Half-century tie appears instrumental in revitalizing BD-US relations: analysts

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Bilateral ties with Washington mark the 50th year in 2022, half a century after Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation amid a critical US stake while analysts say the anniversary leads it towards a revitalized relation in a different geo-political reality.

The two countries drew a series of engagements in coming months as part of which the US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken invited Bangladesh foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen to Washington coinciding with the anniversary on April 4.

The foreign ministry officials in Dhaka said the newly-appointed US ambassador Peter D. Haas’s visit to Bangladesh mission in Washington ahead of his departure for Dhaka manifested cordial US gesture towards Bangladesh.

The US embassy officials recently said they envisaged positive bilateral engagements for next 50 years while Bangladesh ambassador to Washington DC M Shahidul Islam listed bilateral activities to advance further the relations.

“I think these engagements show that the US is also keen to further strengthen the existing friendly ties,” the envoy told BSS diplomatic correspondent from Washington today.

The US Ambassador-designate to Bangladesh said to his new Bangladesh counterpart that he wanted to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties all year long and try to find the opportunities and recognize the tremendous progress that Bangladesh made in the past 50 years.

Haas visited Bangladesh mission in Washington DC on Friday and is expected to arrive in Dhaka in early March.

According to diplomats Bangladesh mission in Washington DC and the US State Department planned joint celebration of the 50-year US-Bangladesh bilateral ties in the USA.

US Sanction and Relation
A recent development – the US sanction in December last – involving some of its incumbent and current officials of Bangladesh’s elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) over allegations of human rights violation, however, sparked speculations in public domain and media.

The US officials by now clarified that the issue was unrelated to the bilateral engagements while legal experts and foreign relation analysts said the US law which was cited in slapping the restriction has no connection with the “state to state” ties either.

“Bilateral relations (in general) do not come within the purview of the laws which was used in imposing the sanction of the rights violation in Bangladesh,” said foreign relation expert Professor Dr Imtiaz Ahmed.

He said the sanction came when the allegations of rights violations dwindled as expected and Bangladesh itself needed to address the issue as part of its governance system, no matter what others including the US said about it.

“But, when something involving foreign countries happen, it creates an issue in our internal politics and so has happened in this case as well,” Ahmed said.

Foreign ministry officials said Bangladesh by now constituted an inter-ministerial coordination committee to monitor the human rights situation.

The foreign minister himself sent a letter to his counterpart explaining the RAB’s campaign against militancy and terrorism while letters relating the issue were sent as well to 73 US senators and congressmen, who are members of different congressional committees relating to foreign relation issues.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Embassy in Washington and other missions in the US are now very active than any time of the past to further strengthen the bilateral relations and also making their allout efforts to convince the US administration to withdraw sanctions, official sources said,

Planned engagements:
Partnership Dialogue
Officials said Washington conveyed Bangladesh foreign office that they would send a high-level delegation to Bangladesh to hold the 8th Partnership dialogue next month.

“We have in principle agreed to hold our next partnership dialogue in Dhaka expectedly on March 20 next,” the foreign minister told BSS last week.

Foreign ministry officials said US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Ambassador Victoria Nuland was expected to co-chair the partnership dialogue with Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen when the new US ambassador would be in Dhaka as well.

High Level Economic Consultation
According to the schedule, the next round of high-level Bangladesh-US economic consultation meeting will be held in the USA at the end of the March to advance the vision of developing a “bilateral economic partnership” between the two countries in all potential areas.

Prime Minister’s private industry and investment advisor Salman F Rahman will lead the Bangladesh delegation as he co-chaired the first round of high-level economic consultation held in 2020 virtually.

Security Dialogue
Foreign ministry officials said the 8th Security dialogue between Bangladesh and USA will be held in Washington DC on April
6th, two days after the foreign ministerial level bilateral meeting at the Department of State.

The US Assistance Secretary of the Bureau of the Political Military Affairs under the State Department will lead the US side at the dialogue.

During the 7th Bangladesh-US Security Dialogue, held on 2nd May in 2019 in Dhaka, the US side reiterated its support to the armed forces and law enforcers of Bangladesh in enhancing capacity through various forms of trainings, sharing of information, sophisticated equipment and joint exercises.

Visit of Samantha Power
In May, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power is scheduled to visit Bangladesh to discuss various development cooperation between the two countries.

During her visit, among other development issues, Bangladesh side will discuss potential US assistance in widening and building embankments along the country’s coastal belt as part of climate change adaptation.

Besides, a US-Bangladesh Business council delegation is expected to visit here to further explore US trade and investment opportunities in Bangladesh, said the official. -BSS