Ankara and Dhaka, who already have good relations, will maintain this momentum despite the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to cooperate in all fields, including politics, business, defense and culture, said the ambassador of Bangladesh. in Turkey Mosud Mannan by marking the golden jubilee of the country’s independence.
“We are even trying during COVID-19 to maintain a very good bilateral understanding and cooperation,” Mannan said in an exclusive interview with Daily Sabah, saying President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to visit Bangladesh this year under this framework.
Stressing that as a high-level diplomat, he is also an advocate for public diplomacy, Mannan stressed the importance of person-to-person contacts at all levels in all professions and youth-to-youth exchanges.
“We will try to continue the exchange of everything, which was happening until the end of 2019, so that when the new normal situation arrives, we will be ready. We will keep the momentum going, maybe not at high speed but at moderate speed. “
When asked if Bangladesh will participate in the Antalya Diplomacy Forum to be held in June, Mannan said, “Bangladesh will be there,” noting that Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has accepted the invitation of his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.
Given Bangladesh’s status as one of the fastest growing economies in the world over the past decade, the two countries have placed particular emphasis on trade and trade cooperation.
Mannan highlighted the issue, saying he will work in this area and meet with businessmen and companies and their representatives in Turkey to “further negotiate how business can continue in a difficult environment.”
“Turkish infrastructure and construction companies are showing interest in our major projects. We must encourage them to participate in tenders in addition to day-to-day business, ”he said.
Mentioning that he has visited several Turkish provinces, Mannan said he will finally visit the tourism capital, Antalya, this month.
“Bangladesh wants to learn from your success in dealing with tourists. My duty will be to have a good understanding with your Ministry of Culture and Tourism so that we can bring young intrapreneurs from Bangladesh to learn how you are promoting and have been promoting pre-COVID-19 tourism ”, a Mannan said.
The ambassador spoke about the similarities between the two cultures, describing Turkey as a friendly country with excellent cuisine and an example of an open-minded Muslim nation. “Bangladesh is also a free-spirited, predominantly Muslim population.”
Mannan also plans to improve relations in the field of education. “We already have around 600 students. I want to increase that number to 1,000 as soon as possible, because your universities, especially in science and technology, are very much improved. “
“It will be two-way traffic,” he said, “We will try to send more students here, and we will try to attract more students or young professionals for training in Bangladesh.” Explaining that efforts in this regard are already underway, Mannan said he would sign an agreement with a university in the northern province of Samsun and a university in Bangladesh to initiate educational, cultural and scientific exchange and establish a program of joint control between the two countries.
Highlighting the interest of the Bangladeshi people in Sufism and the great philosopher Mevlana Jalaladdin Rumi, the ambassador said he plans to host organizations in the central Anatolian province of Konya, where Rumi’s tomb and Mevlevi whirling dervishes world famous are based.
“We promote Sufism to show Islam’s chance for peace. People do not understand that we Muslims mainly defend peace. So, we want to promote that Islam is for peace and that Sufism is a means.
Mannan also plans to meet with the director of the Yunus Emre Institute (YEE), the global non-profit organization focused on teaching the Turkish language, “so that we can ask them to set up a branch in Bangladesh.”
Asia Anew Partner
Ankara has frequently stated that Dhaka is one of Turkey’s main partners in its Asia Anew initiative with its vibrant economy and young population.
Ankara adopts a multidimensional foreign policy and takes firm steps towards new regions, including East Asia. Turkey already has 32 embassies on the continent, including in the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The Asia Anew Initiative was officially announced in August 2019 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its aim is to improve ties with the nations of the continent in different regions in terms of education, defense, investment, trade, technology, culture and political dialogue.
Explaining that the two countries have their own comparative advantages in terms of economy and trade, Mannan highlighted their existing cooperation, such as in the pharmaceutical sector, which Bangladesh exports.
“We export medicinal ingredients. In return, we know that Turkey has a very good medical system – doctors, treatment systems, hospitals. “
He recalled that Erdoğan said in December that Turkey could help Bangladesh build modern hospitals and promote better treatment.
“We are already negotiating to build one or more hospitals with Turkish assistance and expertise.”
He said countries could cooperate in the area of software technologies, with Bangladesh increasingly emphasizing this area.
“We are already very involved in trying to attract investment from Turkey. Further, we will try to attract attention to promote the business cooperation of Asia Anew. “
Another area that is already generating interest and promising more collaboration is the infrastructure sector, the envoy said. “In the construction sector after China, Turkey is the second in the world.”
Mannan underlined the large population of his country while stressing the importance of an adequate infrastructure. With a population of 180 million, the country needs more houses, roads, highways and bridges, he added.
“I will try to attract the attention of the sector and encourage them to come to Bangladesh and get involved in these infrastructure development projects, both private and public sector,” Mannan said, noting that Turkey currently has a relatively weak presence in this regard, but there is potential for more collaboration.
The two countries also cooperate in their defense industries and have already carried out training programs and joint collaborations. Purchases of products from Turkey’s defense industry will also continue, Mannan said. “Turkey is very innovative in the sector and the whole world is interested in its ammunition, equipment and software.”
Mannan discussed the challenge that displaced Myanmar Rohingya posed to Bangladesh after the minority crossed the border in August 2017, putting great pressure on Bangladesh’s economy. “With the support of countries like Turkey and other friendly countries, we have cared for over a million Rohingya people over the past four years.”
The envoy aims to cultivate more sympathy for the displaced Rohingyas who have suffered from political incidents in Myanmar since the late 1970s. He stressed that there had been a recent change in the country’s government and that there had been now more challenges for the Rohingya.
The Southeast Asian country, also known as Burma, has been in crisis since the military seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, with almost daily protests and a crackdown by the junta in which hundreds of people were killed.
The situation in Myanmar must stabilize so that the Rohingya can return, Mannan said, explaining that people will not return to the persecution and will want to return to their own area which was once known as Rakhine State. We must continue to negotiate for these, Mannan said.
Since 2017, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar’s military abuses and sought refuge in neighboring Bangladesh. The crisis led Naypyitaw to be accused of “genocide” before the International Court of Justice, the highest judicial body of the United Nations.
“We hope for a legal framework so that the Rohingya people again have a chance to return to their own land and country, Myanmar,” the envoy said.
Mannan said Bangladesh was grateful for Turkey’s overall support in this regard. “Turkey has made its presence felt in different international platforms, starting with the OIC, the UN and wherever there is a possibility – it has represented the displaced people and the position of Bangladesh.”
He added that in addition to the Turkish government, the people, NGOs and the media have expressed their support.
“We want Turkey to remain as loud as possible so that the Rohingyas continue to receive support. If Turkey, as a strong country, continues to speak out, these people will not be forgotten. “