Sanctions on RAB, visa policy affected relations with the US: Foreign minister

Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud addresses an event

The US visa policy for the citizens of Bangladesh and sanctions on Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) officials have affected the relations between Dhaka and Washington, thinks foreign minister Hasan Mahmud.

He said the issues will be discussed during the visit of US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu.

The foreign minister on Monday made the remarks while responding to a question of a newsperson on the upcoming visit of Donald Lu in Bangladesh.

Asked about the thorny issues in the bilateral relations of the two countries, Hasan Mahmud, also joint general secretary of governing Bangladesh Awami League said relations between Bangladesh and the US are very sound. When Sheikh Hasina was elected Prime Minister for the fourth straight term, the US President wrote a letter to her expressing his interest to advance the relations to a new height. Dhaka will work together with whoever visits here from the US administration. There are economic relations and we have cooperation in many sectors.

Speaking about the sanctions on RAB officials and the visa policy, the foreign minister said, “We will discuss US Visa policy and sanctions on RAB officials. We have already discussed the matter of withdrawing or relaxing those when US White House and state department officials visited here earlier … so these issues will come up naturally (this time). Both the countries are working to advance the relations” he said.

The US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Donald Lu, is scheduled to arrive on a two-day visit in Dhaka Tuesday.

On the second day of his visit, Lu will hold a bilateral meeting with foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen. Later, he will pay a courtesy call on foreign minister Hasan Mahmud, and prime minister’s private industry and investment advisor Salman F Rahman.

Replying to a question on Rohingya repatriation, the foreign minister said Dhaka wants to begin Rohingya repatriation as Myanmar’s internal conflict cannot be an excuse for delaying the repatriation process.

However, he said it is true that the current situation in Arakan creates a barrier to repatriation to some extent, but conflict is always there in Myanmar.

“We are always in engagement with Myanmar. We want to see the commencement of repatriation at least. I made the same urge to the Myanmar foreign minister at a meeting during his Uganda visit. The minister expressed his goodwill in this regard,” he added.

When asked about key opposition BNP’s politics over the call for boycotting Indian products, Hasan Mahmud said this call of the BNP has stumbled. The country that shares a border of several thousand kilometres with Bangladesh, our development is never possible without maintaining good relations with that country. It is also not possible either to maintain peace and stability.