Bangladesh and the US have discussed how the North American country can support Bangladeshi implementation of commitments to improve labour rights protections and further economic cooperation between the two countries. On Thursday, Prime Minister's Adviser for Private Industry and Investment Salman F Rahman and US Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose W Fernandez led the Bangladesh and US delegations at the inaugural meeting of the US-Bangladesh Labor Working Group. During the meeting, the two sides discussed collaboration and assistance to Bangladesh as it takes further steps to implement the requirements developed by Bangladesh for its International Labor Organization roadmap and adhere to internationally recognised labour rights, according to the office of the Spokesperson of the US Department of State. Read: Dhaka-Washington: A thaw in the offing?
While the political chessboard sets itself at home ahead of the run-up to the next elections - for which a fortnight’s window spanning the last week of 2023 and the first of 2024 has now officially been disclosed by the Election Commission - Sheikh Hasina’s government seems to smell more fertile ground overseas to get some points on the board. Of course September always has the flavour of international relations about it, given its permanent slot for UNGA Week. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina spent barely a week in the country between returning from the extreme scrutiny of a bilateral summit in India to jetting off again for New York City (via farewell to Queen Elizabeth) for the annual meet of the international family of nations. Even so, it proved a busy, as well as telling, even fruitful period for the premier. Read:Buckingham Palace calling: King Charles thanks PM Hasina, wishes Bangladeshis well Although ostensibly this visit will be to the UN, the reality is lost on no one that this will be the first time Prime Minister Hasina will be setting foot in the US since an apparent strain in ties caused by the Biden Administration’s sanctions imposed against RAB and seven of its current and former top officials, including the current chief of police, Benazir Ahmed, last December 10 - International Human Rights Day. Even IGP Benazir’s recent visit, thanks to a UN invite for which the US allows certain exemptions to its own policies, drew great interest among Bangladeshis both at home and abroad. By and large it passed without incident. The Hasina visit is shaping up to be more significant. This was evidenced by US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas seeking out an audience with the premier during her short stay in Dhaka. When an American envoy moves with such urgency, you can safely conclude something concrete is afoot. Interestingly, the US embassy’s statement following the meeting had no mention, not even as afterthought, of ‘human rights’ - on which the two sides haven’t seen eye-to-eye since President Biden took the reins in Washington. Rather, it spoke in glowing terms of ‘shared achievements over the 50 years of positive bilateral relations’ and setting the stage for the next fifty. Read: Your democracy is for you to develop: Doraiswami The range of issues discussed at the meeting included cooperation in economic development, security, climate change, Rohingya refugee assistance, and COVID-19, according to Ambassador Haas himself. While on the one hand there was the reiteration of US cooperation, particularly its remarkable contribution of vaccines (88 million doses) to Bangladesh during the pandemic, on the other there was acknowledgement of Bangladesh’s own achievements, including “remarkable economic progress, its leadership on climate change, its generosity in sheltering Rohingya refugees, and its tremendous contribution to global peacekeeping operations.” The clincher came with the announcement of a “ministerial-level special session” of the two countries, along with other stakeholders, to be held on the sidelines of the UNGA. Word in the diplomatic quarter of Dhaka was that it was all about the signing of two preliminary defence deals - pretty basic ones that only set the grounds for defence purchases from American manufacturers. But reading the tea leaves, you couldn’t help but feel a more significant breakthrough might be in the offing. Read UNGA lauds Bangladesh’s leadership in promoting culture of peace
Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen on Sunday said Bangladesh has high expectations from the Biden Administration in terms of building a “comprehensive partnership” as the two countries want to do more to take the relations to the next level. “This is what we’ve told our US colleagues today. Bangladesh will remain keen in this regard, with the view to work closely with the US in our journey together towards peace and prosperity,” he told reporters at a joint briefing at state guesthouse Padma after the 8th Partnership Dialogue between the two countries. US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, who led the US side, said they have already a “very strong” 50 years of partnership and the two countries can do even more together. Also read: Partnership Dialogue: US calls sanctions on Rab a complicated issue She said they can do more in the area of growing business and trade, in terms of technology infrastructure, resilience of two economies, in the area of security. Nuland said they are really pleased to be back in town to “energize and deepen” their already very strong partnership and termed Sunday’s discussion just the “appetizer” on a “very big feast” that we are going to have this year with a number of engagements. Masud said this year’s Partnership Dialogue is especially significant for two reasons - firstly, the two countries will be soon celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. And secondly, he said, the COVID-19 pandemic barred them from holding the regular dialogue mechanisms in the last two years. The foreign secretary said Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen will be holding a bilateral meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on April 4 in Washington.
Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, the third-ranked official at the US Department of State, arrived here on Saturday afternoon to attend “Partnership Dialogue” with Bangladesh set for Sunday. Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen who will lead the Bangladesh delegation at the 8th dialogue, welcomed Victoria Nuland at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 05:10pm, said an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Nuland will meet Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen during her visit. She is here as part of her tri-nation visit to South Asia as she will be visiting India and Sri Lanka where she sees US' partnerships are vital to strengthening peace, prosperity, and security throughout the Indo-Pacific region. Also read: US Under Secretary Nuland due Saturday to deepen ties with Bangladesh During her March 19-23 visit to Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka with an interagency delegation, Nuland will underscore U.S. commitment to, and cooperation with, Indo-Pacific partners, according to the US Department of State.
Bangladesh and the United States plan to hold the next round of “partnership dialogue” in March as the two sides seek to have a “deeper engagement” on core issues of mutual interest, officials say. Both sides are now in discussions to find a convenient date in the third week of March for the 8th Bangladesh-US partnership dialogue, an official told UNB on Sunday. Issues related to cooperation on development, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, governance, particularly human rights, security, counterterrorism; and cooperation on Covid-19 front are likely to be reviewed and discussed in the partnership dialogue. Also read: Bangladesh an important security partner, says US Once the date is finalised, US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Ambassador Victoria Nuland will arrive here to co-chair the partnership dialogue with Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen, said a diplomatic source. Ambassador Victoria Nuland was sworn-in as Under Secretary for Political Affairs in April 2021. Prior to that, she was Senior Counselor at the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategic advisory and commercial diplomacy firm based in Washington, DC. US Ambassador-designate to Bangladesh Peter D. Haas is likely to arrive here next month prior to the partnership dialogue, said an official. Also read: Don’t believe wholesale sanctions on Bangladesh warranted: Congressman Meeks In the last partnership dialogue held on June 10, 2019 in Washington D.C., the two countries discussed issues regarding freedom of expression and assembly; protection of human rights and combating trafficking in persons. The two governments in the last partnership dialogue also agreed to continue to “cooperate closely” to advance a shared vision of a “free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and secure” Indo-Pacific region.
Bangladesh and the USA are likely to have a senior level conversation regarding sharing information on telecommunications security as they move towards further expanding 4G connectivity and developing 5G networks and services.