Netherlands praises Dhaka’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy against terrorism

The Dutch government has praised Bangladesh’ government’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy against terrorism and extremism that has played an important role in regaining Dutch people’s confidence to a great extent. Bangladesh Ambassador to the Netherlands Sheikh Mohamamed Belal expressed this view in an exclusive interview with The News Today recently. “On our part, we, the Embassy, tried to remain engaged with our clients and friends in the Dutch government, private sector entities, media, academic circles, etc. to brief them about the subsequent developments and government’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy against terrorism and extremism. This has played an important role in regaining Dutch people’s confidence to a great extent. Subsequently, we have noticed the number of Dutch travellers to Bangladesh is growing day-by-day,’ Sheikh Mohamamed Belal said. Bangladesh Ambassador to the Netherlands Sheikh Mohamamed Belal told The News Today said that Dutch government recognizes Bangladesh as one of the emerging economies and foresees that its economy would graduate to a middle income one soon. Bangladesh has been recognized as one of the Netherlands’ 15 development cooperation partner countries, which is experiencing healthy economic growth and whose need for development assistance is likely to decrease over time, said Belal. The bilateral relation between Bangladesh and the Netherlands is transitioning from a traditional aid relationship to an economic partnership, said the Bangladesh diplomat in the Hague. On trade issues, he said that Bangladesh and the Netherlands maintain an excellent bilateral trade relationship. Netherlands is the 10th largest export destination of Bangladeshi products. Our bilateral trade is hovering around US$ 1.00 billion and the balance of trade is heavily tilted towards Bangladesh. Bangladesh’s exports to the Netherlands are heavily dominated by RMG products. The Embassy in cooperation with the relevant public sector and private sector organizations of the two countries is working to diversify exports from Bangladesh to the Netherlands as well as consolidate RMG exports. The Dutch organization CBI is also active in promoting export from Bangladesh to the Netherlands. Both countries are optimistic about substantial increase of bilateral trade between Bangladesh and the Netherlands in the coming years. And if Bangladesh continues to maintain its on-going excellent economic growth, bilateral trade may even cross US$ 2 billion by next five years. To a question of Dutch reactions to the cafe attack at Gulshan on July 1 2016, Belal said the Dutch government has highly praised the Bangladesh’s government’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy against terrorism and extremism that has played an important role in regaining Dutch people’s confidence to a great extent. Subsequently, the number of Dutch travellers to Bangladesh is growing day-by-day, added Sheikh Mohamamed Belal. The Bangladesh diplomat also said “The Dutch people truly believe that the unfortunate incident of the Holey Artisan attack is more of an exception than a routine. Our Dutch friends and clients came to provide solace to us after the incident and shared that what happened in Bangladesh could happen, God forbids, even in places like Amsterdam or Rotterdam.” ‘On our part, we, the Embassy, tried to remain engaged with our clients and friends in the Dutch government, private sector entities, media, academic circles, etc. to brief them about the subsequent developments and government’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy against terrorism and extremism, he mentioned. The Dutch are a trading nation and trade is in their DNA. Netherlands sees us huge potential in Bangladesh. ‘This could probably because of Bangladesh’s geo-strategic location, in between India and China, which I call ChinBadia, the size of our domestic market, impressive rate of economic growth.’ he said. The Dutch are hopeful about Bangladesh’s leadership and the acceptability in the region as a gateway to South and South East Asia. To tackle the climate change impacts, the two countries are working together both in bilateral and multilateral fronts. ‘Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 is a flagship program that we have been implementing with assistance from the Netherlands. This is a mega project. Once implemented, this will make our delta safe and secure while addressing the concerns of climate related challenges as well, the Bangladesh diplomat opined. He also told the daily that The Netherlands is aware of the facts that Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is a member of the high level panel on Water of the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN). ‘With inclusion of our HPM in such a high level forum speaks for itself about both of our potential as well as prospect’ he said. The Netherlands worked towards a consensus to have Bangladesh assuming the post of Chairperson of the newly formed international forum called Delta Coalition. Bangladesh, as Chair, will host the Ministerial Conference of Delta Coalition in July this year. Bangladesh Minister for Water Resources Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud MP is the Chair of Delta Coalition now. ‘Bangladesh and the Netherlands both are deltas; we term the relationship as “Delta Cousin”. Water is one of the priority areas where two countries work together’ the young diplomat said. The number of Bangladeshis living in the Netherlands is rather low but high in terms of their impact. We have sizable skilled young ICT professionals from Bangladesh who are contributing immensely in the Netherlands. Most of the Bangladeshis here are well established either in business or with good technical professions. Apart from remittance, they are contributing to Bangladesh in terms of knowledge transfer, promoting exports from Bangladesh to the Netherlands and Dutch investment into Bangladesh, etc. They are also supportive to Embassy activities. The rest part of the interview is given below: 01. What are the perceptions of Dutch people about our culture and heritage? Bangladesh has a rich heritage and culture. Indeed we are a civilizational culture. The colors and festivity of our cultural and national events are a matter of awe to a good many Dutch people. This is more so to people who happened to witness our national events like Pahela Baishak, Ekushe, Independence Day, etc. The Dutch people who lived in Bangladesh speak very highly about Bangladesh culture and heritage. Bangladesh Embassy in The Hague actively promotes our culture in the Netherlands by hosting art exhibitions, cultural programmes during different national days. You will be happy to know that at least two of our events are now also part of The Hague celebrations. Our very own Eksushe, which is now celebrated internationally as International Mother Language Day, and our Bengali New Year or Pahela Baishakh are participated by a good number of local residents and dignitaries. 02. Bangladesh-Netherlands bilateral trade relations have reached near 1.00 billion US dollars. What is our target to reach bilateral trade within next five years? Bangladesh and the Netherlands maintain an excellent bilateral trade relationship. Netherlands is the 10th largest export destination of Bangladeshi products. Our bilateral trade is hovering around US$ 1.00 billion and the balance of trade is heavily tilted towards Bangladesh. Our exports to the Netherlands is heavily dominated by RMG proucts. The Embassy in cooperation with the relevant public sector and private sector organizations of the two countries is working to diversify exports from Bangladesh to the Netherlands as well as consolidate RMG exports. The Dutch organization CBI is also active in promoting export from Bangladesh to the Netherlands. We are optimistic about substantial increase of bilateral trade between Bangladesh and the Netherlands in the coming years. And if Bangladesh continues to maintain its on-going excellent economic growth, we may even cross US$ 2 billion by next five years. 03. Foreign direct investment (FDI) flow into Bangladesh crossed 2.00 billion US dollars, according to UNCTAD report. Do you see more Dutch investment in Bangladesh, particularly in the power and energy sectors? How do you evaluate the investment climate in Bangladesh? The Netherlands is one of the top FDI sources into Bangladesh. The Dutch were among the pioneers with regard to foreign private investment in Bangladesh. Dutch companies like Unilever, Philips, Organon, Shell, etc. were active in Bangladesh from very early years of our independence. Recent initiatives of the government of Bangladesh are really turning Bangladesh into a lucrative investment destination. Robust economic growth, stable future outlook coupled with establishment of exclusive economic zones, hi-tech parks, increased power generation, etc. have made our investment prospect very impressive. The Hon’ble Prime Minister highlighted the same to the Dutch investors during her official visit to the Netherlands in November 2015.The Dutch investors have expressed interest to invest in Bangladesh especially in water resources management, port development, infrastructure development, logistics, agriculture, power generation, etc. 04. Bangladesh has become a member of low mid-income country, according to the World Bank report. How does Dutch government see the achievement of Bangladesh’s economic success? I thank you for asking this very pertinent question. Since I arrived here, I was pleasantly surprised to feel that Dutch people see in us that we may not be aware of this potential. The Dutch are a trading nation and trade is in their DNA. Therefore, it is no wonder that the Dutch see in us huge potential. This could probably because of our geo-strategic location, in between India and China, which I call ChinBadia, the size of our domestic market, impressive rate of economic growth. Needless to say, they are hopeful about our leadership and our acceptability in the region as a gateway to South and South East Asia. Dutch government recognizes Bangladesh as one of the emerging economies and foresees that our economy would graduate to a middle income one soon. Bangladesh has been recognized as one of the Netherlands’ 15 development cooperation partner countries, which is experiencing healthy economic growth and whose need for development assistance is likely to decrease over time. The bilateral relation between Bangladesh and the Netherlands is, therefore, transitioning from a traditional aid relationship to an economic partnership. 05. What is the number of Bangladeshis living in the Netherlands? How does Dutch government evaluate their contributions to their country? The number of Bangladeshis living in the Netherlands is rather low but high in terms of their impact. We have sizable skilled young ICT professionals from Bangladesh who are contributing immensely in the Netherlands. Most of the Bangladeshis here are well established either in business or with good technical professions. Apart from remittance, they are contributing to Bangladesh in terms of knowledge transfer, promoting exports from Bangladesh to the Netherlands and Dutch investment into Bangladesh, etc. They are also supportive to Embassy activities. 06. Developing countries, including Bangladesh, are becoming victims of climate change. How do Netherlands and Bangladesh work together on climate change issues? Bangladesh and the Netherlands both are deltas; we term the relationship as “Delta Cousin”. Water is one of the priority areas where two countries work together. To tackle the climate change impacts, the two countries are working together both in bilateral and multilateral fronts. Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 is a flagship program that we have been implementing with assistance from the Netherlands. This is a mega project. Once implemented, this will make our delta safe and secure while addressing the concerns of climate related challenges as well. The Netherlands is aware of the facts that our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is a member of the High Level Panel on Water of the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN). With inclusion of our HPM in such a high level forum speaks for itself about both of our potential as well as prospect. Therefore, it is no wonder, the Netherlands worked towards a consensus to have Bangladesh assuming the post of Chairperson of the newly formed international forum called Delta Coalition. Bangladesh, as Chair, will host the Ministerial Conference of Delta Coalition in July this year. Bangladesh Minister for Water Resources Hon’ble Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud MP is the Chair of Delta Coalition now. 07. Can Netherlands recruit more skilled Bangladeshi manpower, especially doctors, engineers and nurses? The Netherlands attracts the best skills and talents from across the world. However, being one of the member states of the European Union, they have to give priority to the citizens of fellow EU countries. Moreover, for some professions like medical, knowing Dutch language is very important. Bangladeshi IT professionals have good prospect in the Netherlands. 08. The Netherlands has a number of reputed and world standard universities. Can Dutch government give more scholarships to Bangladeshis in higher education? It is true that the Netherlands has a good number of universities of global repute, where medium of education is English. Their universities are very renowned for specialised disciplines like agriculture, forestry, water management of all kinds, engineering, business administration, etc. The Dutch government offers a good number of scholarships in their priority areas like water, food security and sexual & reproductive health. The Embassy is closely engaged with the EP-Nuffic for their enhancing number of scholarships for Bangladeshi students. We can say, with satisfaction, that the number of students from Bangladesh increased considerably in recent years. Other than scholarships, even full fee-paying students are also coming to the Netherlands given the high quality of education here. We have been requesting Dutch government and their universities to significantly increase the number of scholarships for our students. We have been assured that the more the qualified students apply, the more will be number of scholarships for Bangladesh. Even for fee-paying students, we have been proposing to Dutch government for consideration of introducing merit based waiver of fees for students who perform better. 09. How Dutch people see law and order situation in Bangladesh after café attack at Gulshan on July 1, 2016. The Dutch people truly believe that the unfortunate incident of the Holey Artisan attack is more of an exception than a routine. Our Dutch friends and clients came to provide solace to us after the incident and shared that what happened in Bangladesh could happen, God forbids, even in places like Amsterdam or Rotterdam. On our part, we, the Embassy, tried to remain engaged with our clients and friends in the Dutch government, private sector entities, media, academic circles, etc. to brief them about the subsequent developments and government’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy against terrorism and extremism. This has played an important role in regaining Dutch people’s confidence to a great extent. Subsequently, we have noticed the number of Dutch travellers to Bangladesh is growing day-by-day. 10. Terrorism is a global phenomenon. Terrorist attacks have occurred in Turkey, France, Germany, Britain and the USA. How do you evaluate law and order situation in the Netherlands? From this perspective, we must say the Netherlands is quite fortunate. The Netherlands never had experienced anything like what happened in Brussels or Paris since World War II. Though the Netherlands has remained peaceful so far, law enforcement agencies are always vigilant to thwart any possible terrorist incident and keep their citizens safe. At the government level, we remained proactively engaged with the government of the Netherlands on matters relating to safety, security and ultimately for global peace.