Remember what unites us, US tells Bangladesh

“There are plenty of differences in United States-Bangladesh relations, but we should remember that what unites us,” the US under secretary of state for political affairs Wendy Sherman said on Friday.

She was briefing media jointly with her counterpart Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque at the end of the two-day fourth US-Bangladesh partnership dialogue.

Sherman pointed out commonalities that include: a determination to provide children nutrition and education; a passion for expanding opportunities for women and girls; a belief in religious and ethnic diversity and tolerance; and a shared commitment to the never-ending process of perfecting our political institutions.

She, however, did not specify differences between the countries.

“Today I’m here to discuss what this dialogue represents: finding ways that two moderate, pluralistic nations can work together to advance common goals for development, trade, security, and regional integration,” she said.

“We’ve made a lot of progress on those goals, especially in development sector, where Bangladesh has made remarkable strides.

“And we’ll continue to stand with the Bangladeshi people and support that progress through President Obama’s Global Health, Feed the Future, and Global Climate Change initiatives.

“We support Bangladesh’s goal of becoming a middle-income country by 2021 – and we are actively partnering with Bangladesh and investing our resources to make it a reality”.

The US-Bangladesh relations have been perceived as patchy particularly after last year’s general elections on Jan 5 that the US did not find credible.

Washington even criticised the Apr 28 city elections. The under secretary in the partnership dialogue reiterated that those irregularities must be investigated for future “highly improved” elections.

The US is also vocal against Bangladesh’s human rights situation, particularly extra-judicial killings.

Though Bangladesh maintains zero tolerance policy to all forms of extremism and terrorism, it did not respond to US’s call to join Washington-led forces against IS militant.

The under secretary, however, said US-Bangladesh “broad and deep” relations had not only benefitted its people, but also the global community.

“We have a great deal that unites us. We are working on very closely in strengthening bilateral relationship,” she said.

“We are working closely in the region to deal with everything from disaster preparedness to issues of connectivity and intra-regional trade. And we are working globally together.”

“Of course there are areas that need improvements. We are very forthright about areas of increased improvements,” she said, those had been discussed “very directly” in the dialogue.

She also applauded Bangladesh’s efforts to play the “role of a catalyst” in the region, through recent agreements to increase trade and connectivity with its neighbours.

“We think Bangladesh really has near-unlimited potential to transform both itself and its region, and we are excited to be your strong partner in reaching that potential,” she said.

“We are eager to work with you to help raise incomes and livelihoods in Bangladesh by connecting the growing economies of South and Southeast Asia.”

“We’re also increasing our security cooperation,” she said.

The second US naval ship, coast guard cutter, would be delivered on May 6 in California, and the US would also give Bangladesh two island-class patrol boats to Bangladesh coast guard, she said.

As by far the largest contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, she said, Bangladesh is already a force for global peace and stability.

“And with its improving naval capabilities, Bangladesh will become a key maritime security provider in the Bay of Bengal.”

She said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had been “an outspoken champion” of empowering women and girls.

“We share the view that a country’s true strength is determined by how well it incorporates its entire population.”

The under secretary also thanked Bangladesh for sending aid and medical teams to quake-devastated Nepal, and noted Bangladesh’s “impressive strides” in disaster management preparedness in order to respond to such events.

Source: Bd news24


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