Tuesday, February 7, 2023

How Can US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu help strengthen the bilateral ties?

US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Donald Lu is coming to Bangladesh next Saturday to discuss various priority issues including energy, trade, security cooperation, religious freedom, labor rights, human rights. He will discuss strengthening bilateral ties during his visit. Besides, the issue of human rights and labor rights will be discussed.

However, there are already whispers about the (proposed) visit in the political and diplomatic arenas of Bangladesh. Diplomatic analysts feel that the US Assistant Secretary of State’s visit to Dhaka is very significant at a time when there is some discomfort in Bangladesh-US relations.

Imran Khan, the ousted prime minister of the country, blamed the recent changes in Pakistan’s politics. Imran Khan claimed that Donald Lu, is one of those involved in the conspiracy to shake the foundation of the ruling government through a vote of no confidence. Not only this, Imran Khan also claimed that Donald Lu had sent him a ‘threatening letter’ through Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Asad Majeed.

Donald Lu, who was recently named by Imran Khan as being the official who was involved in the “foreign conspiracy” to overthrow his government, evaded the question when asked about the regime change in Pakistan. Now, Donald Lu can prove himself through this visit that he isn’t the mastermind of the regime change in the region. He can prove that he has been working to strengthen the ties with the region. His goal is not regime change. Donald Lu’s role in strengthening USA-Bangladesh relations can dispel the misconception amongst the Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani people that he doesn’t play any role regarding regime change in the region.

Donald Lu will meet BD FM, minister for state and FS on January 15 separately. He may also meet the Law Minister on the same day. But he will speak separately to representatives of civil society at embassy events.

In these meetings, the human rights situation, democracy and free and fair elections, disappearances, digital security laws, labor rights, and several other agendas may be given importance by the United States. On the other hand, Bangladesh will give priority to lifting the ban on RAB, duty and quota-free access to Bangladeshi products, restoration of GSP facilities, defense, climate, Rohingya and many other issues. This US foreign official has been performing various duties for the United States for the last 30 years.

America wants a democratic system and Bangladesh also wants a democratic system. America wants to uphold human rights. Bangladesh wants too. Three million people of this country have given their blood for human rights, for justice, for democracy. They also want, they are similar to Bangladesh.

Although this is Lu’s first visit to Dhaka as head of delegation, it is not his first visit to Bangladesh. Last March, he quietly toured Bangladesh with US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland who came on the occasion of Partnership Dialogue.

We are excited about the news of the arrival of Donald Lu in Bangladesh. It is very happy that he is coming, he is quite a policy maker in this area. He is coming, we welcome him. The bilateral relations between Bangladesh and USA will further be strengthened through this visit by mutual understanding and discussion. The relations between Bangladesh and US would reach a new height.

Since the inception of diplomatic ties, bilateral relations between the two countries have come a long way, and improved to a great extent. US policy makers and diplomats have traditionally played a crucial role in giving this bonding a solid footing. The same role is now expected of Donald Lu.

As we await further developments in the RAB sanction issue, here are some expectations from a citizen’s point of view, which he will hopefully help bring to fruition to take our bilateral ties to a new height.

We expect that this visit would take the Bangladesh-USA relations a step forward and our existing relations would be more strengthened.’. if the two sides meet then the existing issues between Dhaka and Washington will be discussed at the high-level meeting, adding that many of our problems have already been solved and some other issues are set to be discussed.

For the US, Bangladesh is one of its major partners in South Asia with extensive bilateral cooperation on trade, investment, climate change, counterterrorism, and so on. After Afghanistan and Pakistan, Bangladesh is the third-largest beneficiary of the US aid in the region. The two-way trade between the two countries reached USD 9 billion in 2019. The US is the single-largest export destination for our ready-made garments (RMG), accounting for 83 percent of Bangladesh’s total exports. In 2019, the US was the top source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Bangladesh. During the Covid-19 crisis, the US has contributed over USD 8 billion in assistance to Bangladesh, including USD 73 million in support of Bangladesh’s Covid response. Also, Bangladesh has received about 61 million doses of vaccines, making it the highest recipient of US vaccine donations worldwide.

These figures are a testimony to the depth of bilateral bonding between the two countries. We expect that he will take proactive steps to create a middle ground for both parties. Also, we hope that he, in concert with the rest of the free world, will push the effort to ensure the repatriation of stranded Rohingyas in Bangladesh back to their homeland. 

It is impossible for a developing country like Bangladesh to bear this huge financial burden on its own. Here, Lu can convince the US to play the role of a catalyst to ensure regular financial flow, especially on behalf of the Western world.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh is scheduled to graduate from the Least Developed Country (LDC) group in 2026. This will limit Bangladesh’s access to many LDC-specific preferential treatments and facilities, e.g., loss of duty-free and quota-free market access (DFQF), which will have a negative impact on our exports, especially of RMG, to European and North American markets. Donald Lu may help Bangladesh in convincing the US government to ensure continuation of DFQF, even after graduation, to confront its post-graduation challenges.

Bangladesh also expects that Donald Lu will work to transform the existing bilateral relations into a strategic partnership in which Bangladesh will be considered on its own merit. Apart from economic benefits, a strategic partnership with Bangladesh can help the US to gain its strategic objectives in South Asia that go well beyond India. And the realisation of all of these aspirations will depend to a large extent on the cordial efforts of Donald Lu.

America has a very good relationship with Bangladesh now. Bangladesh has many types of engagements, multiple engagements. He (Donald Lu) will actually talk about different issues. We think, it will increase US-Bangladesh good relationship more and more. We are in that hope.

How the next elections of Bangladesh will be held, under whom – etc. issues are purely personal matters of Bangladesh. Bangladesh does not seem to be heeding the warning of the United States or the invitation of the United States in this regard. Because, Bangladesh is not in the previous position now. Bangladesh’s dependence on the United States has now reduced a lot. Rather, the United States is dependent on Bangladesh for business and trade. Bangladesh is a huge market for the US.

Bangladesh believes in peaceful coexistence in the region. US mustn’t target Bangladesh because Bangladesh is with the USA. The USA is the main export destination of Bangladeshi garments. Bangladesh also believes in the US’s free and open Indo pacific strategy. Thus, it needs both the USA, EU for ensuring the pace of the rapid economic growth. The US shouldn’t be worried about Bangladesh. Bangladesh strongly believes in friendship with all. Bangladesh is America’s main ally in South Asia. The two countries have extensive cooperation in regional and global security, counter-terrorism and climate change.

He should focus to strengthen more Bangladesh-US relations. He can take the ties to a new height as he is one on the prominent policymakers for the region.  During Donald Lu’s visit on behalf of Bangladesh, issues such as the lifting of the US ban on RAB and the restoration of GSP benefits in the US market must be raised.

Both parties can agree to intensify their efforts to forge new partnerships with regularity and renewed vigour. In this regard, both sides instructed their staff to hasten the cooperation that will benefit both parties. By exchanging ideas and points of view, misconceptions are eliminated. On how to better handle the problems that have recently generated discord in bilateral ties, formal meetings between government high officials should be continued.

US and Bangladesh both complain about new issues in their bilateral relationships every year, thus it makes sense that they would discuss these issues here. In order to establish the finest ties possible between them, the two friendly nations merely attempted to strengthen the ties by understanding mutual position. In this aspect, they are successful. The meeting MUST BE successfully wrapped up.
The entire relationship between us and Bangladesh has benefited thus far from the upcoming high-level bilateral meeting. All of these trips have advanced the friendship and bilateral cooperation between the two nations while also fostering stronger ties.

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