US should engage with Bangladesh directly: FS

Diplomatic Correspondent | Published at 11:56pm on January 26, 2021

Foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen on Tuesday said that the government expected that the United States would engage with Bangladesh directly rather than through any ‘particular prism’.

‘This is important for Bangladesh to prioritise economic cooperation and to distance itself from any geo-strategic or security alliance,’ he said at a virtual discussion, organised by the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute.

Mentioning Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Indo-Pacific Strategy of the US, Masud said that Bangladesh might face a delicate position to maintain a balance between the two global powers as the fundamental principle of the Bangladesh foreign policy is to remain non-aligned.

Both BRI and IPS could, however, create opportunities to strengthen socio-economic development through enhancing connectivity and transport infrastructure of all countries in the Asia-Pacific region in an inclusive and collaborative manner, he said.

Masud also noted that Bangladesh is engaged in other regional connectivity initiatives like the BBIN, Big-B initiative with Japan and the BIMSTEC master-plan for transport connectivity.

US ambassador Earl Miller said that the new US administration would put emphasis on strengthening democratic institutions and shared democratic values with engagements of civil society, media and labour and youth groups.

In his statement, foreign minister AK Abdul Momen sought US support to ensure sustainable repatriation of the forcibly displaced Rohingyas back to Myanmar.

Centre for Policy Dialogue chairman Rehman Sobhan stressed the need for the US’s reassessment of its strategies on engagements with Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is no longer a foreign-aid dependent country as only two to three per cent of the country’s development budget now comes from aid, he said. 

Bangladesh Enterprise Institute president Humayun Kabir moderated the discussion.

Prime minister’s private investment affairs adviser Salman F Rahman, former foreign secretary Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, Bangladesh ambassador to the US M Shahdul Islam and Bangladesh Enterprise Institute distinguished fellow Farooq Sobhan also spoke.