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Diplomatic Missions

Diplomatic Missions Bangladesh maintains for now forty-nine resident diplomatic missions abroad. Besides, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains about eleven sub-missions in the form of Consulates General, Deputy High Commissions, Assistant High Commissions and Visa Offices. Further, Bangladesh maintains certain non-resident diplomatic missions which are normally accredited from the embassies/high commissions in the countries concerned. Although Bangladesh diplomatic missions abroad are attached offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and under the administrative control of the ministry, the ambassadors/ high commissioners or heads of these missions are appointed by the head of government or the Prime Minister. Normally, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommends officials and diplomats eligible for appointment as ambassadors/high commissioners to the Prime Minister, and after his/her approval such appointments are finalized. According to established rules, seventy percent of heads of missions are appointed from amongst career diplomats and the rest generally from non-diplomatic circles at the discretion of the head of government.

The ambassadors sent abroad are categorized into A, B, and C grades. The A grade ambassadors hold the rank of secretaries to the government, B grade additional secretaries while C grade ambassadors hold the rank of joint secretaries. Normally, grades are given on the basis of seniority. The A grade ambassadors are sent to capitals of the countries with whom Bangladesh has special relations. Normally, on first appointment ambassadors are sent to smaller and less important stations.

Bangladesh diplomatic missions abroad are headed by ambassadors/high commissioners and in their absence by charges d affairs ad interim. Missions are staffed by diplomatic officers belonging to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as by officers from other ministries.

The Bangladesh missions abroad include officers with the following diplomatic ranks:

a. Ambassador/High Commissioner

b. Minister/Deputy Chief of Mission or Deputy High Commissioner in case of High Commissions (holding rank of Ambassador C grade)

c. Counsellor (holding rank of deputy secretary)

d. First Secretary (holding rank of senior assistant secretary)

e. Second Secretary (holding rank of assistant secretary)

f. Third Secretary (holding rank of assistant secretary).

Besides the embassies/high commissions, Bangladesh also maintains several consulates general/deputy high commissions in important cities where there are large concentrations of expatriate Bangladeshis particularly for trade and consular activities. These missions are normally headed by consuls general or deputy high commissioners who hold rank of joint secretary of the government or ambassador C grade.

The ambassador/high commissioner is posted to a friendly country as the direct representative of the head of state of Bangladesh and is accredited to the head of state of the host country. He has, therefore, access to all high dignitaries of the host country, and is solely responsible for strengthening all bilateral ties between the two countries and governments. As ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary, he is also given full power to attend any international conference or sign any official documents, agreements or instruments on behalf of the Bangladesh government. He, together with all diplomatic officers and non-diplomatic staff under him, enjoys full diplomatic immunity and privileges as stipulated under the Vienna Convention of 1961. These immunities and privileges are also accorded on a reciprocal basis to the foreign diplomatic missions accredited to Bangladesh.

The second most important position in a diplomatic mission is normally held by a minister/deputy chief of mission from the political wing. In commonwealth countries, he/she is known as the deputy high commissioner. He/she, as head of the political wing of the mission, is always a career diplomat belonging to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and acts as in-charge of the mission as Charge d' affairs at interim or acting high commissioner. The functions of other officers, eg, counsellors, first secretaries, second secretaries or third secretaries are specified by the head of mission, and they always take their briefs from him. One of the senior officers, either the minister or the counsellor, normally acts as the head of chancery, who looks after the administrative matters of the mission. One of the officers from the political wing also acts as the drawing and disbursing officer who looks after the financial and accounts matters of the mission. The overall financial powers of the mission, however, rest with the head of mission.

In big missions, the officers attached to the various wings have diplomatic ranks according to their seniority back home. The defence attache, who is normally a brigadier in the army or of equivalent rank in the navy or airforce, is given the diplomatic rank of minister, while the head of the economic and commercial wing, a joint secretary to the government, is also given the diplomatic rank of minister. Similarly, other officers in the press, consular, labour and education wings etc are given diplomatic ranks depending on their seniority in their respective ministries. These diplomatic ranks are mentioned in their appointment letters as well.

In Bangladesh missions abroad, there are also a number of non-diplomatic technical staff known as home-based staff, as well as local staff appointed from the nationals of the host country. Similarly, non-diplomatic home-based and local staffs are also posted in the various wings in the missions. The functions of the non-diplomatic staff are to assist the diplomatic officers in their day-to-day functions.

As per international diplomatic practice, the office of the diplomatic mission is called the chancery, while the residence of the ambassador is known as the embassy. [AKM Farooq]