Ties between Dhaka and Washington growby Mohammad Amjad Hossain
IT HAS been announced that secretary of state of the United States of America, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is due to visit Bangladesh on May 5 from Beijing to hold discussions to review the robust Bangladesh –US cooperation, in the areas of political, economic and security matters. The visit is taking place after a series of meetings by assistant secretary of South and Central Asia bureau and undersecretary of political affairs of the state department, with officials and dignitaries of the Bangladesh government. More significantly, Barack Obama’s administration has shifted its foreign policy towards the Asia-Pacific region in order to stop the rising global economic and military power of China. This has been reflected in the article written by Hillary Clinton in Foreign Affairs journal in November 2011. Hillary Clinton has spoken for investments in building ‘a more mature security and economic architecture to promote stability and prosperity’ in the region.
Against the backdrop of this scenario, the US administration has been concentrating on security matters. Bangladesh does not belong in the periphery of US security concerns, but China’s rise in the international arena makes Bangladesh receive importance for two main reasons. First, Bangladesh is sandwiched between the two Asian giants India and China, and secondly, China has committed to developing a deep sea-port in Chittagong and to link Bangladesh through road communication with China, through Myanmar. China’s massive investment in developing infrastructure for seaports in South and East Asia has caused concern for India and America. The US-Bangladesh security dialogue, on April 19 in Dhaka, attended by US assistant secretary for political and military affairs, Andrew J Sharpio, is the glaring example of strengthening dialogue on security matters which will lead ultimately to enhancing relations on a wide range of issues with enhanced partnership in defence matters, including peace keeping and joint military exercises.
The situation in Bangladesh has further deteriorated at alarming rate since state department issued its report on violation of human rights in Bangladesh on April 8, 2011. In its report, state department blamed the government’s failure to investigate fully extra-judicial killings by security forces, including several deaths in custody of alleged criminals detained by the Rapid Action Battalion.
The proposed visit by the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, to Bangladesh is likely to be viewed as controversial in view of widespread enforced disappearances and assassinations of political activists and journalists and unbridled corruption by a coterie of the ruling Awami League. The European Union, UK and American administrations and international human rights organisations have raised voice against enforced disappearances of political activists, but incidentally, no effective results are emanating from the government side. A tense political situation exists in the country between ruling Awami League and the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party as a result of ‘enforced disappearance’ of its organising secretary M Ilias Ali. Clinton is undertaking such a visit at a time when President Barack Obama is scheduled to contest for a second term as president. Majority Bangladeshi-origin Americans are seriously concerned about the unhealthy situation emerging in Bangladesh and the government of Bangladesh remains unconcerned for all practical purpose.
This will be first visit by a US secretary of state in 9 years to Bangladesh. Colin Powell was in Bangladesh in June, 2003. The first visit by a secretary of state was Henry Kissinger was in 1974. However, the proposed visit will be the second visit to Bangladesh by Hillary Clinton, who had been to Bangladesh in 1995 as first lady, to visit Grameen Bank projects.
In spite of the occasional twists and turns, relations between Bangladesh and the United States of America have been growing, both in depth and dimension. It is hoped that the visit will not leave an impression of giving permission to the coalition government, led by the Awami League, to behave like a dictatorial regime.
Mohammad Amjad Hossain is a retired diplomat from Bangladesh and former president of the Nova chapter of the prestigious Toastmasters International Club.
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