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Bangladesh for ‘enhancing, deepening’ US ties: Momen

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Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen has said the relations between Bangladesh and the US are underpinned by many factors and determinants and will be deepened and broadened through several dialogues, exchange of visits and track-2 engagements in the coming months.

“We have several dialogues, exchange of visits and track-2 engagements in coming months to garner” a better understanding of each other, he said, adding that Bangladesh has all good intentions of “enhancing and deepening” ties with the US, reports UNB.

The foreign secretary was addressing a lecture session as the chief guest.

The Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs (BILIA) organised the session “The Dynamics of Bangladesh-USA Relations: Democracy and Human Rights or Geopolitical Interest?” at its auditorium on Saturday evening.

Bangladesh and the US are looking for greater engagements from March 20 with “Partnership Dialogue.”

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen is scheduled to have a bilateral meeting (in-person) with his US counterpart Antony Blinken in Washington on April 4.

Security, defence, and trade dialogues are also planned in the coming months.

The foreign secretary said as an emerging developing nation, the socio-economic emancipation and progress of its people remains Bangladesh’s priority.

“However, maintaining a strategic balance between major global and regional powers is not an easy job, especially in the context of the rising geopolitical tension, often termed as Cold War 2.”

He said the unfolding situation in Ukraine will certainly have further geopolitical and geoeconomic implications.

The foreign secretary said the recent US sanctions on Rapid Action Battalion and related individuals was “unexpected” to many of them. “And clearly the US tried to keep it a secret before the announcement.”

However, the pandemic situation also created a gap between the two sides in terms of not having regular dialogues and meetings, he added.

With the political objective to “malign and discredit” Bangladesh, the foreign secretary said, vested quarters at home and abroad have remained engaged in anti-government campaigns in Washington DC and other major capitals for years.

“We believe that the sanctions are unjustifiable, and were imposed based on fabricated and politically motivated inputs given by the same vested quarters,” Masud Momen said.

After the sanctions were imposed on December 10 last year, Bangladesh immediately expressed its deep discontent, summoning the US ambassador in Dhaka, he continued.

However, the situation in Bangladesh is a growing area of interest for the US and other western countries due to Bangladesh’s “geostrategic significance and growing economic strength,” Masud Momen said.

“So, we need to address the aftermath of the sanctions and related issues through a delicate, well-thought-out and comprehensive strategy.”

“We need to remain closely engaged with the US through legal and other measures to convince it to lift the sanctions. Also, we will have to positively engage with it in human rights-related discourse to clarify the efforts Bangladesh is making for the promotion and protection of human rights of our people,” the foreign secretary continued.

“Bangladesh’s law enforcement agencies’ success in curbing terrorism, transnational crimes like human and drug trafficking as well as violence against women, children and minorities will be highlighted.”

“The progress made in realising the commitments of our government in areas of media freedom and labour law also need to be showcased effectively,” said Masud Momen.

Also, he said, there is always scope for further improvement, including taking remedial measures and making a course correction. “And this needs to be pursued as a continuous effort.”

Seeking international cooperation in this arena, including from the UN, the US, European Union and other development partners, especially in the form of capacity building and sharing of best practices, would definitely resonate positively apart from benefiting Bangladesh, Masud Momen said.

The foreign secretary said they need to make efforts, internally and internationally, to promote Bangladesh’s success stories and present the balanced perspectives as viable alternatives to the one-sided narratives often being projected by certain quarters.

“So, the objective would be to bolster the relations with the US and other international partners, and also to benefit ourselves by maintaining our national values and interest,” he said, adding that the civil society actors can always play a constructive role.

Dr Sujit Kumar Datta, associate professor and chairman of the Department of International Relations, University of Chittagong, presented the keynote paper at the event.

Toufiq Islam Shatil, director general (Americas) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Dr ASM Ali Ashraf, professor at the Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka, attended it as discussants.

BILIA Director Professor Mizanur Rahman delivered welcome remarks.

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