Diplomatic practices, not only in the present world, but did exist in ancient times for establishment of relations or cooperation between states. The head of a state or country used to send his trustworthy person as his special envoy at the time of need especially in crisis or delight.
Usually the envoy had to carry some important message. The envoy’s activities never crossed the boundary of the purpose of his mission. An envoy normally had never to face any disaster whether he could bring any positive result or not, even if the situation went more severe. Later on, that practices took the shape of present day diplomacy. Consequently foreign policies were formulated to establish diplomatic relations among states.
Formulation of foreign policies and their implementation depend on the political philosophy of a country’s leadership and its equation of relations with other countries. The success of foreign policies can not only be earned by framing powerful foreign policies but it needs a powerful leadership. Actually a country’s success in international relations depends on the degree of correlation between its foreign policy and leadership. Bangladesh is not an exception of that.
Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was flown secretly to London in the morning of 8 January after he was released from Pakistan’s jail in the night of 7 January 1972. In London, he met British Prime Minister Edward Heath. He returned to Bangladesh on 10 January via India. At New Delhi, Bangabandhu was accorded a very warm reception which was attended by Indian President V V Giri, Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi and other cabinet ministers in addition to millions of Indian people.
Returning home, Bangabandhu got a Bangladesh with burnt houses, destroyed roads. The central bank was empty. In that situation, he had to shoulder the responsibility of his motherland as well as his people. Bangabandhu was bewildered in his dream of reconstructing the independent Bangladesh. It was only possible for a brave patriotic leader like him to shoulder such hardiest responsibility standing on the piles of ruins. That self-confident and farsighted person did not wait for a single moment to start the work of reconstruction of the country. Drafting of the country’s constitution began. At the same time, foreign policies were drawn up. Based on the basic elements of his foreign policies- ‘friendship with all, malice to none’ and ‘friendly co-existence’, the present Bangladesh has established such stronger relationship with the world community.
Bangabandhu did not only think the welfare of his people, but he always felt the miseries of the have-nots of the world. He used to say, “The world is divided into two parts - oppressors and oppressed. And I am with the oppressed”. Bangabandhu never stood silent if there were any injustice and exploitation at any place against any person irrespective of caste or creed. By born he was a world leader who always spoke for the oppressed people. Bangabandhu was compared with the Himalayas. He stood against apartheid in Africa, foreign occupation in Asia and Africa or Latin America. He expressed his solidarity with the people of Palestine. In the same way, he condemned the overthrowing of the democratically elected Government of Cyprus.
Bangabandhu went to Kolkata on 6 February 1972. Indian Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi received him at Domdom Airport. During the visit, it was decided that India would withdraw its army from Bangladesh by March. Accordingly on 1 March, India declared to withdraw its army from Bangladesh and the withdrawal was completed on 15 March. Bangabandhu visited Moscow from 29 February to 6 March. Indian Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi came to Bangladesh on 17 March. The two Prime Ministers signed a 25-year Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Peace on 19 March. Bangabandhu met British Prime Minister Edward Heath on 18 August. From London he went to Geneva on 21 August to convalesce in Switzerland as their guest. On his return from Geneva on 13 September, he held talks with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during his stop over at New Delhi.
In 1972, Bangladesh became member of IMF (17 June), ILO (22 June), Inter-Parliamentary Union (20 September), UNESCO (19 October), Colombo Plan (6 November) and GATT (9 November).
On 8 August 1972, Bangladesh officially forwarded application to UN Secretary General seeking UN membership. Bangabandhu, on 10 August, wrote to all members of the Security Council for their support. On 23 August, a resolution backed by UK, India, USSR and Yugoslavia urged UN Security Council to admit Bangladesh but China vetoed. However, UN General Assembly, on 30 November, recommended Bangladesh’s membership.
In September, Bangladesh Peace Council urged the US government to stop all bombings in Vietnam. Patrice Lulumba University of USSR decided to award peace medal to Bangabandhu on 23 November. Students’ Union of Bangladesh organised a procession on 22 December to condemn the resumption of US bombing on North Vietnam.
On 9 February 1973, UN Secretary General Dr Kurt Waldheim called on Bangabandhu at Ganabhaban. Yugoslav Prime Minister Mr Dzemal Bijedic arrived in Dhaka on 25 March. Bangabandhu left Dhaka for Belgrade on 26 June on a 17-day visit to Yugoslavia and Canada. Yugoslavian President Marshal Tito pledged all out support to Bangladesh including admission to NAM and UN. On 7 August, Bangabandhu addressed the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Ottawa. Bangabandhu left Dhaka on 6 September for Algiers to attend the 4th NAM Summit. During the Summit, he met King Faisal, President Tito, President Anwar Sadaat, President Idi Amin, President Gaddafi and Prime Minister Takeddine Sloth. He went to Tokyo on 18 October on a 7-day visit. He also paid a short visit to Malaysia in that year.
Bangabandhu loved his people as much his people loved him. In April, Bangabandhu sent a message to UN Secretary General proposing unconditional and immediate repatriation of all Bangalis from Pakistan and all Pakistanis from Bangladesh. During the visit of UN High Commissioner for Refugees to Dhaka in May, Bangabandhu urged him to save Bangalis in Pakistan. On 28 August, India and Pakistan signed an agreement for resolving repatriation of half a million Bangalis and Pakistanis. Bangabandhu hailed this agreement. British Prime Minister Edward Heath in a message assured Bangabandhu all possible help for repatriation of Bangalis. Finally the repatriation began on 19 September (first batch of 168 persons).
In 1973, Bangladesh became a member of ADB (18 February), ICAO (28 February), ECAFE (23 April) and FAO (12 November). The Foreign Ministers of NAM approved Bangladesh’s membership for NAM on 3 September.
Bangabandhu hailed Vietnam peace accord on 24 January. The World Peace Council during its 3-day Asian Conference in May in Dhaka conferred Bangabandhu with Juliet Curie Gold Medal for Peace. On 10 July, National Assembly of Pakistan passed a resolution authorising President Bhutto to accord recognition to Bangladesh. In July, Bangladesh condemned Portugal’s atrocities in Mozambique. Bangladesh, on 21 July, recognised the new Afghan government headed by Sarder Mohammad Daud Khan. Bangladesh also accorded recognition to the provisional Revolutionary Government of Vietnam in July.
On 6 October 1973, Bangabandhu condemned latest Israeli aggression in the Middle East. He instructed to send one lakh pounds of tea for Egypt and Syria as gift. He hailed Tito-Boumedienne move for a concerted effort of the Non-aligned countries in support of Arab cause. Bangabandhu sent a medical team to Egypt and Syria in aid to war victims in Arab-Israel war.
The year 1974 began with a 4-day visit of New Zealand Prime Minister Mr Norman Kirk. Yugoslav President Marshall Tito arrived in Dhaka on 29 January. The Secretary General of OIC visited Dhaka in February. Pakistan gave recognition to Bangladesh on 22 February. Bangabandhu went to Lahore on 23 February to attend the OIC Summit. President of Egypt Anwar Sadat arrived in Dhaka on 25 February. On 8 March, Algerian President Col. Houari Bomedienne had a stopover in Dhaka and held talks with Bangabandhu. In March, Bangabandhu went to Moscow for treatment. President Ne Win of Myanmar visited Bangladesh in the last week of April. Bangabandhu went to India on 12 May on a 5-day visit. Mr Leopold Sedar Senghor, President of Senegal paid a visit in the last week of May. On 1 June, President of Bangladesh went to Bhutan to attend the coronation ceremony of King Jigme Singye Wangchuk. Indian President V V Giri came to Dhaka on 15 June on a 5-day visit. Pakistan Prime Minister visited Bangladesh in June. President of South Vietnam Nguyen Hu Thu had a brief stopover at Dhaka in September.
On 17 September, UN General Assembly unanimously approved the entry of Bangladesh in the UN as its 136th member. Bangabandhu left Dhaka on 23 September to attend the UNGA. He spoke before the UNGA in Bangla. He met US President Gerald Ford at the White House on 1 October.
In the first week of October, Bangabandhu paid a visit to Iraq. US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger came to Dhaka in October. Bangabandhu went to Kuwait on 10 November on a 4-day visit. Malaysian King arrived in Dhaka on 3 December. Bangabandhu left for Abu Dhabi on 18 December. The King of Bhutan paid a visit to Dhaka in December. Director General of FAO also came to Dhaka in December.
On 19 July, Bangladesh condemned the use of force aimed at overthrowing the democratically elected government of the Republic of Cyprus headed by Archbishop Makarios. In its first appearance before the UN Security Council on 22 October, Bangladesh urged for immediate expulsion of South Africa from the UN.
Bangladesh became a founder member of the Islamic Bank in August. In November, the site for construction of a 3 mile long bridge over Jamuna was finally selected by Japan and Bangladesh. UNGA nominated Bangladesh to its Commission on Namibia on 19 December.
On 19 January 1975, Australian Prime Minister EG Whitlam came to Dhaka. Crown Prince Akihito of Japan arrived in Dhaka on 20 February. A Bangladesh delegation attended the coronation of the Nepalese monarch held in February. President of Asian Development Bank (ADB) came to Bangladesh in March. President of Afghanistan Muhammad Daud arrived in Dhaka on 14 March on a two-day visit. President of Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) arrived in Dhaka in March. Bangabandhu spoke at the Commonwealth Summit Conference in Kingston on 5 May.
Bangladesh was elected a member of the Executive Council of World Tourism Organisation (WTO) and the Executive Board of World Health Organisation on 19 May and 22 May respectively. On 23 June, Bangladesh was elected as the Vice President of the World Food Council.
From January 1972 to July 1975, Bangladesh received more than a hundred delegations including about fifty VVIPs. During this short time, Bangladesh signed more than seventy treaty, agreement, memorandum and contract with countries all over the world. Many countries and organisations like India, USSR, Sweden, Germany, USA, IDA, Japan, Poland, UK, Canada, Denmark, UNICEF, UN, Australia, France, WFP, UAE, Qatar, Bulgaria, Belgium, Algeria, Netherlands, UNHCR, etc provided billions of dollar as credit, grant, aid, soft loan, assistance and donation (for flood victims).
Bangladesh became orphan on 15 August 1975 at the age of four when it just started to walk step by step. People all over the world became astounded, anxious. World leaders, except few, reproached. Millions of Bangalis silently bathed in tears. The people, who grabbed the power unconstitutionally, started implementation of their authority on a country that was born on the holy blood of thousands martyrs. However, directly or indirectly, the military ran the country till 1991.
We know that all countries of the world except Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Oman and China recognised Bangladesh as an independent country during Bangabandhu’s time. What would be more than this success of our foreign policies? In fact, Bangabandhu’s leadership, wisdom and personal relationship with world leaders played an important role behind this success. Analysis of the success Bangladesh attained so far in international sector since independence confirms that no other head of government of Bangladesh was able to reach at such height of our foreign relations like Bangabandhu.
The writer is a former Ambassador & Secretary