US expects long-term security, trade ties with Dhaka: Diplomat

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Washington expects an expanded security alongside trade ties with Bangladesh, envisioning next 50 years while 2022 marks 50 years of its relations with Dhaka after its 1971 emergence, amid some newer developments, US diplomatic sources hinted here.

In an informal opinion exchange interaction with journalist and some other foreign affairs reporters this week, officials based in Dhaka’s US embassy said Washington actually seeks “strong” and “greater” cooperation with Bangladesh.

They visibly were of the opinion that the existing period created scopes for cementing further a stronger “security and trade ties” while the two countries this year were also celebrating golden jubilee of their diplomatic relations.

“This year is really an opportunity to build on those strong ties that we have in the areas of commerce, trade and also in security cooperation,” said an official of US Embassy in course the interactions.

The official, however, said his government wants security cooperation to continue with Bangladesh as it was underway in the passing years but under a newly adopted US policy update of its ‘Leahy Law”.

He said the update was in fact a “global requirement” for every country to get US security assistance and they largely obligated the US administration to tighten scrutiny of the partnering nations’ security agencies attitude towards human rights.

They said the Leahy law updates required US authorities to examine credible information and track record or pre-examination of security units of recipient countries — particularly regarding gross violation of human rights.

Provisions:

Bangladesh has been getting US security assistance under the law since 1998 after Senator Leahy first introduced it in 1997 as part of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act.

In 2021, the US added the ‘Leahy law’ policy requiring a written agreement with recipient governments to ensure compliance of the prohibition over human rights violation by security units from January 1, 2022, onward.

The US officials said their country is one of the biggest sponsors of foreign assistance, training, security while Bangladesh is one of their important security partners.

“Whether the US is working with Bangladesh or other countries, we want to make sure US assistance is used in consistent with the US law and principles, such as human rights . . . the Leahy law helps ensure this,” one official said.

Dhaka’s response:

Bangladesh officials familiar with the process said Bangladesh’s law ministry was looking into the amended Leahy law and its impact while foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen recently told media that Dhaka would respond to the issues once the scrutiny was made.

The US officials said engagement with Bangladesh on the issue was underway through the diplomatic channel as Washington “has a great working relationship (with Dhaka)”.

But, he said, the US Congress makes laws and the executive branch must follow and implement it, though the new policy in the Leahy law was very small and narrow while Dhaka could opt for a written consent to secure US security assistance.

US sanction and Lathy law:

The US officials, however, cleared that the Leahy Law did not have any link with or was completely different from that of the US sanctions that imposed on Bangladesh’s elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and some of its former and current officials.

The US slapped the sanction on some incumbent and former RAB officials on December 10 last under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights and Accountability Act for human rights violations.

The Leahy law is completely separated from the sanction, the ‘Leahy law’ is preventive and the ‘Sanction’ is holding the abusers after violating the human rights, a US official said at the interaction.

The Leahy law fact sheet said, the law also allows exceptions permitting resumption of assistance to a unit if the US administration determines that the recipient country take steps to expose to justice the personnel concerned responsible for gross rights violation.

It said a second exception also exists if US equipment or other assistance is necessary to assist in disaster relief operations or other humanitarian or national security emergencies. -BSS