Eastern Times Correspondent, Dhaka, 17 January : US Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl R Miller has said the Bangladesh-US relations will only get stronger with no major changes under the new Biden administration.
“I think the relationship between the US and Bangladesh will only grow from strength to strength. I don’t see any major changes at this point,” he told UNB in an interview.
US President-elect Joe Biden and his team are now all set to take office on January 20, 2021.
Ambassador Miller, however, said they will have to see what the new administration’s policies are and mentioned that many of the people who will be moving to cabinet positions are quite known to him. “Many of them have real focus on the Indo-Pacific region, especially in South Asia.”
Asked whether President-elect Joe Biden will take forward the Indo Pacific Strategy (IPS), the US envoy who also served as a US Marine Corps officer said, “I think so. No matter what it is called, how it is rebranded, the focus of the United States will continue to be very strong in this region.”
Outgoing US President Donald J Trump made US engagement in the Indo-Pacific region a top priority of his administration. In November 2017, in Vietnam, he outlined a vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific in which all countries prosper side by side as sovereign, independent states.
Free, fair, and reciprocal trade, open investment environments, good governance, and freedom of the seas are goals shared by all who wish to prosper in a free and open future.
Ambassador Miller said he does not necessarily see IPS as something countering the Belt and Road initiative (BRI). “IPS is just US’ philosophy that the region should be governed by the principles of good governance and freedom of the seas.”
The envoy, also the recipient of numerous US government honours, including the Department of State’s Award for Heroism, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Shield of Bravery, said Indo-Pacific countries can certainly benefit from trillions of dollars of investment as there is untapped potential and that is why the investors will look towards countries like Bangladesh.
Ambassador Miller said joint efforts should be there to continue to put pressure on Myanmar to produce the circumstances on the ground so that all the Rohingyas can return to their homeland in a “safe, dignified and voluntary” manner and that has to begin soon.
Bangladesh has said Rohingyas will “jeopardize regional and international security” if the 1.1 million Rohingya people are left unattended and not given the opportunity to return to their homeland.
Bangladesh, Myanmar and China will hold a tripartite meeting on Rohingya repatriation in Dhaka on January 19 as Dhaka finds the repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar as the only solution to the crisis.
Responding to a question on the tripartite mechanism, the US ambassador said any country can do it to help resolve this crisis and it is useful.
“The pressure has to be on Myanmar. It’s not fair for Bangladesh to shoulder this enormous burden. There are many donors in the international community who have stepped up. We would like to see others join us,” he said, adding that the US would like to see other countries be more vocal in supporting Bangladesh and Rohingyas on the international stage including in Geneva and at the United Nations.
The US is the leading contributor of humanitarian assistance in response to the Rakhine State crisis, providing nearly $1.2 billion since the escalation of violence in August 2017, of which nearly $962 million is for programs inside Bangladesh; these programs provide support to host communities, as well as Rohingya refugees.
“We’ll continue to be a stronger partner and supporter of Bangladesh [while dealing with the Rohingya crisis],” said the US ambassador, adding that they have enormous admiration for Bangladesh which set an example for the world by opening its hearts and borders to this persecuted community.
The US ambassador said they are going to work very closely with Bangladeshi friends to continue to strengthen the ties between Bangladesh and the US. “It’ll continue under the Biden administration.”
He referred to the then US Senator Edward M Kennedy who delivered a speech at Dhaka University on February 14, 1972 highlighting people-to-people relations when he had visited the war-torn Bangladesh.
“The real foreign policy of America is citizen to citizen, friend to friend, people to people, foreign bonds of brotherhood that no tyranny can diminish,” Ambassador Miller quoted Senator Kennedy as saying.
The ambassador said this year is so ripe with possibilities and opportunities for all as Bangladesh is celebrating the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and will celebrate 50 years of independence of this remarkable country.