US eyes on upcoming partnership dialogue to expand Dhaka-Washington ties

15 March 2022, 10:20:12

The United States await a scheduled partnership dialogue later this week, expecting it to expand “the robust” relationship with Bangladesh, coinciding with the 50th year of bilateral relations, US officials in Dhaka said.

Dhaka is set to host the 8th partnership dialogue on March 20 when US state department’s political affairs under secretary Victoria Nuland will lead a US delegation while foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen will head the Bangladesh side.

“In this 50th year of our diplomatic relations, the United States seeks to deepen a strong multi-faceted relationships built on mutual respect and shared interest,” said an US diplomat stationed here.

He made the comments at a briefing with a small group of journalists including the BSS diplomatic correspondent at the American Centre in Dhaka.

Bangladesh foreign office and US diplomats in Dhaka said issues relating to trade and investment, labour, human rights and governance, global threats including climate change, regional issues including a free and “open Indo-Pacific region” and security cooperation are to feature the dialogue.

The US officials said the US embassy in Dhaka, state department in Washington DC and Bangladesh foreign ministry were worked together to set the dialogue agenda.

“We negotiated the agenda working with our colleagues in MoFA (ministry of foreign ministry of Bangladesh) last year and in Washington (state department), so we really all are on the same page,” said another diplomat of the US mission here.

He said “we agree these are the priory (agenda) we want to focus on” and added that the two sides would discuss opportunities to expand the robust relationship expand the close ties on a range of areas of cooperation.

Asked if the US sanction against Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) could be an issue in the dialogue, the US diplomat said it would be one of the issues under the human rights agenda during the dialogue.

“(But) this is the partnership dialogue, not the sanctions dialogue . . . so that’s one thing which is really important to keep in mind,” the diplomat said.

He said the US wants to focus on “all of the other things that really bind us, we have a long history going back, we are on the eve of the fifty years of bilateral ties, we are looking forward to building strong foundation we going forward”.

The diplomat said the US side would not prioritize one issue over another at the dialogue as it is the platform to explore how Washington and Dhaka could build the partnership that already exists.

A foreign ministry official familiar with the partnership dialogue told BSS that Dhaka would raise the sanction issue at the dialogue strongly and describe elite police unit’s success in curbing terrorism and drug trafficking.

He said that Dhaka would also present evidence that the government took a number of actions against some individuals of RAB whenever it received complaints of human rights violations.

The US slapped sanctions on the Rapid Action Battalion and several senior officers of the force on December 10, 2021.

The US diplomat said his country remained as a consistent partner in Bangladesh’s success stories while this dialogue and others scheduled bilateral engagements this year would demonstrate “our willingness to remains so in the future” as well.

In October 2019, Washington also wanted Dhaka to sign two defence agreements — General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and the Acquisition Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA), which US officials say are “foundational agreements” meant to strengthen defence relationship.

Besides, in December last, Washington asked Dhaka to inform in writing the consent to the Leahy Law that governs assistance for security cooperation.

Dhaka, however, is yet to respond to the US proposals while the US officials said these issues might come up during the dialogue.

The seventh Bangladesh-US partnership dialogue was held in 2019 when the US had pledged that it would provide additional security assistance for Bangladesh to increase maritime domain awareness, piracy, and regional security coordination in the Bay of Bengal.

The two countries have drawn up 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 to mark the 50-year anniversary of bilateral ties on April 4.

Officials said the Bangladesh-US partnership dialogue was sort of “umbrella” platform while it is set to be followed by a second round high-level bilateral economic consultation and a eighth security dialogue in Washington DC in coming months.

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