In a globalized world, proper understanding of foreign affairs issues and formulating foreign policy to reflect as objectively as possible domestic needs are crucial for a country’s well being. The task is both immense and critical. In all countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or its equivalent coordinates and carries out this role. However, in these counties, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or its equivalent is assisted by other Ministries/Departments/Agencies of the Government, parliamentarians, the political parties, interest groups and think tanks to complete the process of integration between domestic needs and foreign policy formulation so that national interests are reflected in the international arena in the best interest of the country in question.
In Bangladesh, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been entrusted this awesome responsibility with very little help from sources outside the Government. Within the Government itself, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been placed in a position where a lot of issues of our foreign affairs are handled by other Ministries with very little coordination among them. Thus our foreign policy often lacks a coordinated approach where issues are often not examined in depth and national interests are reflected in the international environment in a manner that does not help us to further our national interests to the extent desirable and possible.
Centers devoted exclusively to foreign affairs issues have long been felt a necessity for Bangladesh but did not emerge in the private sector . Such centers can supplement and complement to a degree the efforts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government for formulation and implementation of a foreign policy that truly reflects the interests of Bangladesh and its people. It is to fulfill part of this need for Centers dealing with foreign policy issues that the Centre for Foreign Affairs Studies (CFAS) is being established by senior Ambassadors who have lifetime professional experience acquired in representing the country that has allowed them to see Bangladesh both from within and outside.
The goals of the Centre are modest. It intends to help develop awareness that foreign policy issues are not necessarily issues that need to be kept away from the public and handled in secrecy. Such issues often need to be aired publicly and foreign policy formulated objectively to serve the best national interest and this can be done by taking public opinion on board. In this context, the CFAS intends to work with the relevant committee of jatiya sangsad, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, other Government Ministries dealing with Bangladesh’s external relations; political parties, interest groups and eventually with the public through meetings, seminars, publication of reading materials and eventually town-hall types of meetings with ordinary citizens to integrate and articulate their views on crucial foreign policy issues such as our relations with India; granting that country road transit, etc. The output of such work from the Centre and similar Centers that would come up will help Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government to deal with such issues more realistically by taking the views of the stakeholders into consideration before formulation of policies and their execution. This would also generate more public support to Government policies.
The CFAS website is one step towards realizing the above mentioned goals. Through this CFAS would like to reach the stakeholders and announce its presence using the advantages offered by the internet. The aim is to conduct research into current and relevant foreign policy issues of Bangladesh by encouraging resource persons to write in this website. CFAS simultaneously also aims to hold regular seminars on issues related to the foreign policy of Bangladesh. Among other aims, the Centre will provide advisory services to its stakeholders on foreign policy issues; and external economic and humanitarian issues. CFAS will also do advocacy work focusing on external foreign, political and economic issues that will promote Bangladesh’s interests. The Centre will also organize training on specific diplomatic skills like negotiations, networking, representation, et al.
Visitors to this website are welcome to give their views on CFAS; its objectives and work programme so that it can stand on a firm and professional footing.