Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen in a views-exchange meeting with civil society members yesterday discussed strategies on how to "effectively manage foreign diplomats" in preparation for the upcoming national elections.
The minister met a number of former Bangladeshi diplomats, academics, security analysts and journalists at the Foreign Service Academy.
"We are grateful to them [civil society] for their guidance in the two-and-a-half-hour meeting in view of the upcoming national elections," Momen told the media after the meeting.
The meeting was part of regular interactions, the minister clarified when asked about the meeting taking place a few months before the elections.
"They said [civil society] the letter of 14 US congressmen misrepresents numbers of persecuted minorities in the last 10 years," Momen said.
It has been suggested to hold seminars and talk shows on these issues, he said.
Citing attendees of the meeting, the minister said foreign diplomats in Bangladesh "talk too much which they do not do in other countries".
The minister further disclosed that a suggestion was made to provide training to journalists on effectively querying foreign guests and ambassadors.
An educationalist, who attended the meeting, told TBS requesting anonymity that the minister wanted to know how to cut back on diplomats' interference.
"I said you should be proactive rather than reactive. You don't have to reply to every issue they throw at you," he added.
"On the contrary, they should regularly inform the people and diplomats about the government's achievements. For this reason, regular briefings should be done with journalists," he said.
The meeting was also attended by former diplomat Farooq Sobhan, Tariq A Karim, Shamsher M. Chowdhury; Prof Abdul Mannan, former chairman, University Grant Commission; security analyst Brigadier (retired) M Sakhawat Hossain and Air Cdre (Retd) Ishfaq Ilahi Choudhury; Prof Delwar Hossain of Dhaka University International Relations department; senior journalists Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul and Nayeemul Islam Khan.
No costly deal ahead of elections
Momen also said the government will abstain from entering into any extravagant agreements ahead of the upcoming general elections.
The foreign minister's remarks came in response to questions posed by reporters regarding speculations surrounding two defence agreements with the US – the General Security of Military Information Agreement and the Acquisition Cross-Servicing Agreement.
"We have no intention of engaging in costly deals before the elections. Our primary focus at this juncture is to uphold voting rights and ensure food security. If people are unable to feed themselves, all other rights become meaningless," he said.
"Our number one priority is the welfare of the people and the country; how to feed them twice a day. Securing food is a challenge for us. You don't have to worry about eating in America," he added.
Regarding concerns about money laundering, the foreign minister said, "We would be gratified if illicit funds belonging to Bangladeshis in US banks are seized."