The US high-level delegation to Bangladesh comes amid a recent escalation in relations between the two countries. Last May, the US publicly announced that it would impose sanctions on officials who obstructed free elections in Bangladesh. That controversy is likely to overshadow the US delegation’s latest visit. General elections are due in Bangladesh in January next year.
During the general elections held five years ago, the opposition had levelled allegations of rigging. This time also the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is demanding the formation of an impartial caretaker government before the elections. The Awami League, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed, has been in power since 2009. It has outright rejected the demand to form a caretaker government. Last week, the Awami League government was accused of curtailing the powers of the Election Commission. Before this, the government had issued an order, through which the commission’s right to cancel the election results was abolished if there was an allegation of violence or electoral malpractice.
The US team is scheduled to be in Bangladesh from Tuesday to Friday. It includes US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu in charge of South and Central Asian Affairs, Uzra Zeya, Under Secretary of State for Civil Defense and Democracy and Human Rights. Not much information has been given by the US side about the purpose of the visit or the complete program of this team. It has been informed from Uzra Zeya’s office that the delegation will hold talks with Bangladesh officials, in which several issues will be discussed. Those issues include free and fair elections, human rights and human trafficking etc.
Just before the visit, Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momin said- ‘We welcome the ongoing dialogue with America. We have nothing to hide.’ Last May, the US announced a policy to ‘encourage free and fair elections’ in Bangladesh. It said that any official suspected of obstructing the democratic election process would be denied a US visa. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her party leaders reacted strongly to this American announcement. On behalf of the Awami League, it was said that this US stand seems like an attempt to topple the elected government of Bangladesh.
According to observers, relatives of many prominent leaders and officers of Bangladesh live in America. For this reason, they are scared of the American threat. Bangladeshi officials and businessmen are also believed to have financial interests linked to the US. But analysts have termed the US stand as interference in Bangladesh’s internal affairs. Dilawar Hussain, Professor of International Relations at Dhaka University, told the website nikkaiasia.com – ‘America should change its attitude towards Bangladesh. On the one hand, it is silent on the political instability of Pakistan, while expressing concern about Bangladesh, where a vibrant political process is going on.