Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has said the South Asian nations should receive their shares of Covid vaccines and that too without any strings attached.
"Due to the sudden sweep over of Covid-19 cases in neighboring countries, it is imperative," he said.
Dr Momen said Bangladesh demands Covid vaccines to be a public good and its technology should be shared and available to all countries to produce it at an affordable price.
The Foreign Minister was addressing a webinar on "Revisiting Contemporary Peace and Security Challenges in the South Asian Region" as the chief guest organized by Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS).
He said they have discovered with awe and disappointment that global politics and affluence-power nexus have the overpowering dominance in the global society. "We wonder if the way to procure vaccines would be smooth at all as the bilateral cooperation is not the only deciding factor."
BIISS Director General Maj Gen Md Emdad Ul Bari delivered the welcome address while BIISS Chairman M Fazlul Karim chaired the session and delivered the introductory remarks.
In the webinar five papers were presented. Professor Imtiaz Ahmed, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka presented a paper on "Contemporary Geopolitical Competitions in the South Asian Region".
A paper titled "Inter and Intra-State Conflicts in South Asia (Indo-China, Indo-Pak Border Conflicts and Bangladesh-Myanmar Border Issues)" was presented by Professor Rashed Uz Zaman, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka.
Brig Gen Monirul Islam Akand, Director, Overseas Operations Directorate, Army Headquarters delivered a presentation on "Peacekeeping Challenges in the Present Time: Bangladesh Perspective".
A paper titled "Recent Trends in Terrorism and Violent Extremism" was presented by Md. Monirul Islam, Additional Inspector General of Police, Bangladesh Police Special Branch) while M Ashique Rahman, Research Fellow, BIISS presented a paper on "Covid-19 and the Geopolitical Changes in South Asia".
Dr Momen said the pandemic illustrated that political leaders, scientists, and citizens cannot operate in isolation during health crises.
Rather, he said, health emergencies must be viewed as global security crises that require coordination and cooperation among all stakeholders.
To obtain the full health, societal, and economic benefits of vaccines, programs must be coordinated, inclusive, and equitable. Stronger regional and international cooperation is necessary in the coming days for mitigating the impact of the pandemic and for the rebuilding phase, Dr Momen said.
The Foreign Minister highlighted how an act of mindless persecution in a particular territory could affect the security and stability landscape of a region.
The long standing Rohingya crisis in Myanmar has continued to haunt not only Bangladesh but the South Asian region as a whole, he said.
"Once an internal matter for Myanmar, this has now destabilized the regional tranquility of South and Southeast Asia and triggered a global outcry," said the Foreign Minister.
Rohingya and A Volcano Open
For the greater interest of these persecuted people and the stability of the region, Dr Momen said, the Rohingya crisis needs to be resolved in a durable manner with utmost priority.
"It is better if the regional leaders understand early, that statelessness of a large ethnic group on the face of persecution might turn a volcano open, if not treated with promise and action to serve justice," he said.
Dr Momen said the strategic location and untapped natural resources of Rakhaine state have made Myanmar a strategic partner of the major world and regional powers.
He said they started strengthening political and economic ties with Myanmar in the form of trade, investment, and normalization of diplomatic relations in the hope that this would lead towards democratization of the country.
"In the backdrop of recent political turmoil in Myanmar, the international community must realize that Myanmar has a long history of persecution of its own people specially Rohingyas from the country under the pretext of security operations," he said.
The Foreign Minister said the culture of impunity has taken a deep root in Myanmar due to the country's lack of willingness to bring the perpetrators to justice.
"It would have been more encouraging to get the world community assertively vocal on severe restrictions of movement, health care, education, access to mobile and internet and livelihood opportunities in Rakhine – thereby fostering an environment conducive for voluntary repatriation."
Benefits of Cooperation
The Foreign Minister said South Asian countries must understand the long-term benefits of regional and multilateral cooperation.
In successful multilateral agreements, an even-playing field can assist all cooperating countries in developing their economies, promoting good governance, and supporting cross-border infrastructure projects, he said.
In South Asia, Dr Momen said, multilateral cooperation can support the development of stronger transportation systems, better connectivity, collective action against climate change, which may become a security problem, plus best practices in the field of agriculture, and contributions to scientific development.
If the region can act collectively, he said, South Asia is well poised to succeed globally with a diverse range of natural resources and human capital to match the needs of its growing economies.
In his welcome remarks Maj Gen Bari noted that with the gradual shift of center of gravity of global power politics and the (re)rise of China, South Asia is becoming a hub of the 21st century's economic opportunities and growing centrality to global geopolitical calculations.
Recently, South Asian politics became more complicated by external realities such as bloc politics, fight against terrorism and escalation of Sino-US competition in the Indo-Pacific region, Bari said.
He hoped that the immediate sustainable and dignified repatriation of the Rohingyas to Myanmar surely can enhance regional peace and stability.
Bari expected that all regional and extra-regional actors will come forward in solving the Rohingya crisis and take concerted effort considering the gravity of the situation.
Fazlul Karim said that for a region to prosper, close cooperation is a must between and among countries therein. Unfortunately, that is not the case in South Asia.
"Here by contrast, countries retain their mutual distrust. Political interaction among them has not grown to the expected level which has been among others, a vital setback behind failure of regional cooperation and integration. When challenges are common, responses should also have to be similar," he said.
Senior officials from different ministries, ambassadors and high commissioners, senior civil and military officials, media, academia, think tanks, business personalities, students and teachers from different universities participated in the open discussion and raised their questions and opinions on the topic.