The portrait of an ambassador: Anwarul Karim Choudhury

Mohammad Amjad Hossain | Published: December 09, 2017 00:47:57

Anwarul Karim Chowdhury

Although I have had met Ambassador Anwarul Karim Choudhury on two occasions, I held him in high esteem for his sagacity to pursue diplomacy doggedly and for his personal amiable behaviour. Anwarul Karim Chowdhury had become a spokesperson for the government in exile of Bangladesh in Calcutta following his shifting of allegiance to the latter after quitting the post of third secretary at the Deputy High Commission of Pakistan in Calcutta along with Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner Hossain Ali on April 18 in 1972. For all practical purposes the Deputy High Commission had served as the office of the government in exile of Bangladesh led by Tajuddin Ahmed. The Pakistan government lodged a strong protest with the Indian government following hoisting Bangladesh's flag at the Deputy High Commission by Ambassador Hossain Ali.

On his return to Bangladesh Anwarul Karim Chowdhury served as Director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in mid 70's along with another stalwart Bangladeshi diplomat K.M. Shehabuddin. Shehabuddin also shifted his allegiance to the government in exile of Bangladesh quitting his post of Second Secretary at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi even before the government in exile was formed on April 17, 1972. It was my pleasure to invite both of them, apart from Mr. Akramul Qader, Section Officer who became Ambassador to Thailand and South Africa, to my residence at the city's Bailey Road to join a farewell dinner before departing for Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia in April of 1977 to join the Bangladesh embassy there as third secretary under High Commissioner Maj Gen K.M. Shafiullah. That was my first interaction with Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury.

It is really heartening to note that Ambassador Anwarul Karim having served as Bangladesh's emissary to under-developed countries in Africa was elevated to the position of Permanent Representative of the country to the United Nations from 1996 to 2001. During his tenure at the United Nations, Ambassador Anwarul Karim served as a coordinator of Least Developed Countries for about ten years. As coordinator of the Least Developed Countries he joined the five-member Bangladesh delegation to the G-8 Summit held in Cologne of Germany on June 7-8, 1999. The delegation was led by then Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abdus Samad Azad. This scribe also was one of the members of the delegation from the Bangladesh embassy in Bonn, including Ambassador Kazi Anwarul Masud. During presentation of the viewpoints of LDCs Abdus Samad Azad skipped some important points. Ambassador Anwarul Karim immediately pointed out the lapses. As a troika of the Least Developed Countries, Bangladesh put forth some points seeking commitments from industrially-developed countries to exempt debt burdens of the LDCs. It was a very successful effort as some under-developed countries in Africa were exempted from their debt burdens. The then US President Bill Clinton attended the G-8 summit.

After the summit, the foreign minister accompanied by members of the delegation along with newly-married wife visited the biggest historical cathedral in Cologne and the hilly region of Bonn in Petersburg plateau to have the glimpse of the romantic Rhine Valley of Bonn. Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury accepted the invitation to have lunch at my official residence in Bonn. The wife of the Foreign Minister was feted by my wife, because the wife of Ambassador Anwarul Masud was away to Bangladesh. That was the second time I interacted with Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury.

Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury also served as President of the Security Council, when Bangladesh became a non-permanent member of the Security Council from 2000 to 2001. We got commitment from the German government to support Bangladesh's candidature for membership of the Security Council. This was the second time Bangladesh became a non-permanent member of the Security Council. From 1979 to 1980 Bangladesh became a non-permanent member of the Security Council for the first time by defeating Japan.

As President of the Security Council Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury succeeded in establishing the landmark resolution 1325 which reaffirmed the important role of women in prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiation, peace building, peace keeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction and stressed the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for maintenance and promotion of peace and security.

Being an amiable personality as a diplomat, Anwarul Karim Chowdhury has made tremendous impact on the international body which was reflected in his appointment as Chairman of the Second Council Committee on Sierra Leone and President of the UNICEF executive board. His leading role resulted in proclaiming by the United Nations the year 2000 as International Year for Cultural Peace and the period of 2001-2010 as the International Decade for a culture of peace and non-violence for the children of the world. Ambassador Anwarul Karim also led as a UN culture of peace emissary in May of 2010, because peace efforts continuously failed until people embraced humanity's oneness.

Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury also served as High Representative of UN for the Least Developed Countries, Land Locked developing countries, Small Island developing states in March of 2002. From 1990-1993 Ambassador Anwarul Karim served as Director of UNICEF in Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Possibly Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury is the only Bangladeshi diplomat who got the honour of receiving the U Thant peace award, UNESCO Gandhi Gold medal for culture of peace while the Japan government conferred on him an honorary doctorate degree for his work on women's issue, child rights and culture of peace and strengthening the United Nations. The government of Burkina Faso decorated him with the country's highest honour L'ordre Nacionale on January 18 2007 for championing the cause of the most vulnerable countries.

Ambassador Anwarul Karim received Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa degree from Saint Peter's University of the United States of America in 2012 and served as an adjunct professor at the school of diplomacy at Seton Hill University of the USA. He is the founder of the New York-based Global Movement for culture of peace while he is the founding Co-Chair of the International Ecological Safety collaborative Organisation (IESO) with its headquarters in China.

 Mohammad Amjad Hossain, a retired diplomat from Bangladesh and former President of Nova Toastmaster International Club of America, writes from Virginia

Email: amjad.21@gmail.com

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