Dhaka wants strategic ties with US

Dr Momen talks with Antony Blinken in Washington

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen in the maiden meeting with his new counterpart antony Blinken in Washington has expressed Bangladesh’s desire to have a “strategic partnership” with the United States to further deepen the relations and advance common goals and mutual interest.

He emphasised  the importance of “close and sustained” contacts with the US leadership and the exchange of visits at the highest political levels between the countries.

He also hoped that President Joe Biden would visit Bangladesh soon, the foreign ministry said in a statement after the telephonic meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Tuesday.

He also invited Blinken to visit Bangladesh soon to see the socio-economic achievements and to join the celebration of the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the golden jubilee of the independence of Bangladesh.

Both the leaders agreed to work together to further strengthen bilateral relations and enhance cooperation on global issues, according to the foreign ministry of Bangladesh.

Following the meeting, Spokesperson of the US State Department Ned Price also issued a statement.

Ned Price said the two leaders discussed ways “to deepen economic, counterterrorism, and defense cooperation, and work together to address common challenges such as climate change.”

“The two leaders also discussed Burma, a durable solution to the Rohingya refugee crisis, and the importance of respect for labor and human rights.” 

Secretary Blinken congratulated Foreign Minister Momen on Bangladesh’s fiftieth anniversary of independence in 2021, and both leaders expressed the desire for closer collaboration to address challenges in South Asia and the greater Indo-Pacific region, according to the spokesperson.

 Enhancing the level of cooperation

Soon after the election victory of Joe Biden in November, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina congratulated him and said that she foresees the bilateral relationship reaching higher heights in the coming days.

The inauguration of Biden as the 46th US president took place on January 20. After a month, the foreign minister is visiting Washington DC on an official trip to what the foreign ministry said “reach out the new administration to further enhance the level of cooperation” between the countries.

At the beginning of the phone conversation, the foreign ministry said, US Secretary of State “expressed his regret that he could not physically meet Foreign Minister Dr. Momen due to the COVID-19 health restrictions, and termed Bangladesh-US relations a ‘growing and deep’ one”. 

Dr Momen congratulated the new US administration for upholding the democratic process with a strong popular mandate, assuming once again America’s global leadership role.

He also appreciated the new US Administration’s approach of handling the COVID pandemic challenges.

The Secretary of State lauded Bangladesh’s “remarkable” economic performance, noted the existing strong economic partnership between two countries and stated that the US considers Bangladesh as a crucial economic and security partner in Indo-Pacific region.

On tackling the COVID-19, the Foreign Minister briefed his counterpart on Bangladesh government’s effective handling of the pandemic including the ongoing vaccination program that have reduced the number of infection and fatality on the one hand and kept the economy running.

He noted with satisfaction the excellent cooperation between the two countries in tackling COVID 19, as manifested through the US donation of high-quality ventilators  and Bangladesh’s supply of 6.5 million PPEs to the US in the initial phase of the pandemic.

The Foreign Minister said Bangladesh is ready to supply medical instruments, like syringes.

The Secretary of State appreciated Bangladesh’s remarkable success in handling the COVID-19 pandemic situation and hoped that both the countries would be able to find newer avenues for collaboration in the post COVID-19 era by mutual support and cooperation.

Mentioning the recently held US-Bangladesh Economic Partnership Consultation, Secretary Blinken said that the consultation had created great opportunities to advance cooperation in health, energy and business sectors.

He sought favorable policy support from the Bangladesh government to secure enabling business and investment climate for promoting more trade and investment between the two countries.

The Foreign Minister welcomed US investment in Special Economic zones and High-Tech Parks, underscoring the higher return of investment from Bangladesh as well as the good connectivity.

Both sides expressed their optimism that the US companies would take advantage of the competitiveness of Bangladesh and invest in the country in much greater volume particularly in the areas of ICT, energy, pharmaceuticals and infrastructural development.

The Foreign Minister also requested the US Secretary of State to consider providing assistance in water management.

Both sides agreed to work together on the promotion of democracy, good governance and human rights.

The Bangladesh Foreign Minister underscored the need for early deportation of Rashed Chowdhury, the self-confessed killer of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, in the spirit of the shared values of establishing good governance, rule of law and justice.

He said while his government was working with the US Department of Justice on this issue, support from the State Department on this important matter will be greatly appreciated.

On the Rohingya issue, Foreign Minister expresses his thanks and gratitude to the US government for its humanitarian and political support to Bangladesh to cope with the Rohingya exodus.

In this regard, he emphasised that the US should take the lead and bring the international community together to put enough political pressure on Myanmar to create conditions for sustainable return of the Rohingyas.

Thanking the US government for imposing sanctions on some individuals, he encouraged the US government to take more stringent measures like imposing economic sanction and withdrawing GSP facilities of Myanmar.

Dr. Momen further recommended that the US may appoint a Special Envoy on Rohingya, in order to press Myanmar to create a conducive environment for the repatriation of the displaced Rohingyas to Myanmar. 

Secretary Blinken appreciated Bangladesh for sheltering over one million Rohingyas and showed his government’s full understanding of the tremendous pressure it has created on the government and the people of Bangladesh.

 Expressing concern on the disruption in the democratic process in Myanmar, Secretary Blinken assured that the US would continue its support for Bangladesh on the Rohingya issue.

Dr. Momen welcomed the decision of the US to return to the Paris Climate Agreement. Recalling his recent discussion with US Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry, he also hoped that the new US administration with their climate agenda would be more actively engaged with climate vulnerable countries including Bangladesh to address the threats and challenges posed by impacts of climate change, including  issues like loss and damage.

He expressed optimism that the two sides would be able to work closely on climate change before and during the upcoming COP26.