Bangladesh’s foreign policy is – “friendship to all, malice to none”. This is the only nation with a Muslim majority that upholds the spirit of secularism. This is why political and diplomatic analysts from around the world are asking – why should Bangladesh and Israel remain strangers to each other.
As we know, silent changes are already taking place in the Middle East with a number of Arab nations already normalizing their relationship with the Jewish State. Amongst the Muslim nations, Israel has established diplomatic relations with Egypt in 1969 and with Jordan in 1994. In recent months, due to the pragmatic efforts of the former US President Donald Trump and his team, Muslim nations in the Middle East already have starting normalizing relations with Israel, which according to diplomatic analysts will continue.
Bangladesh is one of the countries in the world that is most vocal about Palestinian rights and one of the countries in the world that has refrained from having any relations with Israel. The perception of the younger Bangladeshi population is no more intended in maintaining distance from Israel. Instead, they are willing to visit Israel and benefit from its world-class educational system, medical science as well as witness the historic sites in Jerusalem and other Israeli cities. It may be mentioned here that, although many Muslim nations in the world are yet to have diplomatic relations with Israel – none of those countries are having travel restrictions.
For decades, Bangladesh has been maintaining its distance from Israel not only by not recognizing the Jewish State but also barring its citizens from visiting Israel. Recently Bangladesh has removed “except Israel” words from its passport, which is seen by most of the people as a positive sign.
It may be mentioned here that, Israel was one of the earliest countries in the world to recognize Bangladesh in 1972. It was reported on 7 February 1972 that the Israeli government offered diplomatic recognition to the newly independent nation. It came on the heels of Bangladesh’s quest for recognition since April 1971. However, Bangladesh did not accept the Israeli offer.
In my personal opinion, there should be an immediate initiative from Bangladesh and Israel’s side for shaping the path of relations based on mutual trust and respect. For both countries, such relations can bring immense benefits. As Bangladesh has already emerged as one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia, Israeli companies can become an effective partner in Bangladesh’s economic activities and can definitely contribute in further boosting the pace of economic growth.
In the technology and medical sectors, Bangladesh can form a collaboration with the Jewish State, which will possibly play a vital role in helping Bangladesh in setting up its own ‘Silicon Valley’, similarly as that of Israel.
Israel’s collaboration with Bangladesh in the medical sector would dramatically improve our health sector while we also can join hands in Israel’s research activities of improving medicine and medical remedy for diabetes, cancer and other critical diseases.
In the defense sector, Bangladesh also can enjoy the opportunity of buying highly sophisticated defense and security apparatus from Israel at a competitive price.
Bangladesh, as the world’s second-largest textile exporter, can find a new market in Israel. Bangladeshi and Israeli businesses can also cooperate in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, agriculture, diamonds, jute, leather, retail, food, banking, healthcare and tourism. Cooperation can be spurred in education, science, cultural relations, and inter-faith dialogue.
Bangladesh is a sovereign nation and we have our own right to decide and shape our foreign policy. Under no circumstances, Palestinians should dictate Bangladesh’s foreign policy. We, being Bangladeshis will do, whatever is beneficial for our own country!