Zahid F Sarder Saddi:

“Tomorrow the sun will rise on a deeper friendship between America and Bangladesh…I am proud of the kind of partnership we are forging”.

- President Bill Clinton on his visit to Bangladesh .

Fourteen years after the US President‘s first visit to Bangladesh, his illustrious wife Secretary of State Hilary Clinton signed the Bangladesh–US Partnership Dialogue Agreement in 2012. This heralded a new beginning in bilateral relations between Bangladesh and the United States. The two countries affirmed their ―dedication to deepening dialogue in security cooperation, including combating terrorism, violent extremism, and transnational crime, such as narcotics trafficking, piracy and trafficking in persons and arms.‖1 Despite rhetoric and inspirational words, the signing of the Agreements reflected U.S. renewed attraction in Bangladesh that is located at the northern extreme of the Bay of Bengal, part of Indian Ocean, in the evolving strategic dynamics between India and China.

This attraction is accentuated by Bangladesh‘s productive capacity, energy prospects, and regional connectivity and trade routes to China and India. Indeed, China‘s rise, often neglected as a factor in US South Asia policy, has assumed new significance to U.S. security ‗rebalance strategy‘ to Asia as a whole2. This strategy also envisions ―Indo-Pacific Corridor‖ connecting India, Bangladesh and Myanmar to the major markets of Southeast Asia and beyond. Simultaneously, the rise of an assertive India requires a moderating role by the United States so that less powerful states of the region are able to safeguard their legitimate national interests, and remain stable.

It is in this context, this paper provides for a pragmatic policy framework and ‗forward-deployment‘ diplomacy to ward off Bangladesh‘s security threats arising especially from the Bay of Bengal. It examines why and how the United States has stepped up its security assistance –towards strengthening Bangladesh‘s naval capability in the sea in terms of operations, defense requirements, and providing logistics and equipment's as part of its broader re-engagement in the Asia Pacific region. The paper highlights how U.S. Pacific Command in particular works closely with Bangladesh Navy especially Coast Guard to expand and improve their maritime security capabilities, and act as a ―strong partner‖ to enhance regional security, and ―committed to improving counterterrorism capability‖.

Changing perceptions and interests

To explain and analyze forty two years of Bangladesh-U.S. relations, two key concepts are used in this paper. These are: ―asymmetry‖ and ―complexity of relations‖. An important implication of ‗asymmetry‘ is the increased complexity of the game that is likely to induce dynamics that are absent in symmetric settings. In his famous book “The Paradox of American Power” Harvard Professor Joseph Nye ten years ago stated so aptly ―… a nation never had so much power as wielded by the U.S., and yet at the same time a nation has never been so interdependent with the rest of the world‖3. No doubt, the U.S. used to bestride the globe like a colossus –dominating business, commerce communications, and economy with military might second to none. But it is also agonizing to witness how this most powerful nation had to undergo enormous geopolitical changes and challenges over a decade.

Americans today debate possible impact of interventions, withdrawals, and economic recovery. US power, its influence, its reach are now shaky, and perspectives on the application of US power are hotly contested4. Not surprisingly, therefore, the US follows the strategy of complexity of relations by crafting such terms as partnership, strategic partnership, or partnership dialogue etc. in a multi-centric power structure having ‗contested leadership‘ engaged with ‗emerging powers‘, like China, India and Japan in Asian context. In this type of complexity of relations, U.S. loses some freedom of action- but gains more by turning other countries into ―predictable and cooperative partners‖ – critical to US future success.

It is unique that despite huge asymmetry in power and capability Bangladesh-U.S. relations exemplify a successful model of mutual cooperation. These relations evolved over the past years in response to changing regional and global events, as well as motivations and perception of state actors and people. Bangladesh‘s interests and perceptions for expanding relations with US were shaped by some historical events, key security threats, political aspirations, and drive for economic growth.

Historically, US secured a close identity in Bangladesh‘s foreign policy since the days of Pakistan era. Hussein Shahid Suhrawardy, the great Bengali leader, fifth Prime Minister of Pakistan, was probably the staunchest advocate of friendship with the United States. Ironically, Bangladesh independence movement coincided with the timing of US‘s historical opening up with China through Pakistan- a key US ally at that time. Despite Nixon administration‘s ―tilt‖ towards Pakistan, there was widespread sympathy and support from the American people and the US Congress for Bangladesh5.

After the liberation of Bangladesh in December 1971, the United States formally recognized the newly independent country in April 1972 and pledged US$300 million in aid. After the 1975, changeover, successive governments of President Ziaur Rahman  forged closed relations with the US. After the restoration of democracy in 1991, under the leadership of Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia, relations evolved from aid dependency to partnerships in trade and security. In the aftermath of 9/11, the relationship between the two countries became closer -US working with Prime Minister Khaleda Zia in combating Islamic extremism and terrorism and was providing hundreds of millions of dollars every year in economic assistance. The United States has also assisted Bangladesh during cyclone relief operations. US Marines actively joined Bangladeshi troops in providing relief to thousands of people who suffered as a result of the 1991 Bangladesh Cyclone and Cyclone Sidr in 2007. The people of Bangladesh by and large maintained a very favorable view of US with more than 53% percent approval rate6.






Conversely, US perception of Bangladesh has become increasingly positive and inspirational over the years transiting from a poor, developing, authoritarian, military-dominated ‗fragile state‘ to a moderate, aspiring democracy with huge economic potential and strategic significance. As Wendy R. Sherman, US Under Secretary for Political Affairs in her recent visit to Dhaka has so aptly stated “The U.S.-Bangladesh Partnership Dialogue speaks volumes for how much we value our shared vision and how bright a future we see for our bilateral relations.

This partnership is deeply rooted in our shared democratic values, our strong economic ties, our mutual security concerns, and our broad and deep people-to-people connections‖7 The U.S. understands the potential of Bangladesh as the seventh largest populous Muslim majority country in the world; secondly, the U.S. sees the country emerging as the next “Tiger in Asia” provided it remains politically stable; and also the US values Bangladesh for its geo-political importance. Bangladesh is the bridgehead between South and Southeast Asia with a close border to China and a littoral state of Indian Ocean with two seaports of high potential at Mongla and Chittagong.

That the United States is attaching increasing importance to her relationship with Bangladesh has been illustrated by a flurry of visits by U.S. dignitaries to Dhaka in the 1991 and 2013. They included U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert O. Blake, Jr., Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy R. Sherman and Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew J.Shapiro. All this was followed by the visit of the highest U.S. defense official, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, between July 13 and 15. Cooperation between the navies of the two countries began with discussions at length. The series of inter-state contacts climaxed with the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signing up to Bangladesh-US Partnership Dialogue Agreement. This dialogue transcended bilateralism and Bangladesh has been officially taken on in a U.S. South Asian security loop.

Why US Matters: Trade and Investment

From economic point of view and as a development partner, the US plays a pivotal role. Today, the United States is one of the biggest trade partners of the country. The United States is also one of largest development partners, providing $6 billion dollars since 1972. US bilateral trade now stands at 5.4 billion from 4.3 billion in 2010 and 4.8 billion in 2012. In the past three years the two-way bilateral trade grew 11 percent a year on the average with balance of trade in Bangladesh’s favor.9 The USA is one of the largest export markets for Bangladesh consisting of basically five products i.e. knitwear, woven garments, home textiles, shrimp and fish, and headgear which account for 98 per cent.

The U.S. Ambassador in Bangladesh Dan Mozena has been consistently upbeat in his remarks about Bangladesh which is emerging as an economically vibrant country where business people have been innovative and imaginative in pushing the economic growth consistently above 6% through decades.

Today, 60% of Bangladesh‘s economy is connected with the global economy. It is also a good market for US products as the number of middle class people with disposable incomes is rising. Bangladesh could be an integral part of the New Silk Road envisioned by the US that will connect Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and China.

Two major areas can be discerned in understanding US interests and policies towards Bangladesh: one may be called strategic and economic interests on ‗hard issues‘ like security, trade and commerce, and the other political on ‗soft issues‘ that includes human rights, governance especially corruption, political violence, religious extremism, and continuing conflict on modalities of democratic transition. As a partner in development and strategic ally, the above-mentioned destabilizing factors come seriously on the ―rudder‖ of US foreign policy and security agencies and actors. The United States has been one of Bangladesh‗s largest foreign investors over the past five years. During that period, U.S. companies have invested a total of US$522 million, representing about 13% of the country‗s total stock of foreign direct investment (FDI). However, the U.S. share of FDI in Bangladesh witnesses a declining trend since 2006.11

U.S. investments in Bangladesh have focused mainly on the energy and power sectors (79%), the financial sector (insurance, banks, and varied services), along with some in manufacturing. By far, the largest and most important U.S. investor in Bangladesh is Chevron, which has operated three gas fields—Bibiyana, Molvibazar, and Jalalabad—in the Sylhet region for a number of years. Chevron‗s development of gas fields has increased steadily, and the company now supplies approximately 50% of Bangladesh gas12. Another US company Conoco-Philips is also in the process of being engaged in gas exploration in the Bay. But bureaucratic inefficiency, lack of effective decision-making and overall political uncertainty inhibit desirable level of U.S. investment in Bangladesh.

U.S. economic/commercial relations have reached ―a critical point‖ over workers‘ rights and safety standards in factories. The USA suspended the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) facility to Bangladesh into the US market following series of accidents especially the Rana Plaza collapse that left at least 1,150 workers dead in June this year. Another issue which is not related to GSP is the US‘s long time interest in signing a broad framework agreement for dealing with bilateral trade and investment. The United States was also urging Bangladesh governments in the past five years to conclude a Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement (TICFA) that it believed would create a sound structure for regular high-level economic dialogue and facilitate greater trade and investment opportunities. The myopic Awami League government is still vacillating and the Agreement is yet to be signed by the two parties.

Security Cooperation in the Bay

The dynamics of geo-politics drive partnerships in security and economics. No wonder, US-Bangladesh bilateral security cooperation is driven by the perceived convergence of geopolitical interests and economic benefits. The Bay of Bengal, the largest bay in the world forms the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean. It is bordered mostly by India and Sri Lanka to the west, Bangladesh to the north and Myanmar and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the east. The principal trade routes for large tankers en route from the Persian Gulf to the Strait of Malacca pass south of the Bay of Bengal. image Bangladesh has a coastline of 220 nautical miles. Bangladesh shares maritime boundary with India and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal. The maritime boundary disputes with Myanmar has been resolved by the International Tribunal for Law of the Sea

Bay Of Bengal
7 (ITLOS) judgment on March 14, 2012 in which Bangladesh and Myanmar were awarded 111,631 and 171,832 square kilometers respectively. However, disputes with India remain unresolved. Bangladesh has consistently argued that India should give due consideration to the concave nature of its coast and rejected the equidistance approach. There were several rounds of talks between the two countries and attempts were also made through diplomatic channels. In 2009, Bangladesh approached the ITLOS for arbitration and the decision is expected in 2014

In 838,600 square mile area of the Bay, security threats of the littoral states including Bangladesh range from disputes over exclusive economic zones to terrorism, piracy, poaching, over-fishing, and trafficking of humans, arms, and narcotics. US security ties with Bangladesh get salience in this context. US realized that Bangladesh adjoined by the Bay in the Indian Ocean should not be totally under either the Indian sphere of influence or that of China. In fact, Washington also wants a stable Bangladesh, as any power vacuum in this ‗fragile‘ state created by political and economic chaos resulting in upsetting the status quo is not in US interest.

Therefore, US security assistance program can have tremendous impact in supporting states like Bangladesh trying to build their security capacity. No doubt, in an interconnected world, terrorists, pirates, traffickers, and other transnational actors can exploit the weakness of states to cause mayhem and instability. Andrew J. Shapiro, US Assistant Secretary of State said this in very clear terms, ―Our assistance is helping states like Bangladesh better control their borders and their coastlines…and better deal with natural disasters and transnational threats …through our training initiatives and exchanges we are helping professionalize national military forces to ensure they can better protect their public, while respecting human rights‖.

In fact, US maintain a positive perception of Bangladesh to become a key player in maintaining security in Bay of Bengal. As one strategic analyst points out, “While US relations with India “may not progress as quickly as desired and those with Pakistan and Afghanistan are “in tatters,” the United States needs to forge deeper strategic relationship with the “marginal states, like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar16.”Such states,” according to Doug Lieb in the Harvard International Review, “are often overlooked in a structural realist world view that privileges the study of larger countries.‖17 In broader perspective, therefore, three clear interests bind Bangladesh and the United States in the Bay: First, the Indian Ocean is the central highway for international commerce particularly between the oil-rich Gulf States and an economically dynamic East Asia, and it in this context, Bangladesh shares interest with the US and other littoral states for the safety and security of the sea-route.

In fact Bangladesh‘s 90 percent goods pass through this route from its two ports: Chittagong and Mongla; Second, Bangladesh‘s urgency to have access, explore and harness hydro-carbon resources and marine fisheries within its rightful zone for national development; and Third, (iii) China-India strategic competition that has significant implications for Bangladesh‘s security and continued development

Connectivity, energy and economic Activity

While US interest to maintain the Indian Ocean as a secure highway for international commerce remains paramount in her global strategy, the harbors on the eastern zone of the Ocean are fast transforming the economic geography of Asia. This has recently been pointed out by the Economist Magazine18 in a feature that highlighted how India was building a large new terminal beside the old harbor in Sittwe (Akyab) as a joint project between India and Myanmar. Taking advantage of the port‘s site at the mouth of the river Kaladan, which empties into the Bay of Bengal, India hopes to open its own landlocked and impoverished north-eastern states. But that is only one of many ambitious venturesimage underway along the eastern half of the Bay of Bengal.

In fact, booming Asian economies have long since outgrown their ports. Sprawling Kolkata, for instance, the oldest colonial port on the Bay of Bengal, has been unable to take in bigger modern vessels for years. It lies 144 miles inland up the river Hooghly, which has gradually silted up. Local and national governments have approved the construction of a new deepwater port on Sagar island at the mouth of the Hooghly at a cost of 80 billion rupees ($1.5 billion).19 Bangladesh‘s Chittagong, the biggest port on this side of the bay, faced with huge bottlenecks, started its modernization process with hopes of further growth on the site of a vast new deepwater container terminal to its south.

Myanmar‘s opening, however, overshadows the rest. Its new government, keen for foreign inflows to help rebuild the economy, has been approving projects that sat idle for years. Sittwe is one, but it looks small compared with the Dawei project on Myanmar‘s Tenasserim coast. This is a Thai-aided deepwater port that includes an industrial zone and highways to connect it with distant Bangkok, estimated to cost $8.5 billion. The Chinese are exploring ways round their own Malacca-strait dilemma. They have been building new oil and gas pipelines across the whole of Myanmar starting from a new port-terminal at Kyaukphyu, near Sittwe. The lines run through Mandalay to Ruili on the border and beyond to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province. In commercial terms, the trans-shipment terminals of Malaysia and Singapore could lose out. But Sukh Deo Muni of Singapore‘s Institute of South Asian Studies, reckons they ―would not necessarily suffer, as the new connectivity will generate more economic activity‖. 20

China-India Rivalry

As for the strategic rivalry between China and India, there are divergent opinions. S.D. Muni argues that China‘s activities in the Bay of Bengal are purely ―defensive‖. But Indians versed in the ―string of pearls‖ theory, which sees Chinese-built ports encircling India, are not be much comforted. They argue that China‘s economic and security interests have resulted in a greater Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean region, much to the concern of India. China has cultivated economic relationships with littoral countries of the Bay through infrastructure projects such as port development, power plant construction, and railway and road building.

Indian strategic planners worry that Chinese influence in these Indian Ocean outposts could turn them into military bases that would enable China to ―encircle‖ India. However, a single-minded focus on these sites as likely nodes of Chinese influence does not capture the entire story, because the rationale behind these developments is more economic than strategic. Beijing is trying to connect its western provinces to the global economy by constructing lines of communication south to the Bay of Bengal. That said, there are strategic concerns at work as well.

India is undertaking a major modernization of its navy with increasing bilateral and multilateral naval ties in the Bay of Bengal. Partly in response to China and partly as a power rising on the world stage, India has begun upgrading its tri-service Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) Command, allocating greater resources to the Eastern Naval Command (located along India‘s Bay of Bengal coast), and increasing navy-to-navy ties through forums such as the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium and the MILAN exercise.22 The strongest manifestation of Sino-Indian rivalry in the Bay of Bengal has been in Myanmar.

This is due to the confluence of both countries‘ domestic and strategic interests in a neighbor that both Beijing and New Delhi want as a friend: a political friend as well as a neighbor that can provide them with access to the Bay of Bengal (from Yunnan province in China and from India‘s northeastern states). While strategic concerns still animate both China and India, both countries are actually pursuing the same objective—access through Myanmar so that their landlocked underdeveloped areas can develop economically. Finally, China has already established several footholds in the Indian Ocean region (the so-called ―string of pearls‖ strategy) which India cannot roll back. While Chinese involvement in ports such as Sittwe in Myanmar and Hambantota in Sri Lanka do not seem to have for primary purpose an encirclement of India but rather ensuring China has the ability to secure its own energy supply lines, India feels evident discomfort with China‘s growing footprint so close to its shores, in its ―backyard‖. 23

U.S. cooperating with Bangladesh Navy

The Bay is the life line for Bangladesh. It is important both for security as well commerce. As the naval arm of Bangladesh Armed Forces, Bangladesh Navy is entrusted to safeguard ―the sovereignty over the internal waters & territorial sea, and sovereign rights over the Contiguous Zone, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf of Bangladesh‖ While in reality, Bangladesh navy‘s role is mainly coastal patrolling, it is implementing an ambitious procurement and expansion program to ensure the security of Bangladesh’s maritime boundary which includes the country’s vast exclusive economic zone, deep sea oil, gas and mineral reserves, and vital shipping lanes in the Bay of Bengal. The Bangladesh Navy is undergoing major transformation since last decade. The government has approved a 10-year perspective plan and as part of this the navy is upgrading the existing fleet with capability to undertake emerging roles and maintain interoperability with friendly navies.24

Defending Sea Routes

The current force structure of the Bangladesh Navy comprises a variety of frigates and corvettes, fast attack boats and patrol vessels, and logistic support vessels. It recently acquired two Castle-class offshore patrol vessels and a survey ship from the United Kingdom. Bangladesh has also contracted two 053H2 frigates at a cost of Tk 6.44 billion from China.

The US has recently provided a Coast Guard cutter ship and 16 high speed boats to augment Bangladesh Navy and Coast Guard capability to protect the EEZ. The ‗Jarvis‘ was the fourth in its class of High Endurance Cutters which is designed to provide better sea-keeping and higher sustained transit speeds, greater endurance and range, and the ability to launch and recover small boats, as well as support aviation facilities with a flight deck for helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles. Since first receiving Foreign Military Financing or FMF in 2005, Bangladesh has focused on building patrol boat fleets for the Coast Guard—a project that supports maritime security

Working with US Pacific Command

US Pacific Fleet protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the United States and its allies as well as partners in the Asia-Pacific region. With allies and partners such as Bangladesh, US Pacific Fleet enhances stability, promotes maritime security and freedom of the seas, deters aggression and when necessary, fights. ―I hope my presence here helps to reinforce to you the value that I place to our relationship, the importance of this vital region and our commitment to continuing to work with Bangladesh navy for maintaining security to support peace and prosperity,‖ said US Fleet Commander.

In fact, U.S. has realized that South Asia is critical for the movement of goods and services in the world economy. ―My hope is that my Pacific Fleet in Bangladesh through exercising, training and education exchange will improve the ability to conduct operations together, share information and develop relationships to address shared security concerns.‖ ―Together we can build strong military security frameworks that benefit security and economy of all,‖ he affirmed.

US Ambassador Dan Mozena played a key role in this context when he clearly brought out the need for protection of Bangladesh sea-lines as the country becomes the second largest exporter of household textiles, and possessing energy resources falling under its maritime boundaries. US 7th Fleet commander Scott H Swift in his visit to Bangladesh in 2012 remarked: ―We‘re more interested to assist Bangladesh Army and Navy to enhance their ability to protect its maritime resources from pirates, protect country from terrorist attack and co-operate during natural disasters‖.

Support to Disaster and Relief operations

The Bangladesh Navy is a professional force and has provided invaluable support to the country at the time of natural disasters like floods and cyclones. It has been estimated that nearly 53 percent of the recorded world deaths due to cyclones occurred in Bangladesh. Bu the Navy’s capability to respond to such disasters was limited. U.S. support in this respect was very helpful to expanding its ability to respond to disasters. In 2007, the US Navy deployed two warships, 20 helicopters, 3,500 marines, Army medical teams, and US Air Force C-130 aircraft for emergency relief support, medical and emergency

Defense articles and military equipment that are no longer needed by the U.S. armed forces are eligible for transfer to foreign countries under section 516 of the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) of 1961.

The Pacific Fleet Commander of United States Admiral Cecil D Haney on his visit to Bangladesh, January 15, 2013 said the US Navy is ―eying partnership, not treaties with its Bangladesh‖ as part of its rebalancing strategy in the Asia Pacific region.

U.S. 7th Fleet Commander Scott H. Swift in his three-day visit to Bangladesh on April 7, 2013 12 evacuation. The non-traditional security challenge of natural disasters and climate change in the Bay of Bengal is important for Bangladesh to address effectively as the entire Bay region is particularly vulnerable to sudden changes in the weather – including cyclones, flash floods, and landslides – as well as to long-term shifts in climate, leading to rising sea levels and Tsunami.

He added building of 130 cyclone shelters were going and 30 of them would be coastal crisis management centers. Two of those centers would be opened in March.―The centers would be prominently manned by Bangladesh Coast Guard. There will be facilities for land transportation, boat transportation and cyclone-proof communication capabilities.‖30 Mozena further said the commander came to Bangladesh as ‗part of our outreach campaign to further bolster and support the military-to-military engagement between the US and Bangladesh‘. Admiral Haney said they were working with Bangladesh solely on ‗partnership built upon years of working together.

Improving Coast Guard

Piracy and armed robbery in Bangladesh occur in the port area and mariners remain concerned about the security situation. This has forced global insurance companies to increase risk premiums for ships calling at ports in Bangladesh particularly at the port of Chittagong. It is important to note that Chittagong port is the most important maritime hub of Bangladesh and handles nearly 90 percent of its trade. At another level, the Bangladeshi fishermen have been victims of pirates who kidnap them for ransom. For instance, in August 2012, Bangladesh launched a joint air and naval operation against pirates in the Bay of Bengal in an effort to rescue 50 fishermen who had been kidnapped close to the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest where pirates have sanctuaries in the dense forest. According to the Bangladesh Navy, four ships, two helicopters from the Air Force and high-speed boats took part in the operations in the Sundarbans and its surrounding area.

Citing successes of Bangladesh and US maritime partnership, Mozena said the Coast Guard improved their capabilities to respond to robbery, which was why the incidence of robbery has declined 70 percent on Chittagong coast. The military to military partnership is especially strong and productive. ―Working together, America and Bangladesh have strengthened Bangladesh‘s ability to secure its maritime borders from piracy, terrorism, trafficking of people, drugs, and arms … Bangladesh can now better protect its fish and other resources in the Bay of Bengal.32 This partnership has helped Bangladesh create a Navy Seals like capacity, called SWADS that is most impressive.

Thanks to the enhance capabilities of the Bangladesh Coast Guard and Navy, robberies of ships at anchorage in Chittagong have fallen by nearly 75% and insurance rates have dropped, too. Our engagement with the Bangladesh Navy and Coast Guard has included the transfer of dozens of high speed, high performance boats.33 Illegal migration is rampant in Bangladesh waters due to a number of factors including the exodus of the ‘stateless Rohingya’ from Myanmar and the prevailing social-economic conditions in Bangladesh. The illegal migration is carried out by gangs and cartels who have established networks across the country. In October 2012, the Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Coast Guard and Border Guard of Bangladesh had prevented 3200 Rohingya people, who were trying to cross the border.

Conclusion: Looking Forward

Unmistakably, America is our friend and vital to our prosperity and security in the future. Bangladesh today is connected to outside world as never before. Ninety percent of the country‘s economy is linked globally, and our people spread across the world. At a time when the Asia–Pacific region is building a new security and economic architecture, Bangladesh foreign policy must adapt to new realities and build web of partnerships and engagements with nations that matter. But a nation can only globalize from its position of strength – the strength of its democratic institutions, quality of leadership, and creative potential of the people.

As Bangladesh moves forward, it therefore, needs to focus on the steps to be taken at home– improve democratic credential, overcome partisan divisions, ensure safety in work places, and strengthen governance. The nation‘s most potent asset is the human power that needs to be infused with character and skills on which will depend the success of our external engagements. It is in this context, Bangladesh has much to gain from her partnership with the United States.

Bangladesh and the United States have been friends since 1972. Today, the stakes are greater as they become new partners in a very critical time of change. A durable and robust US-Bangladesh relationship can only emerge from a clear understanding of economic, political and mutual security needs and interests. Bangladesh today stands at an important crossroads in its history. The United States must not only provide security assistance to Bangladesh to defend its borders and coastlines, she also has to support the country to fight corruption, help develop fair and open election processes for democratic transition, as well as deter the spread of religious or ethnic extremism by an inclusive process. In fact, the strategic engagement of the United States in Bangladesh must aim to enhance cooperation for stability, peace and development – not acting alone but in concert with other major powers reinforced by strategic trust, and reflected in concrete and constructive policies and actions

Zahid F Sarder Saddi

Former Special Advisor & Foreign Envoy

To The 3 Times Prime Minister Of Bangladesh

"Begum Khaleda Zia"

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