Saturday, July 29, 2017

Qatar ‘strengthening’ public diplomacy

Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan,

image from article

Qatar, which is in a bitter dispute with its powerful neighbours, including Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, appears to be strengthening its public diplomacy through projecting the nation’s welfare activities in different countries including Bangladesh. Several days ago, Qatar News Agency ran a story on Bangladesh on the announcement of Qatar Charity, a Doha-based NGO, of its ‘plans for its programmes and projects to be implemented in Bangladesh during the second half of this year in cooperation with the country’s government.

“In a press release, Qatar Charity announced its new plan for projects, including water projects, care of orphans besides construction of cultural centres and mosques, at a total cost of QR30m (over Tk 66 crore),” said the report, which was carried by some media outlets including from Bangladesh.

According to the Bangladesh office of the Qatar Charity, the decision to spend the money to implement various projects was taken before January.

So, the announcement of this after so many months is nothing but part of Qatar’s public diplomacy in an effort to enhance Doha’s image amidst its dispute with some of its neighbours, said individuals concerned.

On June 5, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar accusing it of aiding terrorism-- an accusation vehemently denied by Doha.

When contacted, Bangladesh Ambassador to Qatar Ashud Ahmed and officials concerned of the foreign ministry in

Dhaka have told The Independent that they are not aware of such an announcement.

“I know Qatar Charity does have projects in Bangladesh. But, our embassy in Doha is never conferred on this,” said Ambassador Ashud Ahmed. “We know that Qatar Charity implements different projects in Bangladesh. But, we are not informed about it. They work in association with NGO Affairs Bureau, which is under the Prime Minister’s Office,” said a senior foreign ministry official.

When asked is it okay for a foreign NGO to work in Bangladesh without involving embassy in the NGO’s country and the foreign ministry, he said, “No, it should not be the case.”

The director general of the NGO Affairs Bureau, Khandakar Rakibur Rahman, told The Independent, “We inform the foreign ministry when necessary.”

While speaking to The Independent, Sohel Alam, project director of the Bangladesh office of the Qatar Charity, expressed his surprise at the news regarding the announcement now.

“Like you, I am also surprised. The decision was taken before January to spend Tk 60 crore in various welfare projects in Bangladesh between January 1 and December 31, 2017. Of Tk 60 crore, we have already got the approval to spend Tk 45 crore,” he said.

When suggested whether this announcement now is part of Qatar’s public diplomacy amidst the ongoing disputes with some of its neighbours, Sohel said, “May be. I don’t see any other reason.”

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