Visa policy to encourage right behaviour for free, fair polls: Haas

New US ambassador Peter Haas
File photo

US ambassador in Dhaka Peter Haas on Tuesday said the new US visa policy applies to “everyone” and it is to encourage the right “behaviours” to ensure free and fair election.     

“The Idea behind the (new visa) policy is that it applies to everyone, it’s about the behaviours and it’s about encouraging the right behaviours for free and fair elections. So people who support free and fair elections have nothing to fear,” he said.

The envoy was talking to reporters after inaugurating a special photo exhibition along with state minister for foreign affairs Md Shahriar Alam tilted ‘Roots of Friendship:  50 Years of US-Bangladesh Relations in the capital’.

Last week, Washington announced its new visa policy for Bangladeshis where it said it would enable the US “to restrict the issuance of visas for any Bangladeshi individual, believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh”.

US ambassador in Dhaka Peter Haas and Md Shahriar Alam attended an exhibition tilted ‘Roots of Friendship: 50 Years of US-Bangladesh Relations in the capital’

When talking to reporters, Haas said, the US wants the same thing what Bangladesh government is committed for to hold a free and fair election.

“(Bangladesh) prime minster (Sheikh Hasina) made her commitment (to hold free, fair polls) clear and (Bangladesh) foreign minister has made the commitment and welcomed international observers to visit and watch the elections. So, I don’t see any disagreements at all,” he said.

Haas added, “We the US want what every Bangladeshi want – free and fair elections”.  

The ambassador said the US announced the new visa policy is in support of the Bangladeshi people and the prime minister Sheikh Haisna’s call for free and fair elections.  “This is one of our ways of supporting that, using our policy,” he added.

State minister for foreign affairs Md Shahriar Alam speaks at a exhibition tilted ‘Roots of Friendship: 50 Years of US-Bangladesh Relations in the capital’

When asked about the challenges in the current relations of Bangladesh and US, Haas said that he would “turn the focus (Bangladesh-US ties) on the positives rather than the challenges”. 

“The (today’s) photo exhibition is a great example historically what our partnership was then, but even currently we have a very strong partnership on trade, security relations, people to people ties, healthcare and then of course we are working through, and we are having good conversations on the upcoming elections,” said the ambassador. 

The exhibition displayed 50 historic photographs - an extended celebration of the 50th anniversary of bilateral ties between the United States and Bangladesh - represents six distinct categories. 

The “Early Contact” category features the initial seeds of friendship and collaboration between Bangladeshis and Americans—early immigrants, artists, scholars, architects, doctors, and entrepreneurs—prior to Bangladesh’s independence in 1971. 

The category “Official Visits” showcased visits and meetings of the US and Bangladeshi heads of state. 

The “Aid & Infrastructure” category covers the United States’ support for Bangladesh’s development over the decades while the “Trade & Business” category features the vibrant bilateral trade relationship.

The “Education & Science” category shows how Bangladeshi and American scientists and scholars have collaborated for decades on a wide variety of research projects and the “Culture & Diaspora” category portrays how over half a century, both countries have connected through cultural expression.