By Mudassir Raja
Hailing from a noble Muslim family of Sylhet, an eastern city on Surma River, Ashud Ahmed, Ambassador of Bangladesh to Qatar, calls himself a simple man. He cherished the dream of becoming a diplomat when he was a boy getting an education in the green lands of Bangladesh. Many diplomats, particularly during 1980s, came from the area where he was born and educated.
With this in mind, Ashud got admission in the Department of International Relations at the University of Dhaka. He pursued his studies in diplomacy, international law, sociology, and political science and was selected for Foreign Services of Bangladesh in 1994 after going through a competitive process. He started his career working with international organisations wing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Happily married, Ashud has two sons with the older one pursuing university education in the UK. He has been posted in Qatar for three years. Community recently spoke to the career diplomat at the Embassy of Bangladesh. Excerpts from the interview:
How do you best define diplomacy and what are its basic tenants in your opinion?
I think diplomacy is an interesting subject. It is a profession about being with the people, loving the people, and interacting with the people. It is a process that helps arrive at a solution to different problems through discussion and negotiation involving different people from cultures and different lands.
I think, first of all, a noble diplomat has to have good knowledge about the country he or she has come from and about the people and culture he has come from. The thorough knowledge about his native country helps a diplomat follow the best practices while dealing with the people and dignitaries of the country where he or she is posted. He can try to replicate the best practices for the mutual benefit of the posting and host country.
I will further say that a good diplomat should carry good general knowledge of history, science and current affairs. The knowledge can help him gain maximum advantages while working for better relations.
What has been your most challenging assignment so far?
Diplomacy is usually a challenging profession. I like to take on challenges. So far in Qatar, it has been a smooth sailing for me. The Government of Qatar has been very co-operative with us in taking care of the Bangladeshi expatriates who have been working in large numbers here.
On the one hand, it is a very challenging job but on the other side, it is very interesting also. It provides you the opportunity to meet people from different countries and cultures.
During my diplomatic career spanning almost 25 years, I have been posted to various places such as New York, Colombo, Brussels, and Hong Kong. During these assignments, I have represented my country at different international fora.
How do you see the current relations with Qatar? Please also tell us what professions the Bangladeshi expatriates work in?
Bangladesh and Qatar have been enjoying excellent bilateral relations. As many as 400,000 Bangladeshi expatriates have been working in Qatar. They have been contributing to the development of both the countries.
I think during the ongoing blockade when the Qatar government has been looking for alternative trading routes, we have tried to open up our trade and business sectors for the Qatari business people. Bangladesh has a lot of potential in terms of business and we have seen many different sectors opening up for Qatari business community for investment.
When our foreign minister came to Qatar last year, he had very successful meetings with the Qatari prime minister. The Qatar government was ready to send delegations to Bangladesh to explore the area of potential investments.
Please shed more light on bilateral trade and on potential areas to increase the current trade volume.
Bangladesh has been manufacturing pharmaceutical products of high quality at competitive prices. The Qatari businesspersons have been taking a lot of interest in Bangladeshi pharmaceutical industry.
There are a lot of other areas with good potential to increase the bilateral trade. Unfortunately, the current trade volume is not so high. Tourism is one such sector. Bangladesh has the longest sea beach in the world; over 90 miles of unbroken sandy beach. That still needs a lot of investment for development and infrastructure. The business community from Qatar can have a very good investment opportunity in tourism in Bangladesh.
The other sectors include IT, telecommunication and infrastructure. Bangladesh GDP has been growing at the rate of 7.5 percent.
Recently, it has gone into the list of developed countries from the list of developing countries. This has opened up many opportunities for foreign investors.
Since Qatar has been looking for potential investment areas, Bangladesh can meet Qatar’s demands.
What piece of advice would you give a budding diplomat?
I think young diplomats should equip themselves with first-hand knowledge of important things. They should be avid readers. They need to interact a lot with people. When you meet the people and know them, you will take interest in their everyday affairs. It helps you serve the purpose of diplomacy. They also need to be very sincere and committed to their profession.
What do you do in your leisure?
I am a very family-oriented man. Whenever, I get fee time, I want to be with my family. I like to visit interesting places. I am an avid reader. I read good books. I do not have a knack for literature. I like reading essays and innovative books. Nowadays, I am reading 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, written by Yuval Noah Harari.
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