Donald Lu to arrive in Dhaka today
Bangladesh will request not to impose fresh sanctions
Bangladesh is considering to request the US not to impose any fresh sanctions during the Dhaka visit of US assistant secretary of state for the bureau of south and central Asian affairs Donald Lu, diplomatic sources have said.
The US has imposed sanctions on RAB and its officials on charges of gross human rights violations in 2021. Despite making various efforts at different levels, the sanctions still remain effective, which is uncomfortable for Bangladesh.
Donald Lu is scheduled to arrive in Dhaka on Saturday evening on a two-day visit after ending his visit to India.
He would exchange views with foreign minister AK Abdul Momen and foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen on Sunday.
Donald Lu may meet state minister for foreign affairs Md Shahriar Alam at an event. Alongside the meeting with government officials, he will hold meetings with civil society members.
Foreign ministry officials said various aspects of bilateral relations may come up for discussion during the visit of Donald Lu. Bangladesh and the US may place issues of their respective priorities and concerns.
The officials also said Bangladesh may table the issues including withdrawal of sanctions on RAB, resuming GSP facilities of Bangladeshi products into the US market, increasing US investment in the special economic zone, various steps of the government for ensuring labour and human rights, various steps for ensuring free, fair and neutral elections, ensuring the security of the diplomats as per the Vienna Convention and the US assistance for resolving Rohingya crisis.
But after more than one year, we notice Bangladesh is focusing more on sanctions. Some sort of apprehension is working. It should be kept in mind that it would be easier for sustainable relations if the issues of US concerns are viewed from the global perspective instead of local perspective
On the contrary, the US may place different issues including signing of Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS), Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA), General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), elections and democracy during the meeting. They may also point out their differences in opinions about the Digital Security Act (DSA) and proposed Data Protection Act.
About the issue of withdrawing the US sanctions on RAB, senior officials said Bangladesh placed the issue during the meeting with US National Security Council's senior director for South Asia Rear Admiral Eileen Laubacher on 9 January.
Bangladesh's special force has been successful in tackling militancy and terrorism. There may be lapses in the operations of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). But sanctions like this discourage the activities of other forces and agencies. Moreover, it creates a crisis of the overall image of the country.
Although not directly on the part of Bangladesh, cooperation was sought from the US not to take such punitive measures from the Washington in the days to come.
Speaking to Prothom Alo foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen said, "Some positive results have been garnered from different levels of discussions with the US and trips. We have a move to bring solutions in the areas we have problems. We will also place the issues this time."
"Besides, the issues of resuming GSP facilities of Bangladeshi products into the US market, increasing trade and commerce, working on labour issues together may come up for discussion. We will also place the unsettled issues including extradition of self-confessed killer of Bangabandhu and death row convict Rashed Chowdhury," the foreign secretary added.
In a recent letter to the mission chiefs, the foreign secretary gave directives to remain on high alert about the new sanctions. It was also mentioned in the letter that necessary steps have to be taken for prevention if there is any possibility of imposing sanctions.
About the possible issues of discussion with Donald Lu, the foreign secretary said, "Our duty is to resolve these issues (sanctions). So alongside the withdrawal of earlier sanctions, issues may be raised so that there are no new sanctions in future."
Bangladeshi diplomats are observing the visits of Rear Admiral Eileen Laubacher and Donald Lu from the perspective of overall relations. There were some sorts of concerns about the impositions of new sanctions in the last year. However, there was no such situation. Bangladesh is trying to improve relations. Efforts are on to remove the differences of opinions and concerns of the US.
About the Dhaka-Washington relations, Bangladesh former ambassador to US and research organisation Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI) president M Humayun Kabir on Friday said, "Relations with the US is multifarious. So instead of being stuck in one special area, it is expected to focus on multiple relations including good governance, security and strategic relations."
"But after more than one year, we notice Bangladesh is focusing more on sanctions. Some sort of apprehension is working. It should be kept in mind that it would be easier for sustainable relations if the issues of US concerns are viewed from the global perspective instead of local perspective," he added.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.