Withdrawal of additional security to diplomats won’t affect bilateral relations: Foreign secy

Foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen
File photo

Foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen on Tuesday said the withdrawal of additional security to foreign diplomats does not seem to affect bilateral relations because the matter is related to protocol.

Moreover, Bangladesh’s relations with various countries are tied to many other important issues.

Masud Bin Momen made these remarks replying to queries from journalists after an event at the Foreign Service Academy in Dhaka.

In a telephone conversation with the media on Monday, foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said, "No extra security (escort) will be given to any foreign ambassador at the government expense (with public tax money) as the law and order situation is very good in our country."

"Besides, no extra security is provided to any Bangladesh envoys abroad. However, foreign diplomats can hire escorts at their own expense. In this case, they can receive the escort service of the Ansar Battalion," the minister continued.

The newsmen on Tuesday asked the foreign secretary about the minister's remarks. In response to a query about how many countries receive the escort facility for their envoys in Dhaka, he said, "As far as I know, it was given to four countries on a regular basis. Additionally, one or two other countries would enjoy the privilege as per their requisition."

The secretary also noted that the decision to withdraw the extra police escort came into effect on Monday.

When asked if the foreign missions concerned were officially notified about the issue, secretary Masud Bin Momen said, "No such notification was given. When the Holey Artisan incident took place, then... As per the records we have seen here, we did not find any request from them. They have also not been served any notification."

The secretary further said the privilege was provided due to concerns over the rise of militancy, or considering the envoys' security issues. Later on, the main job of the escorts was seen to be clearing traffic.

"So, the issue of their basic security remained unchanged. We do not see any loophole in their security," he said, adding that militancy in Bangladesh or Dhaka is now completely under control.

Additionally, the system (police force) is in the process of streamlining and it also has shortages, he said.

When asked about the timing of the withdrawal, the secretary said, "It had to be done at some point. You are speculating in various ways about the time. It was to be done normally. I can say one more thing, we, as a state, will never compromise on the obligation to provide basic security to the embassies or envoys, I assure."

Disclosing an alternative arrangement, he said, "We have also put in place an alternative - a special battalion of Ansar. They have been prepared for a long time. There might be an arrangement for some payments."

The authorities will hold discussions with the director general of Ansar to address their issues. Later, the embassies will be informed in this regard. The ministry will mediate between the two sides in the case of availing the service.

When asked if any restriction is in the pipeline regarding the use of flags by foreign envoys in Bangladesh, the foreign secretary said there has been no discussion in this regard. "I can say, for instance, that there was no system for hoisting flags when I was in New York. On the other hand, when I was ambassador to Italy and Japan, I hoisted the flag, and there was a provision to fly the flag in all state meetings. It also depends on yourself to some extent."

"But I will not fly the flag if I go to the market or go to my colleague's residence for personal purposes. It depends on our own discretion. So the envoys have a sense of dos and don'ts."

He made it clear that the latest development regarding the withdrawal of extra security would not impact bilateral relations with the countries concerned. These are ongoing processes, and connecting all other things to it falls under speculation.

When asked about abiding by the Vienna Convention, he reaffirmed the government's stance to maintain the basic security of foreign envoys. “I said that the number of security personnel provided to them has not decreased. The main issue was to avoid traffic jams. The issues of deploying gunmen (armed police) at the embassies or ambassadors’ residence are still intact. We will respect and abide by the provisions of the Vienna Convention as a host country.”