Press Release Summary = Quoting Bernier, Bangladesh ambassador in Washington Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, a career diplomat, who tirelessly working to further strengthen the existing bilateral relations between Washington and Dhaka said, Bangladesh has a hundreds of gates open for entrance but not one for departure.
Press Release Body = Quoting Bernier, Bangladesh ambassador in Washington Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, a career diplomat, who tirelessly working to further strengthen the existing bilateral relations between Washington and Dhaka said, Bangladesh has a hundreds of gates open for entrance but not one for departure. Ambassador Chowdhury was speaking at a press conference at Washington Press Club recently. He said, today, in Bangladesh, we are engaged in a Himalayan adventure of pursuing development, improving the quality of life and modernizing one of the world's oldest civilizations. We seek to provide a social and economic environment at home that will unleash the creativity and enterprise of every Bangladeshis, thus enabling our people to live a life of dignity, fulfillment and self-respect. The United States has long been a partner in our journey of progress. The United States and Bangladesh must work together in all possible forums to these ends. We must fight terrorism wherever it exists, because terrorism anywhere threatens democracy everywhere. With regard to our governance and social gains, let me begin by quoting from a document published by the World Bank only on March 29, 2006. The document reads: "Bangladesh has recorded impressive economic and social gains in the last decade. The country has doubled per capita growth and taken strides towards reaching many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It out performs most low-income countries.----- Gender parity in school enrollment at both primary and secondary level has been achieved, child mortality has been halved, and life expectancy has increased significantly since 1990s." Chowdhury further said, indeed the development of Bangladesh in last few years defies all conventional wisdom of rampant corruption and governance failure. So much so that Mr. Praful Patel, World Bank Vice President is on record to have said that "to explain this conundrum we must unbundled governance and recognize that Bangladesh has had both governance successes and governance failures. Among the successes, the world bank records that: "Bangladesh has shown important gains in public accountability, with three successive free elections, an assertive Supreme Court, sound public procurement regulations, an active civil society and a relatively free media. Successive governments have allocated substantial budget resources to areas such as heath and education. Micro-finance has expanded with strong Government support and financial governance is improving. Government has also forged strong partnership with NGOs, especially in health, nutrition and education, which have contributed to the development gains." Historically, Bangladesh is a new state in an ancient land that was known as Bengal, a land that was famous for its fine textile called Muslin. The ancient Bengal was so prosperous that people from all over the world came and settled in this land. No wonder why Bernier said hundreds of years ago: \"Bangladesh has a hundred gates open for entrance but not one for departure\" On democracy and governance, ambassador Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury said, the Constitution of Bangladesh protects the rights of minority as well human rights. Bangladesh is a democracy and could not be anything else. On economic development in the country, the ambassador said, our economy is opening up rapidly to be integrated with the global economy. The economic reform program includes privatization of state owned enterprises, emphasis on private sector investment, reforms and changes in our laws to host more and more foreign direct investment, and export diversification. Giving examples of women empowerment, Bangladesh ambassador said, Bangladesh ranks several rungs higher at 39, much ahead of South Asian countries like India (53) and Pakistan (56) and tops among the Muslim countries surpassing Malaysia at 40 in a 58-nation study to measure the gender gap based on five critical parameters set by the United Nations Development Fund for Women. Education for all with particular emphasis on female education has been the fundamental basis for human resource development. In 1993 Bangladesh introduced nation-wide free and compulsory primary education program. The same year marked the commencement of "food for education" program to encourage the children of the poor to attend school. 5.2 million families are being provided stipends to encourage their girl children to go to schools. On the issue of religion and the question of minority, Chowdhury said, our Constitution ensures equal rights for all irrespective of race and religion. Our values emanating from the tradition of protecting the rights of others are our main strength, our principal inspiration. We firmly believe, a unique social and world-order based on peace, amity and love can be established by following the true essence of religions. Neglect of religions or their absence has not been able to bring any good. That is why the farsighted statesman of Bangladesh late President Ziaur Rahman had established religious values in our country. But we are dead against the practice of any discrimination on the basis of religious identity. Here, the state and the government provide support to the unhindered practice of all religions and cultures. People belonging to all faiths enjoy equal rights as citizens. Our Prime Minister has repeatedly said that nobody is a minority in Bangladesh. We have tried to prove this through our deeds, not merely words. Our Constitution, law and the masses are also supportive of this. The adherents of various religions have lived alongside each other in peace in this land for centuries. The people of Bangladesh have set a glorious tradition of maintaining peace bereft of turmoil even during times of provocative incidents, conflicts and clashes at various faraway and nearby places of the world. Bangladesh is committed to uphold this glorious heritage at any price. In Bangladesh about 88 per cent of people are Muslim while the rest are mostly Hindus and a small percentage of Christian and others. While Islam is the state religion, Bangladesh is not an Islamic republic or state. Islam was propagated in the Bangladesh region by a large number of Muslim saints who were mostly active from the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries. While similar Muslim missionary activities failed in other regions of South Asia, Islam ultimately succeeded in penetrating deeply into Bengal because the social environment of this region was congenial to the diffusion of a new religion. In much of South Asia, strong village communities were impenetrable barriers to the spread of alien faiths. In Bengal, the corporate ness of village institutions was weak in eastern areas; it gradually increased towards the western areas. The distribution of Muslim population also followed similar spatial pattern in this region. The Muslims in Bengal were concentrated in the eastern areas. The gradual process of conversion to Islam in Bengal resulted in an intense interaction between Islam and Hinduism. At the folk level, however, there was less confrontation and more interaction between Hinduism and Islam. A synergetic tradition developed around the cult and pantheons of pirs. The actual practices of local Muslim converts were an anathema to both Hindu and Muslim religious leaders. Thereby, people of different religious faiths have living side by side for centuries. The occasional incidents or clashes resulted mainly because of politicization of the religion not because of religion per se. However, with the gradual increase of literacy level there is far less scope for political exploitation of their religious beliefs. Giving instance of excellent foreign policy adopted by the government of Begum Khaleda Zia, Shamsher said, when Bangladesh was born, many, including prominent American public figures, were skeptical about the viability of this new state. Since then, Bangladesh has crossed a long way. It has attained significant economic and social progress, consolidated democratic governance at home and has been playing a constructive role in the international community. Our foreign policy is based on the axiom: Friendship with all, malice towards none. Bangladesh has established itself as a moderate, democratic and forward-looking country that contributes significantly to peace and stability in South Asia and beyond. It is the largest troops contributor to the UN peacekeeping operations. Our soldiers have participated in 30 peacekeeping operations worldwide to promote and uphold democracy and peace. Bangladesh is the first country in South Asia to have signed both NPT (Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty) and (CTBT) Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and thus given up the nuclear option out of its own volition. It takes active interest in promoting regional peace and it was at the forefront to establish the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in 1985. In short, Bangladeshi society is slowly but decisively moving towards a better future, a society that upholds the dignity of every single person and at the same time combines individual efflorescence with collective prosperity, a society that is open to new ideas and at the same time conscious of preserving its own tradition and values. Bangladesh, out of its own conviction and commitment, will continue to march ahead on the path of democracy, human rights and peace. Encouragement and support from our friends will go a long way in making our arduous journey comfortable. Shamsher gave elaborative information on militancy and terrorism in his country. He said, despite what is said thus far, we must admit that likewise many other nations, Bangladesh is also not free from the problem of terrorism and militancy. On Aug. 17, 2005 the country was hit with a staggering blow: the near-simultaneous explosion of about 500 bombs in hundreds of towns and cities across the nation. It was a dramatic signal of the power of the militants, showing that their resources and organizational skill were a serious threat to Bangladesh\'s democracy. Soon afterward came the suicide bombs, the first in the history of Bangladesh. The bombers struck in late November and early December 2005 targeting lawyers and other symbols of Bangladesh\'s secular legal system. The whole country was in shock as have never thought of ever experiencing the kind of militancy that we have had in the last few months of 2005. The government rose to the occasion and decided to fight it to the last. The sprit of our fight can be summarized as what Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia said to the nation on 2 March 2006 shortly after the arrest of JMB mastermind Shaikh Abdur Rahman, "with regard to curbing terrorism, I appealed to you that you would be our eyes and ears. I said Bangladesh couldn't afford to buy so much CCTV. You will be our CCTV." What many rich and powerful nations in the world could not achieve, Bangladesh could do that through intelligence, hard work, courage and sincerity. Many militants of these levels abroad are out of reach. But the security forces in Bangladesh have been able to arrest the mastermind of the bomb terrorists. People of Bangladesh have proved that they are religious but they do not give shelter to those who indulge in killing in the name of religion. They do not support terrorism. People of Bangladesh are religious, but they are not afraid of facing terrorism. Prime Minister also went on to say " We have proved again how to face violence and crisis. I admit unhesitatingly that there are many more problems in the country." The simple message from Bangladesh's success in the field of terrorism is that if your people believe in what they preach and if you can mobilize them in unison, there is no problem what you cannot face. Be it catastrophic natural disaster or terrorism.
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