The personal security of US Ambassador Peter Haas has been a recurring concern almost throughout the length of his tenure in Bangladesh, and irrespective of how he has discharged his duties, this is unfortunately bound to reflect poorly on us as a nation.
The American envoy, in a number of developing countries, tends to assume outsize importance. This is a geopolitical reality based on the state of international relations, including bilateral and multilateral streams. Whether we like it or not, the evidence will show this to be true in the case of Bangladesh as well. As a nation, we may wish to push back on this, and try and make it less so - that would be a legitimate aspiration for any independent country of 175 million people. But the way to do it is not to threaten or bad mouth or ridicule or even embarrass the person of the envoy himself (or herself) at any one time. The way to address that would be to redraw the contours of the bilateral relationship itself, and that necessarily takes time and effort on a much larger scale.
What we need to understand very clearly is that no ambassador posted here (or anywhere else, for that matter) goes about their business in fulfilment of some personal agenda. These are highly trained professional diplomats (most of the time) with careers to build and families to support. Invariably, their work here down to the nitty-gritty, is aimed at fulfilling objectives that would have been briefed to them by the administration in charge back home. And what we have seen in the work and initiatives taken by Ambassador Haas is certainly not divergent from the policy aims and objectives of the Biden administration, who sent Haas here in March 2022. By that time, the sanctions on RAB and some of its senior officers were already more than three months old. Similarly, it wasn't Peter Haas who left Bangladesh off the guestlist for the first of two Democracy Summits that have been held at the White House since Joe Biden took over as president. It couldn't have been, since he had nothing to do with Bangladesh back then. And I suspect he wouldn't have had much to do with leaving Bangladesh out of the second one either, even though he was already posted here at the time.
The unsavoury sentiments expressed by Chattogram's Banshkhali upazila's Chambol union chairman and Union Awami League convener Mujibul Haque Chowdhury, in which he threatened to physically beat up the US ambassador, are deeply embarrassing for Bangladesh. Chowdhury, who broadcast his statement live on his Facebook page, deserves to be censured. But his comment didn't appear in a vacuum. They were the most serious, but they were also the culmination, if you like, of a growing atmosphere of resentment and dejection towards the ambassador for his activities related to doing his best to ensure a free, fair and acceptable election in Bangladesh. That is a responsibility for Bangladeshis, yes. But when you have neglected your responsibilities, you can expect the sort of outside interference we have witnessed emanating from Washington. If there is a villain of the piece here, it certainly isn't Peter Haas. He is just doing his job.
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