The US Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Uzra Zeya is coming to Bangladesh to discuss shared humanitarian concerns. This is the first visit of any senior US representative to Dhaka following Antony Blinken’s announcement of the new US visa policy in May.
The US Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu and Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Asia, Anjali Kaur are also part of the delegation. This will be a “brief but significant” visit for Dhaka, as this high official’s visit is aimed at advancing “shared solutions” to global challenges; contributing to a more free, open, secure, and prosperous Indo-Pacific; and bolstering humanitarian support for refugees and host communities throughout the region.
Why top US diplomats are visiting Dhaka?
Under Secretary Uzra Zeya is a senior US official and her mandated area is quite wide. Zeya leads global diplomatic efforts to strengthen democracy, advance universal human rights, support refugees and humanitarian relief, promote the rule of law and counternarcotics cooperation, fight corruption and intolerance, prevent armed conflict, and eliminate human trafficking. As this is her first visit to Bangladesh, it has caught much diplomatic attention from its neighbors. This also raised the question, “What are the reasons behind these top diplomats’ Dhaka visit?’’
Before Bangladesh, the delegation team visited India on 8th July. There they met with senior government officials and discussed the deepening and enduring US-India partnership, including advancing shared solutions to global challenges, regional stability, and cooperation on humanitarian relief. But in Bangladesh, it has been learned that the two sides will hold meetings on the labor crisis, human rights, free and fair election, human trafficking, and Rohingya crisis.
During this four-day visit, Zeya is expected to deliver a message about the humanitarian concerns of this region. Of course, she is bringing some agenda of Washington to Bangladesh in this visit. According to the diplomatic sources of the two countries, Uzra Zeya will discuss the labor rights, human rights, human trafficking, freedom of expression, and protection of the rights of the minority with the representatives of the civil society as well as the government. The US delegation will also visit Rohingya camps apart from their engagements at various levels.
However, the issue of holding a fair election could be discussed elaborately during the meeting with the political leaders. Overall, the government’s commitment to hold a free and fair election and the recent peaceful city corporation polls will be strongly highlighted during the meeting with the US Under Secretary. Earlier, Uzra Zeya said that the US looked forward to deepening their partnership with Bangladesh after a meeting with Bangladeshi ambassador to the United States Muhammad Imran in Washington on last Thursday.
Dhaka witnessed a series of visits from Washington in the recent past, including a visit by Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, on March 19-23, 2022. Donald Lu also visited Bangladesh earlier this year. Lu has been heavily involved in setting Washington’s Bangladesh policy in the recent past. After the new visa policy was officially announced by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on May 25, Lu appeared as the public face of the move, making appearances in Bangladeshi media to explain how it would be implemented.
Bangladesh wants to deepen relations
Since the inception of diplomatic ties, bilateral relations between Bangladesh and USA have come a long way and improved to a great extent. Over the last decade, cooperation in trade, investment, and security, particularly in counterterrorism, has strengthened. Bangladeshi items have a large market in the US. Along with this, the trade balance between the two countries favors Bangladesh. The US is Bangladesh’s single-largest export destination, with annual exports of about $11 billion.
Following this, Bangladesh and the US can “move faster together” in expanding trade and investment connections. Bangladesh not only stressed on developing the factories, but also made a significant improvement in terms of labor rights, including the amendment of the labor law and registration of trade unions. However, instead of all these, the US has been focusing on the remaining issues. Bangladesh will raise this issue in the meeting.
Bangladesh expects that this visit would take Bangladesh-USA relations a step forward and our existing relations would be strengthened. If the delegation of the two sides meets 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.
Bangladesh also expects that Uzra Zeya will work to transform the existing bilateral relations into a strategic partnership in which Bangladesh will be considered on its merit. 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. Apart from economic benefits, a strategic partnership with Bangladesh can help the US to gain its strategic objectives in South Asia. The US must recognize that Dhaka is allied with Washington. Peter Haas, the US Ambassador to Dhaka, praised Bangladesh’s contribution to promoting peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, saying the US wishes to work with Bangladesh to achieve their common goals.
To establish the finest ties possible between Bangladesh and US, this meeting must be successfully wrapped up. The entire relationship between USA and Bangladesh has benefited thus far from the upcoming high-level bilateral meeting. All these trips have advanced the friendship and bilateral cooperation between the two nations while fostering stronger ties. This relationship between the countries will further be strengthened by Uzra Zeya’s visit through mutual understanding and discussion. It is hoped that Bangladesh and US relationship would reach a new height through this top official meeting.