The US wants to make big investments in Bangladesh -- in infrastructure, energy, as well as in strengthening Bangladesh’s institutions to improve governance -- under the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS).
“We discussed how we can improve foreign direct investments and expand American business in Bangladesh and help the country develop its ambitious goals. That was a significant part of the conversation,” said US Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells.
She said this after holding separate meetings with Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal at their respective ministries.
Alice arrived in Dhaka yesterday on a three-day visit. She is also scheduled to meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, civil society members, as well as visit the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar.
“The point that I always underscored is that it’s going to be very attractive to foreign direct investors to strengthen Bangladeshi institutions, and so the free press; which has investigative journalism; the rule of law, judiciary and well-functioning civil society,” she said after meeting Abdul Momen at the foreign ministry.
These are the forces that should play their role to advance Bangladesh, she said, adding, “All of that comes together and makes Bangladesh an advanced society.”
Momen said Alice showed US interest in big investments in Bangladesh under the IPS -- a vision of the Trump administration to improve connectivity between the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. Three major components of it are economy, governance and security.
“We said we want to be partners and welcome investments in energy and infrastructure projects,” he told journalists separately at his office.
Momen sought strong support from the US in repatriation of the Rohingyas.
In response, Alice said they were the biggest donor to address the humanitarian crisis and that the US wants to engage the Asean countries in ensuring Rohingya repatriation.
Alice confirmed that the US is engaged and fully supportive of Bangladesh and stands beside Bangladesh in addressing the crisis, he added.
Regarding relocating 100,000 Rohingyas to Bhashanchar, Momen told Alice that the government won’t force them to go there, but the plan was to ensure safety as there are risks of landslides in the crowded camps in Cox’s Bazar.
Alice told Momen that the US is concerned over the education of the Rohingya children.
“We talked on how efficiently Bangladesh can run the Rohingya camps and provide education and reduce incentives for radicalisation,” Alice said.
She added that the US wants to help the host community who are facing socio-economic burdens due to the existence of some one million Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar.
Momen requested Alice to repatriate the killer of Bangabandhu, Rashed Chowdhury, who is now in the USA.
In response, Alice wanted the documents of the judgement, Momen said.
Alice also raised concerns over the Digital Security Act that could hurt the freedom of expression, specifically the freedom of the press.
In response, Momen said that it was meant to prevent social unrest that may have been caused by falsehood on social media.
“I told her that we need regulations to ensure discipline in society.”
Alice, however, told him they differ on the matter.
The US diplomat congratulated Bangladesh for the National Action Plan to combat human trafficking and signing Palermo Protocol meant to prevent it, but stressed on prosecuting the criminals.
She mentioned that cooperation between the two countries on counterterrorism has grown substantially after the Holey Artisan terrorist attack in Dhaka. The US will continue the cooperation to help detect terrorists and prevent terrorist attacks, Alice said.
She said the US looks forward to the under Bay of Bengal Initiative to expand ties of military cooperation -- both on humanitarian assistance and disaster response as well as maritime domain awareness.
The two countries are also continuing conversation on defense cooperation as Bangladesh wants to buy advanced military hardware from the US, but that requires signing two foundational deals.
The deals -- General Security of Military Information Agreement and the Acquisition Cross-Servicing Agreement -- are meant to protect information on military technology and allow the US and partner nations’ forces to procure and pay for common types of supplies and services, US officials said earlier.
“We have 14 million dollars in military assistance. We are talking with Bangladesh authorities on how best the fund can be utilised for Bangladesh’s security,” she said.