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Bangladesh’s new Foreign Minister to visit India in maiden overseas tour

Bangladesh’s new foreign minister A K Abdul Momen on Monday said that he would visit India on his maiden overseas trip after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government won power for the third consecutive term after the December 30 election.

“My first visit will be to New Delhi,” he said in a media interaction as he assumed office.

Momen, however, said no date was fixed for his planned India visit but said he preferred to go there first since “India is our neighbour. We have warm relations. They invited me”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first leader to congratulate Hasina after her Awami League swept the polls while External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also sent a congratulatory message to her new counterpart.

Momen said that he was yet to decide his priorities but referred to the Rohingya crisis as a “major issue” of concern.

Talking to agencies soon after his induction in the Cabinet last week Momen said that Dhaka would cultivate more effective ties with India and China and pursue vigorous economic diplomacy.

He said that the premier directed him to intensify cooperation with neighbours on the basis of “solid partnership” while the foreign office would act as a partner of other concerned ministries to draw more foreign investments in Bangladesh as well.

“My main focus (however) will be to pursue vigorous economic diplomacy with all major countries and particularly the neighbours, said Momen, an economist by background.

He said that his office would effectively do its part to elevate the country’s status as a higher middle income nation by 2021 as envisaged by the premier and attract required foreign assistance in implementing the government’s ambitious development plans.

Momen said that his office would try to engage expatriate Bangladeshis in the foreign affairs as part of the “economic diplomacy” since “many of them are in good positions abroad”.

Momen preferred to call the Rohingya crisis until now an economic issue” but feared it could affect regional stability unless addressed through concerted efforts by all including nations in the neighbourhood.

“The issue needs to be solved as soon as possible, otherwise it would affect stability of the entire region,” he said.

Momen is a new face in the ruling Awami League but he previously served as Bangladesh’s permanent envoy at the UN with and envoy to Chile and Peru.

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