'This could push Dhaka into the arms of Beijing'

Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director and Senior Associate for South Asia at Woodrow `for Scholars.
Wilson Center website

The recent sanctions imposed by the US Treasury and by the US State Department against RAB and some senior officials of the force have created a stir within Bangladesh and outside too.

Why have these sanctions been imposed at this particular time and what are the ramifications involved? Do these send a clear signal to Bangladesh about US displeasure and of possibly more severe actions to follow?

Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director and Senior Associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, comments on the issue:

“This decision suggests Washington's patience has run out with Bangladesh, and that it will no longer ignore its worsening human rights record. It's a major reputational blow for Dhaka, not just because a key security force was sanctioned, but because it now finds itself in the company of China, North Korea, and Myanmar--the other country whose individuals and entities were sanctioned by Treasury. That's not good company to be in."

“It's a decision that will certainly prompt allegations of selectivity and hypocrisy, given that security forces in Pakistan and India have also committed major human rights abuses."

“Ultimately, this suggests to me that Washington has concluded that its interests no longer require it to hold back from sanctioning Bangladesh, and taking punitive steps more broadly. That's not a good sign for US-Bangladesh relations."

“The decision could backfire for US interests, though. If the Biden administration opts for less engagement with Bangladesh and takes a more hostile position, this could push Dhaka into the arms of Beijing, which has already been deepening its influence in Bangladesh through infrastructure investments.”