Foreign and domestic policies of Bangladesh are heavily influenced by India: says US Country Reports on Terrorism

While appreciating Bangladesh’s counterterrorism efforts as there had been no major terrorist incidents in 2013, the United States in its ‘Country Reports on Terrorism 2013’ says the country’s foreign and domestic policies are heavily influenced by the region’s major powers, particularly India.

“In past years, the India-Bangladesh relationship has provided openings for transnational threats, but the current government has demonstrated its interest in regional cooperation on counterterrorism” says the report released on Wednesday.

Lauding its counterterrorism measures, the report says, “The (Bangladesh) government’s ongoing counterterrorism efforts have made it more difficult for transnational terrorists to operate in or use Bangladesh territory.”

It says Bangladesh, an influential counterterrorism partner in the region, continued to make strides against international terrorism.

The government of Bangladesh has demonstrated political will and firm commitment to combat domestic and transnational terrorist groups, and its counterterrorism efforts made it harder for transnational terrorists to operate or establish safe havens in Bangladesh, the report mentions.

Bangladesh and the United States signed a Counterterrorism Cooperation Initiative to enhance counterterrorism cooperation as an important element of its bilateral partnership and engagement.

In 2013, US assistance supported programmes for Bangladeshi civilian, law enforcement, and military counterparts to build their capacity to monitor, detect, and prevent terrorism.

The US State Department submitted the Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 to the US Congress as required by law.

This report provides the Department of State’s annual assessment of trends and events in international terrorism that occurred from January 1 to December 31, 2013, according to the US Department of State.

It includes a strategic assessment, country-by-country breakdowns of counterterrorism efforts, and sections on state sponsors of terrorism, terrorist safe havens, and foreign terrorist organisations.

Regional and International Cooperation: Bangladesh is active in the full range of international fora. Bangladesh is party to various counterterrorism protocols under the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and is bringing the country’s counterterrorism efforts in line with the four pillars of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Bangladesh’s foreign and domestic policies are heavily influenced by the region’s major powers, particularly India.

It has signed memoranda of understanding with a number of countries to share evidence regarding criminal investigations, including investigations related to financial crimes and terrorist financing.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Bangladesh’s criminal justice system was in the process of fully implementing the Antiterrorism Act of 2009.

In 2013, Parliament passed into law extensive amendments to the ATA. The amendments, which were drafted with technical assistance from the Department of Justice and experts from the US Department of Treasury, brought Bangladesh into greater compliance with international standards.

Significant improvements have been made to the law, including more extensive criminalisation of terrorist financing, prohibitions on supporting individuals (rather than simply organizations) who engage in terrorist activity, and an ability to promptly freeze funds and assets of those engaged in or supporting terrorism.

Parliament also enacted the Children Act in 2013, which provides for capital punishment of those convicted of exploiting children to commit terrorist acts and provided for the appointment of a Children’s Affairs Officer in every police station.

In January, Bangladesh police arrested three suspected Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorists.

Bangladesh cooperated with the United States to further strengthen control of its borders and land, sea, and air ports of entry. Bangladesh continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program, and Bangladesh National Police (BNP) officers received training in crisis response, border security, and investigations.

An ATA programme team met Bangladeshi law enforcement and US embassy officials in September, and the outcomes of these meetings will contribute to the development of ATA program objectives to build Bangladeshi incident management and expand Bangladesh Border Guard’s (BBG) security capacity.

In November, a senior level delegation representing a cross section of Bangladeshi security and public safety entities travelled to the US to participate in a five-day crisis management seminar.

The course included table top exercises designed to help participants effectively prepare for, manage, control, and support a coordinated response to a critical incident of national importance.

Bangladesh also cooperated with the Department of Justice’s efforts to provide prosecutorial skills training to its assistant public prosecutors, encourage greater cooperation between police and prosecutors, and institute community policing in targeted areas of the country.

The Bangladesh Bank and its financial intelligence unit/anti-money laundering section lead the government’s effort to comply with the international sanctions regime.

Significant improvements to its Antiterrorism Act have allowed Bangladesh to start the path of successfully exiting the FATF International Cooperation Review Group process.

The presence and large-scale use of informal value transfer systems such as hawalas and the hundi system of remittances provide channels for exploitation by terrorists.

In the formal financial sector, law enforcement rarely uses its powers to freeze and confiscate assets.

The Ministry of Education oversees madrassas and is developing a standard national curriculum that includes language, math, and science modules, as well as minimum standards of secular subjects to be taught in all primary schools, up to the eighth grade.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs and the National Committee on Militancy Resistance and Prevention work with imams and religious scholars to build public awareness against terrorism.

The government of Bangladesh is also actively expanding economic opportunities for women as a stabilizing force against violent religious extremism.

Source: BD Chronicle