Bangladesh News Bangladesh - U.S.A Relation

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Washington sees Dhaka as an 'emerging' ally in its Indo-Pacific strategy

DHAKA -- The U.S. has stepped up efforts to entice Bangladesh into buying more of its military hardware in recent weeks, as it hopes to win over an "emerging" ally in South Asia, where China has been expanding its economic influence.

In a rare outreach, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper earlier this month phoned Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who also oversees the Ministry of Defense, proposing to help the South Asian country modernize its military by 2030.

The two countries opened talks on the sale of advanced military gear such as Apache helicopters and missiles last year. A deal is believed to be in the cards, although no details have been revealed, with Laura Stone, a deputy assistant secretary with the U.S. Department of State, saying that Congress had not yet been "formally notified." Any deal will frustrate China, which is now the biggest supplier of cheaper defense equipment.


"We're looking to deepen our security cooperation with Bangladesh, which is very much of mutual interest, with full respect for Bangladesh's sovereignty and independence of action," Stone wrote in an email response to questions posed by the Nikkei Asian Review recently.

"We stand ready to serve as the partner of choice for Bangladesh regarding the sale of defense articles," said Stone, who oversees India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives at the State Department's South and Central Asian affairs desk.

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Bangladesh has been buying more arms from the U.S. since the 1990s, with purchases reaching $110 million in the 10 years through 2019. But that is dwarfed by the $2.59 billion it spent on military equipment from China since 2010, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Ali Riaz, distinguished professor of political science at Illinois State University, said that the timing of the phone call between the U.S. defense secretary and Bangladesh's prime minister was "very important" because of Dhaka's warming relations with Beijing.

Indeed, China's influence in Bangladesh goes beyond trade and infrastructure investment. After the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, China sent supplies, such as masks and gowns, and a medical team to Bangladesh, which conducted a Stage 3 trial of a vaccine developed by the privately owned Chinese company Sinovac Biotech.

Beijing recently lifted tariffs on 97% of Bangladesh imports after it secured a $250 million airport terminal construction contract in the northeastern city of Sylhet, which borders India.

Bangladesh is now trying to corral a $1 billion Chinese credit line to manage the Teesta River after a deal to share its water with India languished for years, mainly due to opposition from the state of West Bengal on the Indian side.

Bangladesh has been treading a fine line between India and China, but now Washington has taken a proactive approach.

"The Bangladesh government will have to balance conflicting expectations. Bangladesh can do it if the national interests remain the primary consideration," Riaz wrote in an email to Nikkei.

Defense diplomacy is part of Washington's broader Indo-Pacific strategy. In June 2019, the Department of Defense released its first report on the strategy, in which it recognized Bangladesh as an "emerging partner," alongside Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Maldives in South Asia.

"Our Indo-Pacific vision is rooted in the fact that the United States, like Bangladesh, is an Indo-Pacific country," Stone told Nikkei. "Maritime and regional security in South Asia are critical to ensuring a free, open, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region for the benefit of all its nations, which is why we prioritize efforts that promote security."

The growing influence of China in the region, and Bangladesh's participation in Chinese President Xi Jinping's signature Belt and Road Initiative, have made it imperative for the U.S. to vigorously pursue its Indo-Pacific agenda, said Riaz, who is also a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.

The U.S. and Bangladesh have already collaborated on security in a range of areas, from counterterrorism to peacekeeping, under a foreign military financing scheme started in 2005. Since 2018, it has dispensed an additional $60 million to help pay for Bangladesh's maritime security and address other issues of critical concern.

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The U.S. administration is "aggressively pushing" the Indo-Pacific gambit to counteract China's BRI, of which Bangladesh has been a part since 2016, according to Amena Mohsin, a professor of international relations at Dhaka University. "The U.S. wants partnership on the war on terrorism [and] partnership on arms sales," she told Nikkei. "Bangladesh has strategic importance."

M. Humayun Kabir, a former ambassador to the U.S. who is now acting president of the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute, a Dhaka think tank, said this puts Bangladesh in a tricky position. "This will be difficult for Bangladesh, as it is a friend of both the U.S. and China," said Kabir.

According to an official data, the U.S., with which Bangladesh enjoyed almost $7 billion in trade surplus in 2019, is the country's single largest export destination, while the South Asian economy of 170 million people has a chronic trade deficit -- totaling $12 billion in 2019 -- with China, its largest source of imports.

Riaz of Illinois State University predicted a shift in U.S. policy toward South Asia, with more engagement, if Joe Biden is elected president in November. But he believes it "won't be more accommodative to China's growing influence."

 

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Bangladesh and the United States have formally signed an agreement for flight operations between the two countries.

The information was revealed by the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry on Wednesday.

After the signing of the bilateral agreement, Biman Bangladesh Airlines and private airline companies will be able to operate direct flights between Dhaka and New York depending on permission from the Federal Civil Aviation Authority of the US, sources from the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) said.

According to the CAAB sources, Bangladesh has been denied the opportunity to operate flights to the US in the past as airports in Bangladesh are classed as B-category.

In 2013, the government initiated an air transport agreement with the US, but it never got past the draft stage. Now, Bangladesh is reaping the benefits of the sincere efforts of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, CAAB officials said.

Sources said the US Federal Aviation Authority would inspect and audit Bangladesh's airports, especially Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, after the signing of the agreement. During this period, Bangladesh will work for the development of necessary infrastructure and manpower reform, including airport security activities.

Subsequently, Bangladeshi airlines will be able to operate flights to the US considering there is a green signal from the Federal Aviation Authority.

Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman, chairman of CAAB, said: “We have finalized the bilateral air transportation agreement after initial talks with the US. If the agreement is completed on Wednesday, it will be a milestone in the relations between the two countries by air. Based on this, Bangladeshi airlines will operate a Dhaka-New York-Dhaka flight in the future.

“The agreement would be the first step to operating flights to the US. Our airport will be upgraded, and the Federal Aviation Authority will open their air route. Moreover, other progress will be made in the aviation sector,” the CAAB chairman added.

 
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Bangladesh and the United States have discussed ways to develop an inclusive blue economy by working together, sharing knowledge, data and ideas, building greater capacity and enhancing professional collaboration.

The Bangladesh side expressed hope that the US government would provide the government of Bangladesh with fish detecting technology, either through satellite or sonar, and transferring technology for fish/seafood processing, according to the US Department of State.

Bangladesh and the US discussed the issues in a recent meeting held between the two countries.

The US side congratulated the government of Bangladesh for joining the international community as a Party to the Agreement on Port State Measures that would aid the United States, Bangladesh, and the other parties in deterring and eliminating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

The US side praised the government of Bangladesh for hosting the third Indian Ocean Rim Association Blue Economy Ministerial Conference in 2019.

Both sides noted the importance of sound science, innovative management, effective enforcement, meaningful partnerships and robust public participation, all being important elements of the blue economy and each contributing to the future prospects of the ocean.

Energy Cooperation

The meeting participants recognised the importance of energy security to promote regional connectivity and power stability to further advance Bangladesh's economic growth.

The Bangladesh side welcomed the support from US Departments of State, Energy, Commerce, as well as USAID and USTDA in this sector under the whole-of-government Asia EDGE (Enhancing Development and Growth through Energy) initiative.

The US Department of Commerce also announced the creation of the US-Bangladesh Energy Industry Working Group as part of the Asia EDGE Energy Industry Working Group Network, which creates a "one-stop shop" for the US private sector to actively participate in Asia EDGE interagency programmes and connect to regional market opportunities.

The participants encouraged the relevant stakeholders of the two countries to collaborate and explore the possibility of further expanding the LNG footprint as an efficient and clean primary fuel for Bangladesh's power generation.

The participants noted that the first cargoes of US-produced LNG have already been exported to Bangladesh.

They also noted the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between GE and Bangladesh Power Development Board in 2018 for a 3,600 MW Combined Cycle power plant in the southern part of Bangladesh -- Moheshkhali Island -- and expressed hope that the two sides would remain engaged in this regard.

The meeting discussed exploring the possibility of establishment of an energy sector dialogue to facilitate commercial engagement with US energy companies, increase the possible use of US products and services that support smarter, more efficient, and more resilient energy systems, and improve access to reliable, affordable energy to Bangladesh.

They discussed this potential platform being led by the US Department of Commerce while on the Bangladesh side by the Ministry of Power, Energy, and Mineral Resources.

 

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Suggesting this thread as the Bangladesh Foreign Affairs Discussion Thread. Mods can make it sticky if they deem appropriate. Bangladesh involvement in BRI, new Asian cold war, Indo pacific strategy topics as well as "Bangladesh’s balancing act between great powers " threads can all be consolidated in this thread and the thread counts reduced.

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BD not interested in US defence deal under Indo-Pacific strategy​

Mir Mostafizur Rahman | October 13, 2020 00:00:00

Under the proposed Indo Pacific Strategy alliance, led by the United States, Bangladesh is not interested in purchasing arms, rather the country wants American investments in infrastructure.

"They want to sell arms, but we are not interested in issues related to conflict," foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told the FE when asked about Bangladesh's stance on the IPS.

This message will be conveyed to the US deputy secretary of state Stephen Biegan as he kicks off his three-day Dhaka visit tomorrow (Wednesday).

Bangladesh feels that the IPS will be effective for the country only if it gets US investments in infrastructure building under the strategy.

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"We have no objection to the Indo Pacific strategy. But they should come forward to the infrastructure development if they want to make the IPS more effective".

"They have to spend money, only talking will not do, they have to invest," the minister said pointing out that the US has no contribution to Bangladesh's infrastructure development.


"They can do it if they want," he said defending his argument.

A recent move by the US to sell sophisticated defence equipment, including Apache helicopters, could not be materialised. US officials admitted that they had several rounds of talks with the authorities concerned on selling of sophisticated US defence equipment, which they claimed 'best in the world'.

According to a recent study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, China is the fifth-biggest arms supplier in the world and also supplies most weapons to the region, except India, which is its regional rival.

Around 35 per cent of China's arms supplies went to Pakistan between 2013 and 2017, followed by 19 per cent to Bangladesh.

Dhaka procured 71 per cent of its arms from China over the five-year period, and Myanmar 68 per cent.

In view of the growing influence of China in the region, the US and its allies launched the IPS, apparently to counter China's Belt and Rod Initiative (BRI).

Bangladesh has already become a major partner of BRI under which it will get over 25 billion US dollar for building infrastructure.


Recently, the USA has unleashed a fresh diplomatic offensive to revamp its ties with the regional countries, which have become partners of the China-led BRI.

Meanwhile, the visit of the US Deputy Secretary of State is considered part of that effort, analysts said.

Asked about the possible agenda, the minister admitted that IPS will be a major focus in the talks between Bangladeshi officials and Mr Biegun.

However, issues related to Rohingya, visa and Covid cooperation will also come up, he added.

"We'll discuss the Rohingya issue and we will make it clear that we are not interested in only humanitarian assistance, our main goal is repatriation, they must go back to that country," the minister said.

Dr Momen criticized the USA for not issuing visas to some Bangladeshi students, who secured I-20 from American institutions.

"They have not issued visas to Bangladeshi students who got I-20, but students of the neighbouring countries like India and Pakistan got the same category visas. This is discriminatory," he noted.

This is very discriminatory because Bangladesh's condition is better than other nations in terms of Covid control, impact is much lesser in the country, he argued.

"Still, they did not issue visas to our students, this is not good," he said.

"We also want support for our garment sector, which was affected by Covid," the minister said.

For example, the U.S. can offer the garments sector three years' moratorium on duty to enable the country to absorb the shock from Covid, he added.
 
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Under the proposed Indo Pacific Strategy alliance, led by the United States, Bangladesh is not interested in purchasing arms, rather the country wants American investments in infrastructure.

"They want to sell arms, but we are not interested in issues related to conflict," foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told the FE when asked about Bangladesh's stance on the IPS.

This message will be conveyed to the US deputy secretary of state Stephen Biegan as he kicks off his three-day Dhaka visit tomorrow (Wednesday).

Bangladesh feels that the IPS will be effective for the country if it gets US investments in infrastructure building under the strategy.

1602670080761.png


"We have no objection to the Indo Pacific strategy. But they should come forward to the infrastructure development if they want to make the IPS more effective".

"They have to spend money, only talking will not do, they have to invest," the minister said pointing out that the US has no contribution to Bangladesh's infrastructure development.

"They can do it if they want," he said defending his argument.

A recent move by the US to sell sophisticated defence equipment, including Apache helicopters, could not be materialised. US officials admitted that they had several rounds of talks with the authorities concerned on selling of sophisticated US defence equipment, which they claimed 'best in the world'.

According to a recent study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, China is the fifth-biggest arms supplier in the world and also supplies most weapons to the region, except India, which is its regional rival

Around 35 per cent of China's arms supplies went to Pakistan between 2013 and 2017, followed by 19 per cent to Bangladesh.

Dhaka procured 71 per cent of its arms from China over the five-year period, and Myanmar 68 per cent.

In view of the growing influence of China in the region, the US and its allies launched the IPS, apparently to counter China's Belt and Rod Initiative (BRI).

Bangladesh has already become a major partner of BRI under which it will get over 25 billion US dollar for building infrastructure.

Recently, the USA has unleashed a fresh diplomatic offensive to revamp its ties with the regional countries, which have become partners of the China-led BRI.

Meanwhile, the visit of the US Deputy Secretary of State is considered part of that effort, analysts said.

Asked about the possible agenda, the minister admitted that IPS will be a major focus in the talks between Bangladeshi officials and Mr Biegun.

However, issues related to Rohingya, visa and Covid cooperation will also come up, he added.

"We'll discuss the Rohingya issue and we will make it clear that we are not interested in only humanitarian assistance, our main goal is repatriation, they must go back to that country," the minister said.

Dr Momen criticised the USA for not issuing visas to some Bangladeshi students, who secured I-20 from American institutions.

"They have not issued visas to Bangladeshi students who got I-20, but students of the neighbouring countries like India and Pakistan got the same category visas. This is discriminatory," he noted.

This is very discriminatory because Bangladesh's condition is better than other nations in terms of Covid control, impact is much lesser in the country, he argued.

"Still, they did not issue visas to our students, this is not good," he said.

"We also want support for our garment sector, which was affected by Covid," the minister said.

For example, the U.S. can offer the garments sector three years' moratorium on duty to enable the country to absorb the shock from Covid, he added.

Government unwilling to engage in int’l rivalries: FM

The Bangladesh government is unwilling to engage in rivalries among powerful countries at both international and regional levels, foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said on Monday.

‘We don’t want to engage in rivalries,’ the minister told reporters at his office in view of the move of four countries for expediting the Indo-Pacific Strategy and a scheduled visit of a US deputy secretary to Bangladesh.

On elements of the Indo-Pacific Strategy, propagated by the United States with participation of India, Japan and Australia, Momen said that Bangladesh was interested only in development aspect of the IPS.

‘They have to come up with infrastructure development. They have to invest money. Only talking would not do,’ he said.

US deputy secretary of state Stephen E Biegun is scheduled to reach Dhaka on a three-day official visit today to discuss the Indo-Pacific Strategy among other issues.

Stephen is scheduled to hold bilateral talks with his Bangladesh counterpart, state minister for foreign affairs M Shahriar Alam, tomorrow.

He would call on prime minister Sheikh Hasina and foreign minister AK Abdul Momen on Thursday.

The Indo-Pacific Strategy, trade, including US defence articles’ sales, and COVID-19 pandemic are likely to be in the US agenda, while the Bangladesh side may prefer to talk on attracting US investment and getting greater market access and technical know-how for agriculture, according to diplomatic sources on both sides.

‘They [US] want to sell defence articles,’ the foreign minister said.

They could extend a moratorium on duties on imports from Bangladesh, including RMG products, for three years, he said.

The minister also stressed the need for an end to visa discrimination by the US for Bangladeshi students.

Indian and Pakistani students are getting US visas, while Bangladeshi students are kept waiting for long in spite of confirmation of their admission to US educational institutions, he added.

Stephen was scheduled to reach New Delhi on Monday, starting his five-day tour in India and Bangladesh.

‘It is understandable that the focus of his visit is India,’ a senior Bangladesh official said, indicating to the US presidential elections that will take place in three weeks.

Bangladesh is at risk of becoming a party to international and regional rivalry unless the country maintains a neutral position, keeping strategic affairs and national interests in consideration amid the growing rivalries among countries like India, China, the United States, Australia and Japan, Bangladeshi foreign policy and defence analysts believe.

 

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Bangladesh has strongly condemned remarks by United States’ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, labelling the South Asian country as a place where the al-Qaeda group carried out attacks.

“Such irresponsible comments by a senior leader are very unfortunate and unacceptable. Bangladesh strongly rejects these kind of baseless remarks and falsification,” Bangladesh’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

In a statement published a day before on the US State Department’s website, Pompeo implicated some countries as “terror hubs”, drawing criticism from several quarters.

He also termed Iran as a new home base of al-Qaeda, a remark also protested by Tehran.

“Imagine too the potential to completely upend fragile places with an established al-Qaeda presence like Libya, Yemen, and the Maghreb, or increase turmoil in places like Bangladesh, where al-Qaeda cells have carried out attacks,” Pompeo said in the statement.

In response, the Bangladesh foreign ministry statement said “there is no evidence of any presence of al-Qaeda” in the Muslim-majority country and stressed that it maintains a “zero tolerance” policy against all forms of “terrorism and violent extremism”.

“Attention of the Government of Bangladesh has been drawn to a recent statement made by the US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo. In the statement, Mr Pompeo mentioned Bangladesh as a place where the terrorist group al-Qaeda carried out attacks, falsely apprehending similar terrorist attacks in future,” the ministry said.

“Our track record in countering terrorism has earned us global appreciation. In line with our commitment to countering terrorism, we have become a party to all fourteen international counter-terrorism conventions and are actively involved with international ‘preventive’ initiatives to counter terrorism.”

The ministry said Bangladesh regards Pompeo referring to the country as a possible location for al-Qaeda operations as unfounded.

“If any such claim could be substantiated with evidence, the Government of Bangladesh would be happy to take necessary measures against such activities,” it said.

Bangladesh considers it “very unfortunate, especially in the context of the ever-growing bilateral ties between the two friendly countries based on shared values, peace and common goals”, the statement underlined.

 

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Perhaps those words are meant as a hidden warning. I’d keep an eye out on any groups US diplomats contact or their movements.
 

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Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen today said Bangladesh wants to work with the United States on "security issue of the Indo-Pacific" but purchasing expensive defence equipment is not the country's priority.

"Bangladesh's priority is development. Bangladesh will welcome anyone who comes forward for infrastructure development and investment (in Bangladesh)," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs quoted the minister as saying.

The foreign minister said providing food, clothing, housing, education and health security are among priority areas of the government.

He said Bangladesh will welcome US' investment in the Indo-Pacific region as it wants the Bay of Bengal to remain open to all.

The foreign minister recently visited the US as part of its plan to reach out to the new US administration to further enhance bilateral relations and convey Bangladesh's willingness to work closely with the Biden administration.


Dr Momen and United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken had a telephone conversation during the visit and expressed their willingness to further deepen Bangladesh-US relations by advancing common goals and mutual interests.

They agreed to work together to further strengthen bilateral relations and enhance cooperation on global issues.

In the beginning of the discussion, 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 addressed the US Chamber of Commerce and met Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and three US lawmakers namely Senator Edward J Markey (Democratic, Massachusetts), Congressman Michael T McCaul (Republican-Austin) and Congressman Jim McGovern (Democratic, Massachusetts' 2nd Congressional District) during his official visit to the USA.

 

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If your "new" neighbor suddenly bringing an AAW Destroyer and complete package of fleets (along with Frigates and Corvettes) and loitering in your sea for months or year uninvited, there is no way you can calmly said that.

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Not to mention we are keep finding their Sea glider far inshore almost reach our main Naval base in Surabaya
 

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday stressed the need for having adequate policy support from the USA government to expand bilateral trade between the two countries.

“It is important that both the countries provide adequate policy support to further expand bilateral trade,” she said while addressing the virtual launching of the US-Bangladesh Business Council in a pre-recorded video message.

The prime minister mentioned that Bangladesh buys a considerable amount of industrial raw materials and consumer items like cotton, soybean and wheat from the United States. “All these items enjoy zero tariff in Bangladesh.”

Regarding development, she said the United States has remained as a strong partner in Bangladesh’s journey towards democracy and development. “It [US] is the largest destination of our exports, the largest source of foreign direct investment, a longstanding development partner and an important source of technology and training.”

The prime minister said while Bangladesh’s dependence on foreign aid has come down substantially, the need for foreign direct investment increased to create jobs for millions of youths.

Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh’s sustained economic growth, rapidly expanding domestic market and growing connectivity with a vast regional market of 4 billion people makes it a promising destination for US business and investment.

“We are constantly improving our physical, legal and financial infrastructures to facilitate foreign investment,” she said.

She said the government is establishing 100 “Special Economic Zones” across Bangladesh for rapid industrialization. “We are offering one dedicated Special Economic Zone for American companies to establish manufacturing facilities.”

Talking about Digital Bangladesh, which has been an integral part of the government’s Vision 2021, she thanked her ICT Adviser Sajeeb Wazed for his support in planning and implementing the vision of a modern Bangladesh capable of using technology to improve transparency in governance and spur economic development.

Today, she said, Bangladesh exports more than $1 billion worth ICT products to over 60 countries with the US being the top export destination.

She mentioned that according to the USAID’s Comprehensive Private Sector Assessment 2019 for Bangladesh, the ICT industry is expected to grow nearly five-fold to reach nearly $5 billion by 2025.

“Bangladesh is now developing 28 hi-tech parks for ICT industries with local and foreign investment. We are offering one hi-tech park for ICT investment by US companies,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman laid down the foundation of a prosperous Bangladesh on the ashes of the war-ravaged country. “I have taken over his unfinished work of realizing his dream of a Golden Bangladesh free of poverty, exploitation and economic disparity. In the past one decade, we have made remarkable progress on socio-economic fronts.”

She also mentioned that the strength of Bangladesh’s economy is now globally recognized as it has shown great resilience even during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Bangladesh received the final recommendation of the UN in February to graduate from LDCs. Bangladesh is now marching towards achieving the target of becoming a high-income developed and prosperous country by 2041.”

PM’s ICT Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy, former US Ambassador to Bangladesh Mercia Bericat, Vice President of Business Development of Chevron Corporation, Jay R Pryor, Nisha Biswal president of US Bangladesh Business Council and senior vice president for international strategy and global initiatives and oversees South Asia programs, and Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs, US Chamber of Commerce, Myron Brilliant also spoke on the occasion.

 

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Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said the United States might consider accepting a good number of forcibly-displaced Rohingyas in Bangladesh for filling up a large portion of the new numbers set for 2021 and 2022.

Momen appreciated US president Joe Biden’s recent announcement to enhance the admission of refugees to the US to 62,500 in 2021 and 125,000 in 2022.

He also expressed optimism that the US, as the largest humanitarian donor for the humanitarian operations for the forcibly displaced Rohingyas camped in Bangladesh, will continue to provide necessary assistance for Rohingyas, including those now settled in Bhasan Char.

US ambassador to Bangladesh Earl R Miller met the Foreign Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday and discussed the issues.

The US ambassador informed that, during the upcoming launch of the annual Joint Response Plan (JRP) on May 18 in Geneva, the US is expected to pledge again for a large contribution to the humanitarian operation for Rohingyas.

Momen also assured the US side on Bangladesh’s cooperation on the ongoing investigation into the genocide against Rohingyas in Myanmar, as reinitiated by the Biden Administration.

The FM urged the US ambassador to address the difficulties being faced by a large number of Bangladeshi student visa applicants to obtain visa interview date in the US Embassy in Dhaka, as many may lose admission and scholarship due to the delay.

The US ambassador informed that many interview slots had to be cancelled due to the lockdown.

He assured Momen of doing the best to make sure all the student visa applicants get interview slots on a priority basis once the lockdown is over so that they can join their academic sessions in US universities in time.

The main point of discussion was the process of acquiring AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine from the US to meet up the growing needs in Bangladesh to address the present shortfall.

FM Momen underscored that while the immediate need of Bangladesh is around 4 million doses of vaccine, the US government may consider providing 20 million AstraZeneca vaccine to Bangladesh from its stock.

The US Ambassador assured that his government is sincerely working on the proposal, though this is difficult to predict a timeframe at this moment.

He also informed that the United States is yet to provide any AstraZeneca vaccine to India, and hopefully Bangladesh will get the vaccine at the same time India gets.

The FM emphasised an early decision.

He also welcomed US president Joe Biden’s declaration to support Intellectual Property Waiver for vaccines in the WTO, and expressed optimism that this would enable developing countries, including Bangladesh, to produce US vaccines in the near future.

Momen and the US Ambassador also discussed the ways and means of bolstering bilateral cooperation, especially the area of climate change adaptation and mitigation, including possible mutual engagement before and during the COP26 of the UNFCCC scheduled in November 2021 in Glasgow, as well as through mutual support in different elections in the UN system including in the UN Human Rights Council.

 

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The US has taken note of a Chinese diplomat’s statement warning Bangladesh against joining the Quad, the informal grouping of Australia, India, Japan and America to coordinate in the Indo-Pacific region, a top State Department official has said.

State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters at his daily news conference on Tuesday that the US has an incredibly strong relationship with Bangladesh.

“We have taken note of that statement from the PRC (People’s Republic of China) ambassador to Bangladesh.

“What we would say is that we respect Bangladesh's sovereignty and we respect Bangladesh's right to make foreign policy decisions for itself,” Price said.

Responding to a question, he said that the United States is close with its partners on a range of issues from economic growth to climate change to humanitarian issues.

“When it comes to the Quad, we have said this before… it’s an informal, essential, multilateral mechanism that right now convenes like-minded democracies, the United States, India, Australia and Japan to coordinate in the Indo-Pacific and fundamentally to push forward our goal of a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” Price said.

In a provocative remark on Monday, China's ambassador in Dhaka Li Jiming warned Bangladesh against joining the US-led Quad alliance, saying that Dhaka's participation in the anti-Beijing "club" would result in "substantial damage" to bilateral relations.

“Obviously, it will not be a good idea for Bangladesh to participate in this small club of four (Quad) because it will substantially damage our bilateral relationship,” Li said at a virtual meeting organised by the Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh.

Bangladesh's foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen described the Chinese envoy's comment as "very unfortunate" and "aggressive".

"We are an independent and sovereign state. We decide our foreign policy," he said.

Initiated in 2007, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, Quad for short, is an informal grouping of the US, India, Australia and Japan.

China has vehemently opposed the formation of the Quad with a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman emphasising in March that exchanges and cooperation between countries should help expand mutual understanding and trust, instead of targeting or harming the interests of third parties.

The Quad member countries have resolved to uphold a rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific amid growing Chinese assertiveness in the strategically vital region.

The first summit of the Quad leaders was hosted by US President Joe Biden on March 12 and the virtual meeting was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

The four Quad leaders have vowed to strive for an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion, sending a clear message to China against its aggressive actions in the region.

 

Isa Khan

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Bangladesh Army officer 2nd Lt. Sadat Mohammad Shahriar Shovon got commissioned from West Point- US Military Academy (USMA)

 

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