Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has raised a number of issues including enhancing trade and investment, withdrawing sanctions on RAB and extraditing Bangabandhu’s killer Rashed Chowdhury in his bilateral meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“We have a very good discussion with the Secretary of State (Blinken),” Momen told media emerging from the meeting marking the 50-year bilateral relations between Bangladesh and USA at Department of State in Washington DC on Monday.
Bangladesh foreign minister said 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 became a model of development and Washington is really looking forward to starting work together of the next 50 years to strengthen the partnership between the two countries, Dr Momen quoted his US counterpart as saying.
Momen told Blinken that 50 years back there was a fear Bangladesh would be a bottomless basket, but now Bangladesh became a land of opportunity.
During the meeting, the foreign minister said they also discussed reinstating GSP facilities, Rohingya issue, Indo-Pacific strategy, climate change and Bangladesh election process.
Sanction on Rab
The foreign minister said he urged the US side to withdraw the sanction on Rab and on some of its current and former officials as this elite force played an important role in countering terrorism and checking drug trafficking in Bangladesh.
“I told them that we have taken all the remedial matters (to address the issue of violating human rights),” he said, adding that he also informed, in last four months there was no killing by RAB.
Momen said RAB might sometimes have done some excesses but there is an in-built system for accountability and the government took action against those who did wrong.
He also informed that there were major problems of militancy and terrorist activities in Bangladesh while a grenade attack on an Awami League rally killed 24 people and left more than 300 injured.
“In such cases, RAB played an important role (to contain militancy and terrorism),” Momen said, adding that former US ambassador to Bangladesh James Moriarty had lauded the role of RAB and compared it with the US’s FBI.
Secretary Blinken expressed satisfaction over the RAB performance in last four years and said there is a certain process to withdraw the sanction, Dr Momen said.
“I am very hopeful that the sanctions on RAB will be withdrawn,” the Bangladesh foreign minister said, however added that Bangladesh would have to complete the process regarding the withdrawal.
Extradite Rashed Chowdhury
The Bangladesh foreign minister also raised the issue of sending back Rashed Chowdhury, a convicted killer of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who is now residing in the US.
“American citizens would not like a murderer to be given shelter in the US,” Momen told Blinken.
Earlier, he said, there was a process of extraditing Rashed and that should be completed.
Bangladesh foreign minister said extraditing of killer Rashed Chowdhury would be a game changer in the celebration of 50-year ties of the two countries.
Trade and Investment
DR Momen also urged the US to diversify its investment in Bangladesh especially in the infrastructure, IT and pharmaceuticals sectors.
“Ninety percent of US investments are in the energy and power sectors. I want you to invest in other sectors like IT and pharmaceuticals,” he told Blinken.
The foreign minister said Bangladesh has seven lakh IT experts while the US could get medicines at affordable prices if they invest in the pharmaceutical sector.
Dr Momen also urged the US to help Bangladesh ease doing business so that Dhaka can attract more FDI in its economic zones and High-Tech parks.
The foreign minister said if they increase investment in Bangladesh, the US presence would be enhanced in the country which will help Washington address its concern on secured Indo-Pacific.
“I said we also want a free, inclusive, open and secure Indo-Pacific. If your presence is there, we will work together,” Momen said.
In response, Blinken said the US side will consider these issues positively.
The foreign minister also raised the issue to reinstate the GSP facility for Bangladesh products in entering the US market, which was suspended since 2013.
In reply, the secretary of state said the US would reinstate the GSP facilities when labour situation to be improved further in Bangladesh.
Dr Momen informed that the situation has been improved a lot in terms of labour rights and that is something needs to be recognized.
The Bangladesh foreign minister also proposed to make a roadmap with the US to attain the labour issues as per international level. “Let us discuss,” he told Blinken.
Dr Momen added the reality of Bangladesh as a small country with high population density and the situation is not similar to the US regarding the labour rights.
Momen thanked Blinken for US recognising Myanmar’s violence against Roingyas as genocide and urged them to work with the ASEAN and QUAD members to resolve the crisis.
“The US should do more for a sustainable solution to the crisis,” he told Blinken.
Bangladesh Election process
Dr Momen also briefed Blinken about Bangladesh’s free and fair election procedure under a transparent and independent election commission.
“We have a fair system. We have an Election Commission (EC). They’re (the commission) independent and during the election they are the boss,” he told his counterpart.
Momen said free and fair elections are being held at various levels in Bangladesh since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came to power.
The foreign minister also urged Blinken to take initiative for resuming direct Biman flights on Dhaka-New York-Dhaka route.
Momen also invited US secretary of State to visit Bangladesh at his convenient time.
Awami League Joint General Secretary Mahbubl Alam Hanif MP, Naim Razzaq MP, Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen, Secretary (West) of the foreign ministry Shabbir Ahmad Chowdhury, Bangladesh Ambassador to the US Shahidul Islam and Foreign Ministry Director General (America) Toufiq Islam Shatil accompanied the Bangladesh foreign minister.