US wants participatory politics in Bangladesh

The United States has said it wants a greater political inclusion in Bangladesh for a more stable and prosperous future of the South Asian country.

“In Bangladesh, we continue to press for a greater political inclusion, without which a more stable and prosperous future is put at risk,” said Nisha D Biswal, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs of the US Department of State.

She made the remark while giving her testimony at the subcommittee hearing on Asia and the Pacific titled ‘Assessing US Foreign Assistance Priorities in South Asia’ held in Washington on Wednesday.

On the political front, Biswal said the US is disappointed by the parliamentary elections earlier this year, which were followed by harassment of opposition, independent media, and civil society.

“In addition to this harassment, we’re concerned about reports of continuing extrajudicial killings as well as disappearances and abductions. We’ve also strongly reiterated to the government the importance of maintaining the independence, effectiveness, and integrity of Grameen Bank.”

Despite these concerns, Biswal said they strongly believe that the US must maintain its cooperation, which will help Bangladesh realise its potential as a prosperous rising regional partner that restores its democratic values and protects labour rights.

Appreciating Bangladesh’s achievement in various areas, Biswal said one must also acknowledge the important gains Bangladesh has made in improving health, food security, and economic opportunity for its citizens.

On the Rana Plaza and Tazreen tragedies that focused the world’s attention on inadequate labour conditions, she said the US remained engaged, along with European partners, in an intense effort with labour, industry, civil society, and government to achieve real improvements in the garment sector in Bangladesh.

As the eighth most populous country in the world and the third-largest Muslim majority nation, moderate, secular Bangladesh is also the largest recipient of foreign assistance in South Asia, with a total request of approximately $169 million in FY 2015, she mentioned.

The US official said Bangladesh is an important partner for the United States on a broad range of issues, from security to economic growth. “In April, we held in Dhaka our third annual Security Dialogue and first Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (Ticfa) meeting.”

Biswal said Bangladesh is a strong development partner and a focus country for all three of the US President’s key development initiatives: Global Health, Global Climate Change, and Feed the Future.

As a top contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, it is also a regional and global security partner, she added.

On economic potential in the region, Biswal said growing at about six percent a year for two decades, and strategically situated between growing India and a newly opening Burma, Bangladesh will play a key role in the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor linking South and Southeast Asia.

On labour issues, she said the government of Bangladesh has made some progress to register unions, harmonize standards, and begin factory inspections, much remains to be done.

“Bangladesh must end harassment of labor activists, hire more inspectors to carry out quality inspections in a timely manner, and reform its national laws and Export Processing Zone regulations to meet international standards,” she added.

Source: BD Chronicle