A Conversation With Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh

Wednesday, September 25, 2019
POOL New/Reuters
Sheikh Hasina

Prime Minister, Bangladesh


Founder and Chief Executive Officer, RockCreek; Member, Board of Directors, Council on Foreign Relations

BESCHLOSS: Hello, and welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations, ladies and gentlemen. Very pleased to be here today. It is with much excitement that I welcome Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh today.

Prime Minister Hasina has been the leader of Bangladesh for over ten years, following in the legacy of her late father, Sheikh Rahman, Bangladesh’s first president. She has steered the country through an incredible period of growth. The growth in Bangladesh has been so much higher not just compared to the G-7 countries, but to the rest of emerging markets. And in the last two years it has been in the region of 7 to 8 to 9 percent, which is one of the highest rates, really, across most economies. She has received international praise for her management of the Rohingya crisis, accepting over one million forcibly-displaced persons into Bangladesh and providing them with safe haven. She has long been a proponent of women’s and children’s rights. And as Bangladesh’s longest-serving prime minister, she serves as an inspiration to millions in her country and around the world.

Please join me in welcoming Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. (Applause.)

HASINA: Bismillah, rahman, rahim.

President of CFR Mr. Richard Haass, distinguished members of CFR, members of my—(inaudible)—my former finance minister, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon and as-salaam aleikum. It is a pleasure for me to be at CFR and to meet its distinguished members once again.

It has been almost nineteen years when I was at CFR last. Since then, remarkable changes have taken place in many spells in my country, Bangladesh. It is now recognized worldwide as a role models of socioeconomic development and a responsible state in global affairs. These achievements are due to our people’s drive to realize the father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s, dream of Sonar Bangla or Golden Bangla, a nation of prosperity and social justice for all with a modern inclusive society, yet preserving its old traditions and culture. Thus, Bangladesh today embodies secularism and religious freedom, democracy and fundamental human rights, principles enshrined in our constitution and shaping our way of life. Bangladesh takes particular pride in religious freedom and communal harmony in the region.

This year Bangladesh’s GDP growth rate has hit a record high at 8.13 percent after registering 7.6 percent last year. It is not very far from achieving double-digit growth. Our per-capita income has raised US$1,909, which is close to the middle-income threshold. Bangladesh has attained food and energy security. According to The Spectator Index, Bangladesh achieved the highest GDP growth in the world during the last ten years, 188 percent. Bangladesh is today in the world the third-largest producer of vegetables, fourth-largest producer of rice, fifth-largest producer of inland fisheries, and second-largest orange exporter in the world. Sound macroeconomic fundamentals, political stability, pragmatic fiscal policy, and export-led vibrant private sector, and more importantly the determination and perseverance of our common people, have been the main contributing factors of this economic miracle.

In 2008, when I campaigned for a vote, I promised a digital Bangladesh. Therefore, since assuming office in 2009, I immediately set forth expanding the ICT network across the country. The aim was to reduce the digital divide, enhance access to information, accelerate development, and create new empowerment opportunities. The ICT coverage in Bangladesh is close to a hundred percent. Bangladesh is now the fifth-largest internet user in Asia. And out of its 160 million population, more than 150 million are mobile subscriber and ninety million internet users.

An important cornerstone of my domestic policy has been women empowerment. It is because I have always believed that equal participation of women and men was vital for optimum national development and progress. Now I am happy to say that women in Bangladesh hold high position in politics, government, parliament, local bodies, business, labor, military, police, border guard, security, and security agencies, as well as in U.N. peacekeeping. According to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2018, Bangladesh is ranked first in South Asia and second in Asia on overall women empowerment. Bangladesh is ranked fifth in the world on political empowerment of women. Bangladesh, being a Muslim-majority country, has shown how the potentials of women mobilized and unleashed could make them equal partner and speed up a country’s development.

In global efforts, Bangladesh has consistently contributed all ways possible to international peace and security. This emanated from Bangladesh’s policy of friendship to all, malice to none, as laid out by the father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. This policy of goodwill has helped Bangladesh maintain good relationship with all countries of the world. It has also helped Bangladesh in resolving its land and maritime boundary issues with its two neighbors.

This policy has also inspired Bangladesh to support United Nations peacekeeping missions. For decades, Bangladesh has remained one of U.N.’s three top troop contributors. So far Bangladesh has served in fifty-four U.N. peacekeeping missions, contributing 122,000 troops, of which 119 gave their lives for the cause of peace.

Among the challenges Bangladesh faces in its developmental journey is climate change. The frequency and intensify of cyclones and floods and river erosion have increased through the years. Science estimates that if global temperature increases by one degree centigrade by 2050, sea level would rise by one meter, submerging 70 percent of Bangladesh. My government has therefore adopted the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan in 2009. And also, we are—under this plan two funds were set up: the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund, with own resources; and Bangladesh Climate Resilience Fund, with resources from development partners. But from partners we receive very little help. Since then, almost a billion U.S. dollars have been spent on several hundred projects, mostly on adaptation and a few on mitigation.

The other significant challenge to our economic progress and humanity is terrorism and violent extremism, against which we have taken a zero-tolerance policy. We believe that terrorists do not belong to any religion or boundaries. To root out this menace of terrorism and violent extremism, I would like to propose the following stakes:

First, must stop the source of supply of arms to the terrorists.

Second, must stop the flow of financing to the terrorists and their outfits.

Third, must remove the divisions within societies.

Fourth, must pursue the principle of peaceful settlement of international disputes through dialogue for a win-win situation.

I believe only by taking those actions sincerely and with determination would we be able to free our world from scourge of terrorism and violent extremism and have peace. In Bangladesh we have already started taking necessary measures to isolate these menaces socially and the aim of ridding them for good. Our efforts are made effective by the excellent cooperation that we have been receiving from our regional and global partners. We have also taken digital measures to stem the spread of lies and hate narratives that ignite violence. As a result, since the Holey Artisan attack on 1st of July 2016, there has been no major incident. We have remained increasingly vigilant as we are committed to ensuring the safety of our people and supporting security situation beyond our borders.

An immediate challenge facing us is the Rohingya crisis. Through a planned genocide, the government of Myanmar cleansed its northern Rakhine state of Rohingya minority. They fled violence and atrocities, and we opened our border to shelter them on humanitarian ground. This humane decision came from our own experience in 1971 during the war of independence, when ten million of our people took refuge in neighboring India. I myself became a refugee. When my father and the father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and eighteen members of our family were brutally killed in August 15, 1975, my younger sister, Rehana, were abroad at that time, and therefore survived. We are banned to return to Bangladesh for nearly six years by the then-military dictator, Ziaur Rahman, and had to live as refugees in foreign land. Therefore, I could feel and understand the pain/agony felt by the persecuted Rohingyas fleeing from Myanmar to safety in Bangladesh.

Now, while we are providing humanitarian support to the best of our ability to Rohingyas, we want a peaceful and immediate resolution to the crisis. Myanmar has created this crisis, and the solution lies there in Myanmar. The international community—particularly the USA, the European Union, China—have been extremely helpful and supportive to Bangladesh in dealing with the crisis. I want to include there are many other countries also helping and cooperating with us. The world must take all measures to compel Myanmar to create conditions enabling the Rohingyas’ safe, dignified, and voluntary repatriation to their ancestral homes.

I also urge you all to visit the Rohingya camps at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. I believe while in those camps you will be shocked by their horrifying stories of atrocities at the hands of the Myanmar security forces and local resilience. I believe seeing their plight would worry your heart so much so that you would want to see the end of their painful predicament the soonest.

Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to conclude here and a meaningful conversation with you all. Thank you all for listening. (Applause.)

BESCHLOSS: Thank you very much, Sheikh Hasina. That was really very interesting. And I was just thinking, I’ve been to Bangladesh many times, and read about your economy and what you’ve been achieving. Particularly in the last ten years, the development of education sector, the health sector, and maternal and child health. And I was just curious if you could tell us a little bit more about how you’ve been working on the Millennium goals, then more recently in the SDGs. And of course, you were at the U.N. in the last few days and you’ll be speaking tomorrow. But I’m just curious to what—if you can give us a preview of that.

HASINA: You see, when Millennium Goal was adopted I was president, and also SDG, in 2000 and 2015. So what we did in our program, like, five years in development program, we always take long-term program. So we included—which is essential for our government, for our people—those agenda we included our five-years plan, and we implemented it, and MDG very successfully we implemented. Now SDG we have also included in our seventh five-years plan so that we can implement all those, I mean, areas. And we are doing well. And we have, like, five-years plan. Side-by-side we have also long-term plan, that, what do we want to achieve? How do we want to help our people? And where we want to reach? That is absolutely clear.

First thing is that the basic needs of our people—food, education, healthcare, shelter, job opportunity—those are very, very important. So we know that what is our priority. And the priority message, we prepare our plan. And as you know, that Bangladesh geographically are positioned in such a way that time and again we have to face natural calamities. It is not only natural calamities, as because in Bangladesh what happened in 1975, the killing of my father. Then Bangladesh development was hard. 1996, after twenty-one years, when we formed government, actually, we have to make many pragmatic decision(s), and also we have taken—how our plan, program, how to help people.

First thing, food security. We’ll start research on it to produce more food; and not only producing food, also the distribution that the poorest of the poor, all disabled people, all older people, we started distributing free food for them. Also, our social safety net program. Oldest pension we introduced. Disabled pension we introduced. Then destitute women, we started assisting them. Then education, we survey all over the country where we need more school, like primary school. Primary education is free. My father, he has done it, the primary education. And for girls education, also free. Then we started distributing free books so that people can, you know, go—I mean, the children can go to school and with the parents.

Not only that, well, in 1981, when I returned home, I travel a lot. I talked to people. I found that they don’t send their children to their schools. Sometimes I asked them, well, why you are not sending your, I mean, children to school? They said what they would do. If they want, they could answer money. Then I asked some—say about one lady, that how much your son earns? If I give you this money, will you send your child to the school? Then said, why not? Then we have started it. It’s a very humble way, very small amount, but still we give this money to the mother—in the mother’s name.

Nowadays we have digital system and we have, you know, mobile phone. That tender is not much, but we started it. We open up in the private sector, the mobile phone use. So now we started sending money to the mother, then they started sending their children to school. And that’s because they are getting free books. Nowadays we have also started a school feeding program that also help us the drop out—there is no drop out in the primary section and also in the middle school.

That way, the social safety net program, that also help, because when people get some money—at least the oldest people or the destitute—old and destitute—I mean, sometimes, you know, that women, they become widowed, or sometimes their husband abandon and get married other. So then where she would go? She has nowhere, neither husband’s house nor the parents’ house. And people are poor. They cannot afford to keep house. When she’s receiving some money, then that also reduce many social, you know, disputes. At least then she has some money, so always everybody look after her. Even the oldest people, also. That we have started. And sometimes when they get the money they also invest it.

And then the healthcare, we started building community clinic(s) all over Bangladesh. We had a plan to—plan that every plus-minus takes six thousand people, there will be a community clinic from there. We will then get—I mean, just primary medication. Especially women or children are the beneficiary.

After that, we thought that we will encourage not only the food but also the nutrition. That is also important. So we should, you know, allow people to access to the nutrition. Otherwise, you know—we want a healthy child. So that, we have to give many steps. Even the pregnant poor women, we send them some money so that she can eat properly. And then the lactating mother, working lactating mother, we also give them allowances. So that way in many way our social safety net program, it is really continuing. Side-by-side you see—I open up all our economy.

As a political party, Bangladesh Awami, we have our own economic policy. And time and again, we updated it. So give more importance to the private sector. So when we form government, immediately we open up all the sectors to the private like America. You see, when I form government in 1996, I found that American investment was only twenty (U.S. million dollars) or US$25 million. When I open up our different sectors, like energy sectors, then electricity policy, the American companies started investment. Within our tenure it increased from twenty million (U.S. dollars) to US$1 billion. That way, it increased. So many area, like private bank, private—I mean, every sector I open up, because I thought that private people if they invest that will create job opportunity. Even if we had only one television, government owned, one radio, government owned, no private television, no private, you know, radio. Usually military dictator never allow that, you know that. So I opened it up.

Now we have given license to forty-four television and private television, and also many radio. That creates job opportunity for people. So one hand our aim is to create job opportunity, and other hand that economy must be vibrant. And digital Bangladesh, now you see in Bangladesh the broadband connection we have started. It almost reaching everywhere. And then we launch our satellite, Bangabandhu 1, first. And side-by-side we started teaching our children that computer—because in 1996 I found people are very much shy about using the computer, so—and my digital advisor is here. So actually I also learned computer from my son. (Laughter.) So he—actually he used to give me all the idea, that we have to do this and that. We dropped all the taxes, opened it up for the children. Now even in the school we have started teaching our children. So that we open up.

And our policy, mainly it is not only in the urban society. We give more importance to the rural society because I believe that we should give more attention to the rural area. Our development should come from the grass to—(inaudible). Then it can be sustainable. And that, we have taken our policy and we have started implementing it. And that we are getting good result. Like our—you know, yes, our GDP, we achieved 8 percent—8.13. Side-by-side we control our inflation, which is only 5.4 to 6. This is why it’s only 5.4 or 6, within this. So you can understand that while GDP is growing, inflation is controlled, actually the fruit of economy reach to the poor people, grassroot people. They are the beneficiary. And that way—because the food security.

Now, we—and show food security—our life expectancy also increased. It was only fifty-six years; now it is seventy-two-plus. For women seventy-three, for men seventy-one, together seventy-two. I don’t know why it happened—(laughs)—why women life for long time. That I don’t know. (Laughter.) The experts or researcher can tell me. But it’s really—it is a fact. It has happened.

Then our literacy rate, 1996 I found it was only 44 percent. Then we took a project, total literacy, because we want to remove the illiteracy. We started working on it and get good result: We increased literacy rate up to 65.5 percent. Unfortunately, when we—well, in 2001 I come back to power, then I found after seven, eight years, 2009, when I found government, then I found that it’s reduced to, again, the same—almost same, I mean 45 or 50 (percent), something like that. Then we took some steps, like, I mean, education for all and compulsory. That we’re now—it’ll go up—gone up to 73 percent. But we have to do more.

And another thing, that for women empowerment, 1996, when I found government, I found that in higher post(s) there is no women. Not a single secretary. Nobody. But in parliament, in government, you know that from 1991 in our country, either me or opposition, prime ministership always captured by a woman, either me or my opponent. No male member could get any chance. It is true. (Laughter.) But in other side, there is—there was, you know, lapses. So what I did, I introduced that my army, navy, border guard, every sphere of life, even the higher court, there is no women judges in the higher court. No women judges. So I said, no, it cannot be. It should be there. During Pakistan rule there was a law that women cannot get any job in the judiciary service. But after liberation, my father changed that law that women can go. And then I found that no woman can get any promotion or get into—then I said, no, it should be there.

I talked to our president because usually they are just, you know, appointed by the president. I said—I requested, and also the chief justice, that if he will not mention any name of any woman judge, then I will not sign the file and send it to the president. (Laughter.) So that way—you know, sometimes you have to apply, you know, force also that they should. And that now we have many judges, and they are doing very well. I much appreciate it. So this way every sphere of life.

And another thing I did, usually in our society—we’re a conservative society. Our parents, they said, oh, why we should spend money for the girls? Girls will be married to another family. They’re not earning money for us, and this and that. Then what I did that—I thought that job opportunity will give them good.

So I introduced that in the primary school, the teacher, 60 percent should be women. That where I started. When you create job opportunity, then the parents, voluntarily they allow their girls for education. That way, even in the schools, at the beginning it was very difficult for us. Even some—even some stays that were about to happen, that women cannot participate in the football or kick it. Oh, women, what should they do, how they will play this and that? But then I thought there what to do. The second time we started that from the school. Now we have, you know, competition is school versus school, college versus college, that way. Now from their childhood, when they started, no one can say no. Now they are doing very well. We have women cricket team, woman football team, women sports. So they are now in the—it means that create confidence and also job opportunity. That really gives.

Our digital center, at first we open 5,275 digital center all over the country. But they are one girl, one boys should be the initiator, that way. He give me this policy, my son. (Laughter.) So what happened, the girls are getting some job opportunity. Our community clinic, now eighteen thousand community clinic we planned to start build, but by this time we had—already we had, you know, clinic—health clinic. And now we have around fourteen thousand community clinic, plus four thousand, I mean, healthcare, altogether around eighteen thousand. From there, we distribute thirty types of free medicine and also health service. Especially women and children are beneficiary. And we—that way, because they are getting all health service, so our mother mortality reduced, our child mortality reduced, and the women can just walk down there and get healthcare.

BESCHLOSS: That’s really impressive.

HASINA: So that way in the past what happened, the women have to wait for a male member to take her to the hospital also, and now they don’t need any help. They can go by themselves.

Side-by-side we have created job opportunity. We have thirteen thousand health provider, and it is increasing. Then, beside that they can—different type of job like digital center, community clinic. And also women for their, you know—this is also another kind of social safety net.

Like my house, my home, my—you know, when I was on farm, like, we give training to the women sitting in the house what they should do. Then I said, they can involve in some kind of production, whatever they want. We provide some money, a lump sum, training, and they can produce whatever type they want. They can do it through cooperative. We give them market facilities. That way they can earn some money that also give them from—come out from the poverty level.

That will reduce our poverty. It was more than 40 percent. Within one decade we reduced our poverty level to 21 percent. Now it is 21.3 (percent), but we’re very much hopeful that within a few years, two or three years, we can reduce more. I have given target to program that within two to three years—that means—well, our tenure is up to ’24, 2024. So within this period it should come down to 16 or 17 percent, the poverty level.

BESCHLOSS: That’s wonderful.

HASINA: And that we’ll achieve. I can tell you we will achieve. Even earlier we will achieve.

So every program we are taking we have our—when we were in opposition, that time we prepare our plan. The moment we then took power, we started implementing it. And time and again differently we just updated it. And that way we made this achievement. Thank you very much.

BESCHLOSS: Thank you very much. Really, really impressive. If I may, I wanted to turn it to the audience. Our members here would like to join the conversation. And I wanted to see if any of the members have any questions. Just reminding all members that we are on the record, and that when you stand up if you could wait for the microphone and introduce yourselves, mention your name and your affiliation before you ask your question.

Q: Madam Prime Minister, thank you so much for being here with us. My name is Ella Gudwin and I’m the CEO of VisionSpring.

I have a colleague in Cox’s Bazar right now, so thank you for having the international community be so welcome there.

I want to thank your ministry of labor and employment for increasing the minimum wage for the garment workers. It was such an important step. Additionally, your ministry of health has been very effective in rolling out vision centers in order to increase access to eyeglasses and to vision correction. We have screened the vision of thirty-five thousand garment workers, and we have found that 25, 35 percent of the workers, mostly women, do not have the glasses they need to thread their needle. And they are falling out of the workforce as their near vision gets blurry. And so my question, as the garment sector is so critical to your exports and to the growth of the economy, and these women have fought so hard for the jobs that they have earned, how might the nonprofit sector, and especially the corporations who are purchasing from your country, contribute and collaborate with your government so that we can make sure that this strategic workforce has the wonder of clear vision?

HASINA: (Speaks in a foreign language.)

MR.     : (Speaks in a foreign language.)

HASINA: Garment sector. (Speaks in a foreign language.)

Actually, what you mention actually I have a good connection with the labor force because during my time, you know, we increased their wages. In ’96, I found it was only eight hundred taka. Then we increased to sixteen hundred in our country currency. But second time when we came back to power we increased it about five thousand. Now it is eight thousand. Actually, we give more facilities.

But about this problem, well, we have our—all facilities, if anybody has any problem they can go to doctor. And all our garments owner, they are facilitating all the facilities for them. So this is the first time I heard that they had eye problem and they’re not getting proper—or they’re leaving job. Sometimes what happened for a few years when they earn some money they get married. Then they start their own life in their village. They don’t want to work. That also happened. But what you mentioned I must inquire about it.

(Speaks in a foreign language.) Garments owner? Is there any—

BESCHLOSS: Maybe if we just move on to other—maybe if you move on to other questions, if we may?

HASINA: OK. Sure. (Speaks in a foreign language)—garments—

BESCHLOSS: Any other questions? Sorry. Sorry, there’s—Alyssa, do you have a question?

Q: Hi. Alyssa Ayres from the Council on Foreign Relations.

Madam Prime Minister, you spoke about the challenge of the Rohingya refugees as a problem that was created in Burma—in Myanmar—and a place where we need to find the solution in Myanmar. But I think what we are now seeing, realistically, is that there’s no solution emerging from Myanmar.

So what would it take? What would be the solution for the next kind of near term for this humanitarian crisis? I mean, we all recognize the generosity of Bangladesh in being host to the refugee community. But they are challenged now what to do about higher education, about employment.

Should there be a third country resettlement program put in place? Should the international community—I recognize the fundraising is always below the actual appeal. What should be the solution to help in the case that we see now where that real solution in Myanmar is not forthcoming?

Q: Can I answer that question, please, because my question leads to it?


Q: My name is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Cordoba House, New York.

The prophet Mohammed, peace and blessings, said that my ummah—the ummah of Muslims is one body. Whenever part of it suffers pain the whole ummah suffers. You mentioned the Rohingya. On Monday morning, Prime Minster Imran Khan talked about the attacks against the Kashmiris in Kashmir recently. We are reading in the news daily about the Chinese minority Muslims. When will a critical mass of Muslim world leaders like yourself, like the members of OIC countries, get together to address this problem? Because, collectively, this can be done. And it’s not only a matter of Muslims, of Muslim minorities. It is also a human rights issue. And this should be something which the whole Muslim ummah as a whole, and the governments of Muslim-majority countries, collectively can wield the kind of leverage to turn the needle on this issue.

BESCHLOSS: I think we’re trying to keep the questions short so that we can move on. Thank you.

HASINA: You see, about the Rohingya, I can tell you, well, we—actually, we engaged dialogue with Myanmar, and we are discussing with them, and also international community are also supporting. But the problem is that these people don’t want to go back unless they feel in a secure. Myanmar, what happened in 1982, they changed their constitution and there they didn’t mention about the Rohingya, that they are—they are citizen. Sometimes they deny, that they are not their citizen; they are outsider, this and that.

But, well, when Bangladesh and Myanmar started dialogue and UNHCR—(inaudible)—and other U.N. organizations—they are also active—at once they said they agreed to take them back. But somehow, in one hand when they agree then in the camp some people just instigated them that they don’t want to go back; they want to stay. They want—there they have some demands. That way, every time when we take some initiative and the time comes, then this problem arise.

Now, well, I feel that all these U.N. organizations and other organizations working, what they’re doing here in Bangladesh they can help these people even in Myanmar also. They should take some initiative that way. And Myanmar should also agree and also create an atmosphere so that these people can go back and stay their own land.

Now, international pressure is important about the education and, as you know, that is 1.1 million. Because for a long time—some of the Rohingya for a long time they are staying there. It has started—since 1977-78 they started, you know, inflows in our country. So we developed one area. We thought that we already built up the houses. There is a cyclone shelter. We built up the embankment. If we can ship them there, then in these cyclone shelters usually we have in our coastal belt is a multipurpose. We have the schools. We have offices. We have a healthcare center there. We just run that way.

So if we can ship them in the this Bhasan Char, one island we develop, and already the houses we have building, a hundred thousand Rohingya we can accommodate. Then some people can get some job opportunity and children can get education. We can arrange the school and healthcare. And also the—we build up the warehouse where all of the materials can be preserved. That way we prepared ourselves. But somehow, it seems to me that all the organizations that are working there, they don’t want that these people should go there. They are trying to prevent.

And about the Muslim ummah, I can tell you that when I attended the OIC summit in Makkah, I also raised these points—that if there is any problem, through dialogue, through discussion, all the Muslim countries then can solve their problem. But somehow it is not happening. It is—well, you know—you know where the problem lies; that many resource-full country, they cannot use their resources by their own. So those who are helping, they have some game to play, and they always divide and rule. Then so Muslim people should understand it and realize it.

So it’s very—I mean, really, it is a very unfortunate situation. Every time in OIC I raise the issue that OIC should take some steps, but somehow it is not happening. And conflicts, it is not only Muslim to Muslim. What happened in New Zealand? In the mosque was under attack. So many people killed there. Well, who killed them? He was not a Muslim. He was a Christian. But he killed innocent people. Our—(inaudible)—team was there. I was so worried about them. Even some of our Bengali community people also died. When the conflict arise and when it happen, it can happen everywhere.

So what I feel that, yes, you are very correct; the Muslim ummah should be united, and if they have any problem themselves they can solve it. They can sit together. Through dialogue, through discussion, through cooperation, they can solve it.

Q: (Off mic.)

BESCHLOSS: Thank you, Sheikh Hasina. This has been incredible. I can’t thank you enough on behalf of our members here, and we hope that you will come back before another nineteen years—much sooner. (Laughter, applause.)

HASINA: Another nineteen? I don’t want to leave that—(inaudible).


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