US reiterates expectations for free and fair polls in Bangladesh

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen (R) shakes hand with the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland after holding the 9th Partnership Dialogue at the State Department in Washington DC on 3 May 2023
Twitter handle Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangladesh

The US has once again reiterated the importance of free and fair elections, and the country’s commitment to promoting human rights, labour rights, and freedom of expression in Bangladesh.

This stance of the US was reflected in the ninth US-Bangladesh Partnership Dialogue held in Washington, DC on 3 May. Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen and US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland led their respective delegations in the dialogue.

Following the dialogue, in a tweet, Victoria Nuland said, “As we deepen US-Bangladesh ties, I met @BDMOFA Foreign Secretary Momen and reiterated the U.S. commitment to promoting human rights and democratic values, including free and fair elections. We thank Bangladesh for its generosity in hosting Rohingya refugees.”

Bangladesh on 24 April announced the Indo-Pacific Outlook emphasising that security is the precondition for the sake of economic development. Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen highlighted to Victoria Nuland the recently published Indo-Pacific Outlook of Bangladesh in the partnership dialogue.

Regarding this, the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs ambassador Nuland noted number of areas of convergence between the two countries respective Indo-Pacific documents.

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The 9th partnership dialogue took place on Wednesday morning (local time), said a media release of the foreign ministry of Bangladesh.

This was the first time Dhaka formally spoke to Washington regarding the Indo-Pacific Outlook. And, the US’ stance became somewhat clear through Victoria Nuland’s remarks that the stances are similar on several issues.

Several countries were interested to know about Bangladesh’s position regarding the gradually unfolding geopolitical issues centring the Indo-Pacific region for the last few years. Bangladesh published the 15-point Indo-Pacific Outlook just before the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Japan. The 15-point Outlook basically put emphasis on security for the sake of economic development. At the same time it clarified about not to tilt towards any side in the geopolitical contention between the US and China. However, it was decided during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Japan visit on 15-18 April that the bilateral relations between the two countries will be elevated to a “Strategic Partnership” from the existing “Comprehensive Partnership”.

The foreign ministry’s media release said Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen shared the outline of Bangladesh’s recently released Indo-Pacific Outlook. He also briefed Nuland about various measures taken by the Election Commission to pave way for free and fair elections at both local and national level. The US side appreciated the Bangladesh Prime Minister’s commitment on free and fair elections as well as openness to engage international election monitors.

The Bangladesh foreign secretary shared some of the positive developments on Bangladesh’s recent human rights performance. He reiterated the call for lifting the sanctions on RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) and extraditing Rashed Chowdhury, the self-confessed killer of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

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Victoria Nuland acknowledged the Bangladesh government’s announcement to review the Digital Security Act by this year. She also emphasised the importance of continuing progress with the labour sector reform in order for attracting enhanced investment from the US.

Both sides expressed satisfaction at the growing and vibrant business cooperation in a number of critical sectors. They agreed to continue working further on cybersecurity and data protection to enhance business engagements by the US tech giants in Bangladesh.

Ambassador Nuland appreciated Bangladesh’s remarkable generosity in hosting the Rohingyas from Myanmar and assured the US’ continued humanitarian support.

Foreign Secretary Momen briefed her about the latest situation of the funding for Rohingya response as well as the renewed pilot scheme for repatriating a limited number of Rohingyas to Myanmar. Both sides agreed to further scale up the resettlement programme for some of the most vulnerable Rohingyas.

The two sides also exchanged their views on the climate change related issues and discussed areas of cooperation in this regard.

* The report has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza