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US wants Bangladesh to join Indo-Pacific Strategy

Dhaka Tribune | 11 January 2023

US wants Bangladesh to join Indo-Pacific Strategy

by Sheikh Shahariar Zaman

The United States wants Bangladesh to be part of the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS), a White House brainchild aimed at strengthening its long-term position in and commitment to the region.

This US-led partnership covers a region which is home to more than half of the world’s people, nearly two-thirds of the world’s economy, and seven of the world’s largest militaries.

During her meetings with high officials in Dhaka, Rear Admiral Eileen Lubacher, a senior director for South Asia of the US National Security Council, conveyed a message from the Biden administration to Bangladesh that the US would not neglect the smaller countries in the region, stretching from its Pacific coastline to the Indian Ocean.

Lubacher discussed the matter with Prime Minister’s Security Adviser Major General (Retd) Tariq Ahmed Siddique and Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen and also visited the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar. She left Dhaka on Tuesday after a four-day visit.

About Dhaka’s response in this regard, a top official of the Foreign Ministry said the position of Bangladesh on joining the IPS was being worked on because Bangladesh is interested in working on any economic issue.

The IPS was established in early 2022 to partner with like-minded countries in the region, facing mounting challenges, particularly from China.

It is a partnership that will promote and facilitate high-standards in trade, govern the digital economy, improve supply-chain resiliency and security, catalyze investment in transparent, high-standards infrastructure, and build digital connectivity, according to White House documents.

Apart from the IPS, the US has also been persuading Bangladesh to join in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, commonly known as the “Quad”, and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). On the other hand, Beijing has alerted Dhaka about the possible consequences of joining the US-led anti-China coalitions.

Foreign Minister Dr AK Momen recently said the government was assessing the pros and cons of the IPEF, while noting that handling Washington and Beijing at the same time is a challenging task.

Rohingya problem

At the meetings with Lubacher, Dhaka requested Washington to exert more pressure on Myanmar to repatriate the Rohingyas.

After the influx in 2017, not a single Rohingya has been sent back. Even though many efforts have already been made, Bangladesh has not been able to advance far due to Myanmar’s reluctance to act on the issue.

The Foreign Ministry official said the US had already recognized the Rohingya genocide that took place in 2017. Now Bangladesh wants the US to play an effective role in expediting the repatriation process.

Stability in the region is very much dependent on solving the Rohingya crisis, and Dhaka has requested Washington to understand this issue.

Security cooperation

Bangladesh is facing various security risks, including human trafficking, drug smuggling and illegal fishing in the sea. Apart from these issues, the issue of US cooperation was also discussed between the two sides during the visit of Lubacher.

Dhaka also raised the issue of the Rohingyas being subjected to human trafficking by sea and getting involved in various types of drug smuggling.

The US can help with training or various security equipment to combat drug smuggling and provide ships to prevent illegal immigration by sea. Earlier, the US had given several fast-moving Shark speedboats to Bangladesh.

There will be more security related talks during the visit of Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu, who is touring India and Bangladesh on January 12-15, for meetings on a range of priorities.

While in Bangladesh, Assistant Secretary Lu will meet with senior Bangladeshi officials and civil society leaders to discuss strengthening Dhaka-Washington bilateral relations, expanding economic engagement and hear their perspectives on labor and human rights.

 source: Dhaka Tribune