The nation's diplomacy, we have been told, will now have an added dimension to it. And the dimension relates to an emphasis on West Asia on our part. It is a move that we cannot but welcome, given that at a time when we are celebrating the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and are preparing to observe the fiftieth anniversary of Bangladesh's emergence as an independent state next year, we need to expand our role more forcefully on a global scale.

The time has now arrived when diplomacy for Bangladesh needs to go through certain readjustments. These readjustments can be considered from a couple of perspectives. There is the overall restructuring of the Bangladesh diplomatic establishment that has now become necessary. A priority for the new foreign minister, as also for the minister of state for foreign affairs and the new foreign secretary, is to transform the Foreign Office into a zone of excellence that will be able to present Bangladesh's case effectually, in that intellectual sense of the meaning, before the rest of the world. That of course calls for a recruitment of officers armed with a clear and thorough grasp of history and contemporary global realities.

Elitism generally strips away at promise and, worse, leaves those caught in its web inhabiting a world divorced from the ground realities at home. Since the emergence of Bangladesh, elitism has by and large eaten away at the vitals of foreign policy and has all too often reduced our diplomacy into a club of careerists. That is a reason why, in important capitals of the globe, those dispatched as ambassadors or high commissioners and holding other senior positions should be men and women of impeccable intellectual reputation and possessed of a high sense of history, Bangladesh's as well as that of the world outside its frontiers.

But let there be a caveat here. Diplomats must not be permitted to stay away from home for years on end. Even today, there are ambassadors who have in the past decade and more have not come back on home postings but have instead moved from capital to capital. Why must that happen? Besides, diplomats should be individuals whose record of service to the country is never in question, whose faith in the core principles of the nation's War of Liberation has never wavered, who have a clear, unambiguous understanding of international relations. At the same time, and naturally, these individuals should be of a liberal outlook, should be able to listen to the other person's point of view and be morally powerful enough to refuse to kowtow to unreasonable demands on policy implementation.

There is today a critical need for a foreign policy that will have at core the principle of enlightened national self-interest.

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