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Dhaka, Washington agree to boost ties

Published : 06 Apr 2022 12:37 AM | Updated : 06 Apr 2022 12:44 PM

Bangladesh and the US have discussed a number of issues including enhancing trade and investment, withdrawing sanctions on RAB and extraditing Bangabandhu's killer Rashed Chowdhury to take the bilateral relations further forward.

Foreign Minister Dr. AK Abdul Momen and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held the bilateral meeting on Monday in Washington DC, on the very day of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations between the countries.

They agreed to enhance bilateral ties for next 50 years, the foreign ministry said in a statement as the two-side discussed the whole gamut of US-Bangladesh bilateral relations.

“We have a very good discussion with the Secretary of State," the foreign minister told the media in Washington after the meeting.

Blinken, in his opening remark, stated that Washington is willing to work together with Dhaka on “strengthening more the partnership between the US and Bangladesh”.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister thanked the United States for providing more than 61 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine so far, the highest received by any country from the US.

Referring to the congratulatory letter from US President Joe Biden to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, he appreciated the warmth of the message.

Stating that Bangladesh has made huge socio-economic progress in the last 50 years, Foreign Minister Momen termed the US as an all-time friend of Bangladesh in its journey towards development as the largest trading partner as well as the largest investor in accumulated terms.

He appreciated that the US has finally determined that genocide took place in Myanmar in 2017, and opined that the US should suspend GSP and reimpose sanctions on Myanmar in order to put pressure so that Myanmar resolves the crisis.

He opined that the US needs to diversify its investment portfolio, and can consider investing in the infrastructure sector in Bangladesh.

He depicted Bangladesh’s potential in terms of a young population including around 700 thousand IT professionals; and also proposed that there may be joint investment proposals in pharmaceutical sectors.

He also urged for assistance from the US in developing the blue economy, stating that this may enable two countries to work together in building a secure Indo-Pacific region. 

US Secretary of State Blinken underscored also on looking forward to the next 50 years, with tremendous potential.

He appreciated Bangladesh’s leadership in climate actions, generosity towards the Rohingyas, and role in the UN Peacekeeping Mission.

He also expressed satisfaction about the cooperation two countries are having in combatting the pandemic.

He expressed his satisfaction about the Partnership Dialogue held last month and the upcoming Security Dialogue, and opined that a new momentum has been created.

He also thanked Bangladesh for voting in favour of the humanitarian resolution on Ukraine in the UN General Assembly.

Regarding the sanctions on RAB, he recognised the agency’s important counterterrorism role, but stated that lifting sanctions, resuming training might take time.

Secretary Blinken appreciated that Bangladesh is reexamining the Digital Security Act (DSA). Appreciating ongoing works of the tripartite group on labour rights, he underscored that labour rights issue is an important determinant of Biden Administration’s foreign policy.

Noting that Bangladesh is not getting development finance from the DFC due to the labour rights issues, he stressed upon resolving all impediments.

He positively responded to the proposal of deepening maritime cooperation as two countries have shared the goal of free and secure Indo-Pacific.

On labour rights issues, Foreign Minister Momen informed that Bangladesh has formulated a roadmap with the ILO and the EU, and sought for US participation in the process.

He also underscored that Bangladesh has done a lot on safety, resulting in 7 of the top 10 eco-friendly factories being in Bangladesh.

Regarding the human rights related issues, he stressed upon the fact that there are some noticeable developments in the last four months.

He emphasised that Bangladeshi law enforcers need training from the US on rules of engagements, and informed that there is an inbuilt system of inquiry in the RAB, which tracks all allegations; and number of personnel have been penalised.

Depicting the context of the creation of RAB in 2004, he underscored that the RAB has played pivotal role in Bangladesh’s counter-terrorism efforts; which may be undermined by the sanctions.

He also sought for US Secretary of State’s attention and assistance for realising the deportation of Rashed Chowdhury, the convicted killer of the Father of the Nation.

Foreign Minister Momen, during the meeting, declared Bangladesh’s acceptance of the US proposal to deploy the Peace Corps in Bangladesh again. He also requested Secretary Blinken’s assistance in expediting the matter of opening Dhaka-New York direct flight. Bangladesh Foreign Minister briefed US Secretary of State on Bhasan Char and requested US assistance for the Rohingyas there.

He also underscored the fact that Bangladesh is still a young democracy compared to the US, and wishes to work closely with the US in further strengthening the democratic process. Foreign Minister Momen invited Secretary Blinken to visit Bangladesh in the near future. 

Earlier, Foreign Minister Momen met USAID Administrator Samantha Power. During the meeting, both sides discussed issues of mutual concern.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister thanked the USAID Administrator for agreeing to his request to assist in the project of strengthening the coastal embankments in Bangladesh. Mentionable, a joint feasibility study by the USAID and Bangladesh Government on this would commence soon.

The USAID Administrator emphasized that Bangladesh should resolve outstanding labour issues to become eligible for the development finance from the DFC. In this regard, Foreign Minister Momen emphasized on the implementation of the Roadmap undertaken with ILO and EU.

He also emphasized on a stronger consultative mechanism between Bangladesh Government and the USAID on how funds are disbursed. He requested USAID’s assistance in establishing forensic labs in Bangladesh, so that litigation time of pending cases reduces. 

Two sides also discussed in detail the political and humanitarian aspects of the Rohingya crisis, and Administrator Power assured of continued US assistance. Regarding Bhasan Char, Foreign Minister Momen requested the US to join the humanitarian assistance there. They also discussed climate change cooperation and the possible adverse effects of the Ukraine crisis. 

Bangladesh Foreign Minister also met US Senator Chris Van Hollen, President of National Democratic Institute (NDI) Ambassador Derek Mitchell, and Director of New Lines Institute Mr. Azeem Ibrahim.

He also attended, as the Chief Guest, in the Reception hosted by the Bangladesh Embassy in Washington DC on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations.

USAID Deputy Administrator Isobel Coleman was the Guest of honour.

She had a separate bilateral meeting with Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen before the reception. During the meeting, Foreign Secretary Momen requested for more US cooperation in combatting human trafficking and illegal migration, as well in agricultural sector. They also discussed the Rohingya issue in detail. 

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