Aide to Bangladeshi PM Visits to Boost Cross-Border Political Ties

By Muktadir Rashid   18 June 2019

DHAKA—An assistant to Bangladesh’s prime minister visited Myanmar last week in an effort to enhance relations between the two countries’ ruling parties and their think tanks.

“We cannot change our neighbors, but better relations with political parties can help solve any issues,” said Shah Ali Farhad, special assistant to Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, adding that his visit to Yangon was part of an initiative developed on the sidelines of a global forum arranged by Germany’s Christian Democratic Union party.

Farhad, who is also a member of the international affairs sub-committee of Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League, told The Irrawaddy that the party believed that ties with its Myanmar counterpart had deteriorated following the Rohingya exodus from Myanmar to Bangladesh nearly two years ago.

Over 730,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since the military began a crackdown against Rohingya insurgents in Rakhine State on Aug. 25, 2017, according to the UN. Some 300,000 others fled earlier waves of violence in Myanmar, where Rohingya are denied citizenship under a 1982 law.

On June 10, Farhad, who is also a research consultant for the Center for Research and Information (CRI) in Dhaka, a think tank affiliated with the Awami League, met Yangon Region Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein and Han Tha Myint, secretary of the NLD’s Central Executive Committee and a spokesperson for the party.

As the Rohingya crisis deepened in 2017, Farhad said, while Bangladesh maintained diplomatic relations with Myanmar, relations at the political level between the two neighbors dried up.

Farhad joined other politicians from the youth wings of foreign political parties as well as members of political think tanks in a visit to the headquarters of the NLD on June 12, and exchanged views with the party’s leaders.

During the visit, he discussed potential cooperation and research collaboration between the CRI with Myo Yan Naung Thein, the director of the BAYDA Institute, an NLD-backed think tank in Myanmar, and Khalid Jaafar, the chairman of the Institute for Policy Research in Malaysia.

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