intangibly complex even further west, in what is known historically as the Levant (comprising Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, and Cyprus, but drawing in a now resurgent Turkey as a major player again). Panning our lens further west north-west, we see new ideological or ideational struggles manifested in severe churnings domestically as well as across borders in the larger European masses, (perhaps dashing whatever dreams some had harboured of a united Europe emerging into a "clustered superpower" that could have acted as a buffer power) casting a shadow on the patterns of trans-Atlantic relations set 75 years ago. At the same time, while the ideological struggle between the two "Super Powers", that had emerged on the ashes of the Colonial order of yore, has apparently ended with the collapse of the order founded by the erstwhile Soviet Union, a freshly and perhaps differently resurgent Russia is still chafing psychologically at national level at having been cut down to size by its erstwhile arch-rival the United States, and still taking jabs and swipes at its rival that became the lone standing global superpower. In USA, we witness a surreal revival of the "Civil War syndrome" playing itself out uneasily, with a sharply and viscerally divided polity pitted against each other short of being dug in trenches with bayonet-fixed guns pointed at the "enemy". These are all phenomena that cannot be viewed with equanimity and need constant and close watching.
Swiveling our gaze to our east, we see our immediate neighbor Myanmar in the throes of imminent implosion and possible state failure - an implosion that will be followed by the probable explosion of multiple cluster bombs that will not leave any of its neighboring states, including a relatively stable ASEAN group, untouched. Further to our east-northeast, we see the rising Red Star of China its eyes resolutely set now to inexorably taking on role in the 21st Century as world's largest economy and new superpower and nudging well aside the superpowers of the 20th century. We glimpse a still divided Korean peninsula, one nuclear armed, both with different, ideologically antagonistic allies, and a struggling Taiwan trying to evade falling gravitationally into mainland China's lap - all these do not lend to any sense of composure. All these various elements comprise an explosive mix, exacerbated by the fiercely contested (although largely still polemical) disputes over waters of the strategic South China Seas), and any small spark of spontaneous combustion could trigger it to explode with dangerous consequences for all, whether near and far.
Within the "neo-Cold War paradigm" comprising all these various conflicts or near conflicts we have two narratives of a new world view robustly competing, engaging in some early tentative brinkmanship, and perhaps even primed to contest if not actually dangerously clash, in our home waters, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. Overarching all these various dystopian factors is now the Global War being waged on us all, without exception, by the COVID-19 pandemic which appears all set to stay with us into the foreseeable future.
And so, here we are, geo-strategically caught squarely in the middle, with the rising but internally troubled power that is India (which surrounds us on all sides) and the next neo-superpower that is China (geographically located at one stage of separation from us to our north-northeast), both engaged now in vigorous shadow boxing and a very risky brinkmanship in the deadly arena located at Himalayan heights. Surreally, my panoramic 360-degree gaze reasserts the truism uttered by Faulkner so presciently: "The past is never dead. It is not even past" - except it is far more complex, far more explosive than ever earlier, today. How we cope and fend with all these forces would have existential consequences for us.
I think our salvation lies in hewing to the fundamental moorings of our foreign policy laid by Bangabandhu in the early years of our independence. We must adhere, without wavering, to the bedrock principle: "friendship to all with malice towards none". We must not align ourselves with anyone, against anyone. On the contrary, the current diverse challenges described above all demand, compellingly to my mind, that we do, in geo-strategic and geo-pollical terms, recalibrate the tools and policies we inherited from Bangabandhu to making us the "Switzerland of the East". In that context, while we should welcome and continue taking part in the economic and human development strands of the two competing narratives, Indo-Pacific and BRI, we must eschew any association with any hidden strategic or defence-oriented agenda that they may have imbedded within them, studiously shunning those. We may even, hopefully, aspire to provide the friendly, neutral non-partisan and inviolable space where contesting or diametrically opposing parties can come and quietly engage in civil conversation over a cup of Bangladeshi tea and our traditional hospitality.
Our foreign policy must remain first and foremost, committed to preserving, protecting, projecting, and promoting our national interests. At the same time, it must realistically, and pragmatically, accept that we cannot develop, nor our people attain Bangabandhu's dream, of transforming our land into "Sonar Bangla", as a people and nation, by cocooning ourselves in isolation from our immediate neighbours, our region, and the larger world. We need positive engagement with all, to continue to develop and grow. Our remarkable transformation today, that has drawn plaudits almost universally by one and all, was enabled by the visionary, far-sighted, bold, and dynamic leadership of our Prime Minister who inherited her mantle from her illustrious father, who was our Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu.
While fashioning our foreign policy to meet the demands and challenges of today's world, let us keep in mind one thing: This is Asia's century. The focus and attention of our diplomacy in the 21st century must qualitatively and vigorously, reinvent and reenergize our relations not only in our immediate neighbourhood east and west of us, but with all our neighbours in Asia. We must handpick our best diplomats, train, and equip them properly and incentivize them for taking up assignments in these countries.
We must continue building further upon the excellent all-round relations that we have painstakingly crafted and developed so far with both India and China, each in its own parallel track. Our engine of growth needs both tracks to run on. Lest we forget, without resetting our bilateral relations with India to transforming from its hitherto very protean nature to a stable partnership with a shared vision of development for all on equal and equitable terms, we could not have reached the phenomenal growth and all-round development that we have achieved in last ten years and kick-started the regional cooperation agenda envisioned by Bangabandhu. The larger regional process is still work in progress and will take time. That is unfortunately the nature of the beast we ourselves procreated, so we all must work with patience and perseverance. The route towards succeeding in larger regionalism will only be attained through successfully, and painstakingly, putting in place the smaller building blocks of sub regional cooperation. While BBIN is still in fledgling state, with careful nursing and tending it will grow and expand. I see it organically doing so by gradual accretion to it by other neighbouring states, perhaps more likely eastwards than on our western front at present, merging into or melding with the BIMSTEC process at some stage, even enlarging that, hopefully. With reasonable and undeniable evidence of success in the eastward expansion of regional cooperation, hopefully sparks of interest will also ignite on our western front.
In his historic address to the United Nations in 1974 Bangabandhu had resoundingly declared:
"Consistent with our own total commitment to peace, we have striven to promote the process of reconciliation in our own subcontinent. It was our firm belief that the emergence of Bangladesh would materially contribute towards the creation of a structure of peace and stability in our subcontinent and that the confrontation and strife of the past could be replaced by relations of friendship and co-operation for the welfare of all our peoples. Not only have we developed good- neighbourly relations with our immediate neighbours, India, Burma, and Nepal, but we have also striven to turn away from the past and to open a new chapter in our relations with Pakistan." But here he added a caveat. This offer to Pakistan was not unconditional. He asserted, almost immediately in the following sentence: "The just division of the assets of former Pakistan is the other problem which waits urgent solution. Bangladesh for its part was, and remains, ready to move forward towards reconciliation. We expect that, in the overriding interest of the welfare of the peoples of the subcontinent, Pakistan will reciprocate by coming forward to solve these outstanding problems in a spirit of fair play and mutual accommodation so that the process of normalisation can be carried to a successful conclusion." Tragically, that reciprocity never came, and the rest is history.
(Excerpt from my op-ed in the Daily Star, Sep 7, 2020 "Bangabandhu: the architect of Bangladesh's Foreign policy").
Despite the suffering caused by the vicious and ignominious policies and acts of Pakistan and the grievous inflicted wounds still raw and fresh, Bangabandhu displayed a breathtaking largeness of heart and a breadth of vision that had deep and serious implications for everyone. The message, proclaimed fearlessly and magnanimously on the world stage, had as much substantive as symbolic content - war must be followed by peace and reconciliation, with honour and dignity. The victor must take the lead in that process. Drawing inspiration from his above clarion call, despite our deep perceptions of Pakistan's continuing acts of omission and commission since then, in my considered opinion we must not shy away now from engaging with Pakistan in civil discourse, undeterred. At some point of time, our patience will be rewarded, a turning point will come. Let us take the relations that exist between Japan and Republic of Korea as a possible example - almost eight decades after the latter's bitter experiences at the hands of Japanese forces, the collective memory of most Koreans still rankles from the ignominy they suffered and have never really quite forgotten or forgiven; but nevertheless, today they are engaged with each other, productively and fruitfully, on many areas that benefit them both as well as contributes significantly to the larger world economy.
Turning further west to Afghanistan, let us not forget that we have had historically and culturally rooted relations, dating back centuries, with this regional cousin of ours in the Indian subcontinent. Let us never forget that in those difficult times in 1971, close to half a million Bengalis who were posted in the erstwhile Central government, in Islamabad and elsewhere in West Pakistan, were held captive, (many interned humiliatingly in camps) as hostages by the Pakistani regime until late 1973. They all were in dire straits, not knowing what fate awaited them, desperately seeking to escape. Many of them, (among them my own parents and five siblings and numerous close relatives), did finally manage to escape, opting to leave everything they possessed behind, taking the difficult, hazardous, and danger-laden route overland from their confined quarters in Pakistan to breathing the free air in Afghanistan. Our Afghan brethren not only extended warm hospitality and safe sanctuary to these countless Bengalis, but they also facilitated their passage back to their home in Bangladesh. We must reach out to whatever regime comes to power in Afghanistan and engage in civil and cooperative interlocution, based on the principles of our foreign policy laid down by Bangabandhu.
In the same vein, we enjoy with Iran and Turkey a long-shared history and deep cultural moorings that seminally influenced our own culture and traditions and development of our own Sufi-derived faith. We must constructively remain engaged with them, bilaterally developing all-round cooperative and mutually beneficial relations with each of them. In this context, Bangladesh sending its state minister for Foreign Affairs to participate in the inaugural ceremony of Iran's newly elected President was the right thing to do, after several years of our having maintained ill-advised distance from an important country with whom we have deep rooted historical and cultural ties.
Being among the four largest Muslim-majority countries in the world, we must remain an active and engaged member of the larger Muslim "Ummah", that has sadly lost the collective clout it once wielded globally through its unfortunate myriad internal dissensions and squabbling. Again, in this engagement, we must not be tempted to be drawn into taking sides with any fellow Muslim state or entity against another brother Muslim. Our value will lie in our committed advocacy and practice of moderation, tolerance, and abjuration of any self-righteousness, by ourselves or others. We should continue to inject these values through proactive membership in, and engagement with, the OIC and participation in its many good social upliftment and human development programmes.
We have always demonstrated our total and unequivocal commitment to world peace through our very active membership of the United Nations, its many specialized agencies, and particularly most commendably as the largest participator in its global peace-keeping efforts. This we should continue to do and build upon further.
Turning eastwards, we need to revisit and meaningfully energize the historical foundations and legacy of our ancient cultural ties with Southeast Asia and engage in proactive interlocution with all our Southeast Asian neighbours, which in my view we have either neglected or looked upon so far through a very narrow prism as sources of employment and competing markets.
In striving for awakening better regional relations and collaborative cooperation with our neighbors Bangladesh, as a relatively newly emerged nation, has consistently punched above its weight, displaying vision and a gumption to take on bold initiatives that put larger powers to shame. It had played a vigorously a seminal role in the formation of SAARC in 1985 (now sadly comatose), and BIMSTEC in 1997, in vigorously reviving the sub-regional BBIN process in 2015, through engagement in very determined, skillful and persuasive diplomacy. It has consistently pursued the goal of spurring the process of regional cooperation for benefit of all peoples.
Today, Bangladesh is no longer the inconsequential, seemingly hapless, and helpless, devastated state that it had initially emerged as in 1971. It is looked upon with respect as a state of consequence in an increasingly and strategically important region of the world. Located as it is at the apex of the Bay of Bengal that is the middle Bay of the strategically contested Indian Ocean, it is now well-positioned to act as an important hub of multi-modal connectivity between the Indian and Pacific Oceanic regions.
Vulnerable as we are to the devastatingly deleterious consequences of global warming and climate change that threaten us existentially by upending the ecological balance in the region, we have taken on a leadership role, with our Prime Minister herself leading the charge, in all environment-related dialogues and initiatives. The natural trajectory of all these developments now indicate to me that we should, once again, be taking on a leading role in championing the idea of a larger Bay of Bengal regional cooperation framework that would encourage all Bay countries, littoral and adjacent with interest, to collaborate and devise a governance structure for this existentially important Commons for us all. Perhaps this will be the first important step in our fateful new journey of a thousand miles: towards the goal of forming a Bay of Bengal Economic Cooperation Community.
All our foreign policy messages must continue to rebroadcast Bangabandhu's universal message of peace with justice and equity for all that he had so resonantly, and impassionedly, called for in his address to the United Nations in October 1974. In this context, I note enthusiastically and laud whole-heartedly our Prime Minister's initiative to hold a World Peace Conference in Dhaka in December this year. We must prepare well for hosting this event in these very troubled times. We must give serious thought to crafting the message that we should issue from this platform to our region and to the world. I see this as an opportunity, once again to reiterate to the world, the essential tenets we believe the world should be guided by in international relations, as enunciated repeatedly by Bangabandhu. In the early seventies, Bangabandhu was deeply aware that great powers, all their professions of altruism notwithstanding, are motivated first and foremost by the requirements to consolidate their own national interests through further expanding their own global interests and reach. Their span of attention tends to be very fleeting, that their embrace could be stifling if not fatal. In this context, he had championed the case for the Indian Ocean to be considered as a Zone of Peace.
Bangladesh will be taking over as the Chair of the IORA later this year. However, while the goals of this body are totally laudable, the IOR is also beset by many conflicting or competing visions that tend to act as a drag upon the larger process of Oceanic regional cooperation going forward. Just as I view the problems of regional cooperation at the macro level, the pathway to that larger IOR cooperation must be through smaller sub-regional cooperation first among a group of like-minded entities who find themselves in similar straits.
We should judiciously use the platform of the World Peace Conference to revive and reiterate that clarion call given by Bangabandhu decades ago. Let us take the first step towards trying to ensure that our own Bay of Bengal first becomes a Zone of Peace, Friendship, Neutrality and Tranquility, free from disputes, with open passage for all peaceful maritime access, for sustainable cooperative conservation of its integrated ecosphere and managed harvesting of its blue water resources, facilitating connectivity between our peoples for our comprehensive growth, development, and self-fulfillment. We must play a leadership role in working in close concert with our Bay neighbours in drafting a framework agreement for governance of these existentially important Commons.
A state's foreign policy is only as effective as it can display to others its intrinsic resilience and its credentials of being consequential. Conversely, for smaller states like ours in particular, our national resilience and economic and social development are constantly likely to be very vulnerable to the various hostile or inimical forces raging around us. We must have a robust foreign policy that act as a Force-shield and safeguards the state as well as projects and promotes it. While our valiant armed forces will be defending our borders on the zero line from any external aggression or assault on us, invariably our first, and sometimes our last line, of defence is necessarily a well-defined foreign policy and an efficient, well trained, and proactively employed diplomacy. Bangabandhu had realized this well and lent his personal and full support to the effective development and deployment of the diplomatic arm of his state.
But let us not forget that a demonstrated economic development of a state must be underpinned by tending to the healthcare of its human capital. Without ensuring that, all our infra-structure development will be meaningless. The current COVID pandemic has dealt a grievous blow whose immediate and long term impact on our economic growth ambitions are still undetermined. This particular virus has demonstrated totally unanticipated sentient qualities, mutating into more deadlier variants faster than human adaptability. The only way out is to vaccinate at least 70% of not only the national population, but more importantly, at least 70-80 percent of global population. In sheer numbers, that translates to vaccinating about 5.5 billion people (for starters) globally, requiring 10 billion doses immediately for initial two doses. All current research indicates that boosters may be required, ranging from once every six months, to at least once a year, for the foreseeable, and perhaps well into the future. Vaccine production capacity globally is woefully inadequate and totally unable to meet, even if all combine and work together, to meet a fraction of this demand. Moreover, currently their production and development are controlled by a few rich and powerful governments and mega MNCs, who together are practicing what is essentially a "Vaccine colonialism". This must be broken. We need now to devote exponentially greater attention than we have so far to developing a strong healthcare infrastructure that will underwrite the health of our citizens. Our pharmaceutical industry must be induced, by a mix of regulatory measures by government to add vaccine manufacturing to their production and development mix, because this is the next growth industry. Our diplomatic arm must be given the task, as it was in the early years, of ensuring availability of funding, resources, and technology for our development.
If 15th August 1975 was the day when the "empire struck back" to roll back our liberation war history and negate Bangabandhu's legacy, we displayed resilience and bounced back with greater vigour than imagined. Let us this year transform this day of mourning into a day for rededicating ourselves to his ideals and visions and strengthening and building further on the foundational moorings he left to us as his legacy.
Ambassador (Retd.) Tariq A. Karim is the Director of the Centre for Bay of Bengal Studies at Independent University, Bangladesh. He was a Distinguished International Executive in Residence at the University of Maryland. He is now also Honorary Advisor Emeritus, Cosmos Foundation.
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