Q1. In an increasingly interdependent world, there is an open debate on the necessity of more international institutions to govern international affairs. Do you believe that civil society is represented enough in the newly globalized world? Or is there a limit to such representation?
It is difficult for me to define the limit. From my personal experience of over 25 years as a career diplomat, I can safely say that we need more participation from civil society. We will welcome the evolution of more think tanks and institutes like this particular one, the ICD. These are needed all over the world, not only in Germany, for the national and global benefit. Since we live in an interdependent world, there should be more emphasis on understanding cultural diversity, especially in modern education. With greater economic emancipation and political understanding, the world will undoubtedly become more peaceful and more prosperous.
Q2. The financial crisis has hit every country. Now that it appears the global economy is recovering, do you think there is a new opportunity to promote a more equitable economic growth and development around the globe?
Equitable economic growth depends on certain basics, such as education, scientific progress, the innovativeness of the people, etc. Even local or national prejudices can pose obstacles to development. So as the world is coming out of the financial crisis, the assertion that everything will become equal is not an easy statement to make. You have to take in to consideration many other aspects as I have mentioned. It is a complex process.
Q3. The region of South Asia is comprised of many different countries with different cultures, but there are several shared features as well. Do you believe that these commonalities are enough to form an inclusive nation-state? If so, why?
There are of course commonalities due to historical reasons, but there are many differences as well. Similarities include diet, dress, and respect for the same leaders and philosophers. To showcase and benefit from these similarities and historic relationships, the countries of South Asia have formed a regional cooperation group called the SAARC (the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation) in 1985 with the initiative of Bangladesh. With regard to your question about the emergence of a South Asian nation state, I do not believe this will happen. I do believe there is an emergence of greater understanding between the already formed nation states starting with Afghanistan, up to the border of Myanmar, and down to Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and the Himalayas. Altogether there are eight countries in the SAARC, including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. These countries will remain independent and sovereign with their own nationhood, but at the same time there will be increased understanding and cooperation amongst them in the fields of governance, business, and cultural exchange. But one nation state in South Asia? No, many people have sacrificed their lives to become independent. We will have a thriving SAARC, which will have a population of about 2 billion in the future. This means it will be one of the largest markets, and will thrive alongside the large Chinese market.
Q4. Bangladesh has a common history with India. The latest figures are pointing to the fact that this country will be one of the main players in the new globalized economy. Taking that into consideration, what is the role of Bangladesh vis-à-vis India?
We need to learn from the experience of India and at the same time complement its growth. When a big ship rises, it can take smaller ships along with it because of the environment it creates. Since India is emerging as a super economic power, we hope that not only the government, but also the individual businesses in Bangladesh will take in to account the need to grow also in order to improve the economy. You will be happy to learn that Bangladesh is already doing quite well. According to many surveys, in the last decade we have experienced around 6% economic growth. We are within the emerging eleven and are the fourth largest producer of both rice and ready-made garments. We have around ten million people working abroad and sending remittances back regularly. We are the largest provider of peacekeeping forces and have brought most of the population out of poverty. Now in Bangladesh the poverty rate is only 30%, and in many countries it is much higher. Our population of 162 million is almost twice that of Germany, so with all of these success stories, I am very hopeful we will compliment the growth of India and that as a good neighbor we will also succeed.
Q5. What would you therefore define as the main asset of your country in promoting itself beyond solely being the neighbor to India?
Our biggest strength is our homogeneity. Most of the people of Bangladesh speak Bangla, and more than 99 percent of the people are of Bengali background. Ethnologically we can call ourselves the Bengali. We are the Bengali nation. I am very hopeful this homogeneity will help us to progress. This gives us big advantage in comparison to a country that has many different nations and ethnicities within the same borders. This is sometimes also a challenge but in our case that challenge is very minimal and this will help us to thrive further. If you take into consideration the progress in education, healthcare, agriculture, production and business, these are also indicators that show Bangladesh can thrive.
Q6. And to further this, what are the main challenges facing Bangladesh in the coming decade?
The main challenge of Bangladesh is how to use its large population effectively and at some point balance population growth. We need to help the population become more productive and also provide for their needs, such as education. This is a big challenge for a very small country with minimal resources. Another challenge is climate change, which is not only in our hands, but is the responsibility of all nations. If climate change goes unhindered, sea levels will rise and the southern part of Bangladesh might flood around portions of the Bay of Bengal. This is why the Honorable Prime Minister Sheik Hasina is asking all the countries of the world to address the threat of global warming. It is necessary to help countries like Bangladesh and the Maldives overcome these grave threats such as the rise in sea level rises as well as other kinds of pollution. If you ask me, these are the two great challenges for Bangladesh.
Q7. Because you are still currently a developing country, do you think that Western countries have to take the lead in climate change?
Absolutely, you are correct.
Thank you for your time.