US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas has said Bangladesh’s relationship with China “does not create a barrier” to a “cordial and stronger” Bangladesh-US relationship as Washington intends to build upon that partnership over the next 50 years.
“We know that many countries, including the United States, have vital economic and people-to-people ties with China that they want to preserve,” he told UNB while responding to an email on whether growing Bangladesh-China relationship is a barrier to stronger US-Bangladesh relationship amid complex geopolitical development.
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China’s engagement with Bangladesh is crucial given its geo-politics and trade partnership. More than 500 Chinese companies are operating in Bangladesh, which has engaged China in all major infrastructure development projects, including the $3.6 billion Padma Bridge. Bangladesh also supports One-China policy, which means Taiwan is part of mainland China -- a stand contradictory to the US vision in the region.
Ambassador Haas made it clear that the US-Bangladesh relationship is driven by two countries - the United States and Bangladesh – and certainly not by any other country.
“I am confident that over the next 50 years our relationship will continue to grow regardless of external factors,” he said.
Over the last 50 years, Ambassador Haas said, they have built a strong foundation in bilateral trade and investment, people-to-people ties, and a long-lasting development partnership in public health, education, climate resilience, and more.
“As we manage shifting geopolitical trends, the United States will conduct itself as a reasonable leader. We do not seek conflict. We do not seek a Cold War. We do not ask any nation to choose between the United States or any other partner,” the US envoy quoted President Joe Biden as saying recently to the United Nations General Assembly.
Talking about the Indo-Pacific, Haas said their engagement in the Indo-Pacific is not against any particular country, nor it is designed to make anyone choose between countries.
Instead, he said, it is about advancing a positive, shared vision for creating a region where all nations can thrive.
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“We want to ensure that the Indo-Pacific region remains free, open, peaceful, and secure. Bangladesh wants the same thing. The United States is committed to working with Bangladesh to realize this shared vision,” he said.
The US Ambassador has recently talked about five goals and goal number one says a “more peaceful and stable” Bangladesh, better able to provide for its own security, counter threats to U.S. interests, and serve as a growing security contributor in the Indo-Pacific and globally.
Last year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina shared her vision for a free, open, peaceful, secure and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, based on international law and shared prosperity for all.
“US-Bangladeshi military cooperation plays a critical role in advancing that vision,” said Ambassador Haas describing the goal number one.
The US military regularly works with the Bangladeshi military to strengthen Bangladesh’s defense readiness, to increase its ability to respond to humanitarian disasters, and to reinforce the partnership between our military forces, he said.
Last month, Bangladesh and the United States co-hosted the 46th annual Indo-Pacific Army Management Seminar in Dhaka which was the largest land forces conference in the region.
“It provided a forum for senior level officers from regional land forces to exchange views and ideas on how to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific. It also established the Bangladesh Army as a key regional leader,” said the US envoy, adding that, “We want our security relationship to grow.”
Haas said five goals set the agenda for his team at the Embassy and the work they do every day with the people of Bangladesh.
“We believe that they are all mutually reinforcing, and we are successful across all five fronts -- strengthening US-Bangladesh relations,” he said, adding that Bangladesh-China relations will take its own course.