Governments require maintaining national interests on a priority basis during engagements at the bilateral and regional levels, experts said on Wednesday.
While engaging at bilateral-level and making regional organisations functional, it would be essential to remain alert so that ‘national interests are not overridden,’ former state minister Abul Hasan Chowdhury said at the concluding session on the last day of the three-day function styled Dhaka Global Dialogue.
Observer Research Foundation of India and Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies jointly organised the dialogue on growth, development and Indo-Pacific Strategy.
‘National interests come first,’ M Shahriar Alam, current state minister for foreign affairs, replied to a question from Nahim Razzaq, a member of the parliamentary standing committee on foreign ministry, who was moderating the session, in connection to the statement of Abul Hasan.
Activating regional associations in South Asia would be essential as countries could not move towards development alone in present day world, Shahriar said without mentioning anything about SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation). ‘They are not functioning properly.’
Regional organisations including BIMSTEC also require to perform, he said admitting that the BIMSTEC was slow since its inception in 1997.
Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen also stressed the need for strengthening cooperation at the regional and sub-regional levels ‘for integration of economies’ of the member countries.
Sunjoy Joshi, chairman of New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, said forging a knowledge-based economy and social systems for the next generations would be essential as a major transformation was taking place and ‘organisational, institutional and sovereign boundaries are breaking down.’
In a session on women leadership in policy and politics, Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid Bangladesh, mentioned about contradictions in the society. ‘There’s a contradiction in society. Society does not like people to live in peace. If there is no conflict and fear, how do you overpower them? That is the mantra – fear and control.’
Countries have equality enshrined in their constitutions, she said, adding when it comes to practice, this is oftentimes not the case.
Stressing the need to develop a culture to respect and empower women, she said, ‘Culture has the power of becoming the weapon in the hands of patriarchy, and can be used to oppress women.’
Champa Patel of The Royal Institute of International Affairs, widely known as Chatham House, too, said bringing in positive changes in technical, systemic frameworks and culture were also essential. ‘Not having visible role models and not being able to tap into those networks is hugely detrimental. Policies and laws are not enough by themselves, culture has a huge role to play here as well.’
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