Describing the Bangladesh-US relationship as "multifaceted and comprehensive," US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Regional Security in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Mira Resnick has said there is so much that the two countries can do together, including in the security relationship.
"We don't want to see a situation that risks the growth that we have seen in this relationship," she told UNB in an interview during her visit to Bangladesh last week, expressing Washington's willingness to "strengthen and deepen" the ties.
The US diplomat said they welcome Bangladesh's move towards diversification of procurement for its defence needs.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for Bangladesh to make sure that they're interoperable with their partners, including the United States," she said, noting that it was one of the things that came up in the 9th security dialogue held between the two countries in Dhaka.
The US Deputy Assistant Secretary said it was a great opportunity to have a discussion with Bangladesh to talk about ways that the United States may be able to help with military modernization.
"We are looking for ways that we can help Bangladesh modernise its military and be able to invest in what we call maritime domain awareness to be able to understand what is on your coastal borders, what is coming by air, land, sea and by cyberspace," she said.
Resnick said there are a lot of opportunities for them to be able to expand and deepen this relationship between the two countries.
As the next national election came up for discussion during her visit, she said the United States firmly supports "free, fair and peaceful" elections in Bangladesh.
"Our counterparts reiterated the prime minister's commitment to free, fair and peaceful elections," she added. She said the US would like to make sure that Bangladesh is committed to human rights and make sure that there is accountability for past actions.
The US and Bangladesh discussed cooperation in the areas of climate resilience, counterterrorism, disaster relief, military modernization and human rights and what they can do better on the Bangladesh side and the United States side to help support this important relationship.
Over the next year, the US expects to deliver the highly capable Blackjack UAS, 35-foot SAFE Patrol Boats, and additional Zodiac Rigid Hull Boats. These systems will help Bangladesh conduct UN missions and defend its sovereignty.
"Those particular equipment does not require signing the GSOMIA but it will require the technology security and foreign disclosure review which Washington does," said Resnick.
She said these are particular equipment and they are very excited to be able to support new deliveries of equipment that can help support Bangladesh security and their contributions to UN peacekeeping forces.
She said GSOMIA is needed for more advanced procurement: "And when the government of Bangladesh is ready for that we stand ready to work with the Bangladesh government to sign a GSOMIA."
General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) are "essential" to enabling a closer defence relationship, expanding opportunities for defence trade, information sharing, and military-to-military cooperation between two countries.
"We plan to make sure that Bangladesh understands how we protect our military information. And we would like to understand better how Bangladesh protects its secret military information so that we can have this," said the US official, adding that it is going to be up to the government of Bangladesh to pursue whichever agreement they would like at whichever point makes sense to Bangladesh.
Asked about cooperation in the Indo Pacific region, Resnick said the United States is committed to working together to ensure that the region is open, prosperous, resilient, and secure.
"The best example that came up during the dialogue is enhancing the ability of the Bangladesh Navy and Coast Guard to protect Bangladeshi fishermen in your territorial waters, using the kind of software that the United States provides to your Navy and Coast Guard, and also patrol boats and ships. It is this kind of cooperation that helps your economy and helps your security and that is our outlook. That is our view of the Indo Pacific strategy," Resnick said.
Responding to a question on frequent engagement between the two countries, Resnick said as the relationship grows, there is a growing interest in Bangladesh.
"I think also, as we move toward elections here in Bangladesh, there is more interest in Washington to see a free and peaceful election," she added.
The US official said the United States remains committed to being a development partner here in Bangladesh.
The US said they have a number of goals that they would like to see in Bangladesh, including providing its own security and being able to contribute to regional security goals.
"We would like to see Bangladesh continue to grow its environmental resilience, including addressing the vulnerabilities that come with climate change. We would like to see sustainable economic growth, and shared prosperity that also includes fair labor standards and free assembly in the workplace," said Resnick. "And of course, we would like to see Bangladesh commit to international standards for human rights and human protection when it comes to the Rohingya crisis and be able to support those refugees until there is an opportunity for safe, voluntary and dignified returns."
Asked about the sanctions issues, Resnick said, "As a matter of policy, we don't preview our sanctions. We designated Rab due to widespread credible allegations of torture, disappearances and extrajudicial killings....we will need to see real accountability and structural reform in order to remove those sanctions."
On September 5, Mira Resnick and Bangladesh Director General (North America) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Khandker Masudul Alam co-chaired the Ninth U.S.-Bangladesh Bilateral Security Dialogue in Dhaka. The dialogue, Resnick said, reflects "our growing security relationship with Bangladesh and our shared commitment to peace and prosperity in the region."
Discussions focused on efforts to expand partnerships in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, peacekeeping, defence trade, military cooperation, and counterterrorism, as well as maritime security and regional issues.
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