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US deputy secretary of state Stephen E Biegun reached Dhaka on Wednesday to discuss Bangladesh-US cooperation on COVID-19 response, recovery efforts and sustainable economic development, reports news agency UNB.

Foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen received Biegun upon his arrival at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport from New Delhi, India after wrapping up his three-day visit there.

US ambassador to Bangladesh Earl Miller was also present there, an official said.

Biegun is scheduled to hold a meeting with state minister for foreign affairs M Shahriar Alam at a hotel in the capital this evening.

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The state minister will also host a dinner in honour of the US deputy secretary of state.

Biegun will meet foreign minister AK Abdul Momen on Thursday morning and discuss issues of mutual interest and issues related to Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS), a senior official told the news agency.

He is scheduled to meet prime minister Sheikh Hasina at her Gonobhaban residence at 12:00pm on Thursday.

Rohingya is not a lone responsibility of Bangladesh but a global responsibility and Bangladesh will raise it

During discussion with the Bangladesh side, Biegun will reaffirm the Bangladesh-US partnership.

The deputy secretary’s engagements in Bangladesh will focus on “advancing the common vision of a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and secure Indo-Pacific region” with shared prosperity for all, according to the Office of the Spokesperson at the US Department of State.

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Biegun met Indian external affairs minister S Jaishankar and foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Monday.

Bangladesh’s Priority

Bangladesh will raise the Rohingya issue and seek stronger global support, especially from the United States, for the quick repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar.

“It’s a global responsibility. Rohingyas must go back to Myanmar,” said foreign minister AK Abdul Momen.

He said Rohingya is not a lone responsibility of Bangladesh but a global responsibility and Bangladesh will raise it.

Momen also said Bangladesh is not interested in humanitarian assistance. “It’s one part but not the main part. Rohingyas must go back to Myanmar. That’s the main part for us.”

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Repatriation attempts were failed twice in November 2018 and August 2019 amid Rohingyas’ “lack of trust” in the Myanmar government.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed the repatriation deal on 23 November 2017.

On 16 January 2018, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a document on “Physical Arrangement”, which was supposed to facilitate the return of Rohingyas to their homeland.

IPS and Bangladesh

On Monday, Momen said the US side will talk about Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) and Bangladesh does not have any problem.

Bangladesh will also seek investment in infrastructure development and visa issues during the visit, he said.

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Bangladeshi students are not getting the US visa whereas India is giving. “This is discriminatory,” Momen said.

“We’ll tell them that they should come forward with investment in infrastructure development if they want the effectiveness of the initiative,” said the foreign minister adding that only talks will not work.

If they really want to help Bangladesh, Momen said, they can help Bangladesh’s garments sector by withdrawing tariffs for three years.

On defence aspects of the IPS, the foreign minister said they want to sell equipment but Bangladesh is very reluctant about that end as Bangladesh is a friendly country.

Deputy secretary Biegun is expected wrap up his tour to Bangladesh on 16 October.