US sees Bangladesh in a new light now

Says ambassador Kelly Keiderling during interview with The Daily Star

Realising the growing importance of economy and security, the US is moving away from its old idea of Bangladesh and is looking to chart the next 50 years of relationship between the two countries in a new way, a top US official has said.

Ambassador Kelly Keiderling said traditionally Bangladesh was known as a garment manufacturer and a poor LDC. Now the US is has a modern idea of Bangladesh being a vibrant economy and a major contributor to world security in terms of UN peacekeeping.

"Bangladesh keeps watch on the international transnational crimes, along with human and drug trafficking along the Indian Ocean rim. These are also elements of global security."

Keiderling, South and Central Asian affairs bureau deputy assistant secretary for public diplomacy and Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, said Bangladesh is also providing software products to the international cyber world and it is important for the US to interact with Bangladesh on the topic.

"We are excited about our future relationship with Bangladesh," Keiderling told The Daily Star in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.

She left Dhaka on Thursday after a three-day visit,during which she joined the Indian Ocean Rim Association ministerial meeting, held talks with Bangladeshi government officials, including the Prime Minister's Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman F Rahman, and also with civil society and interfaith leaders.

She said the Biden administration has decided, bureaucratically inside the State Department, to separate India from five other South Asian countries to deepen US relationships with them, and there will be devoted officials for that purpose.

"We want your [Bangladesh's] experience and expertise to oversee the [US] relationship with Bangladesh and other South Asian countries because we don't want our relationship with these five countries to get lost in the one with India."

The US wants to be secure but in the 21st century no country can be secure without finding and building security or expanding security in other countries, she said, adding that the US is trying to provide capacity and equipment to Bangladesh as it has a large number of peacekeepers around the world.

About America's Indo-Pacific Strategy and the recent security pact -- AUKUS -- among the US, UK and Australia, she said that pact was made with concern to maritime security.

She added that the US wants to ensure that countries like Bangladesh have the sovereign capacity to patrol its maritime territory, detain illegal vessels, and has information on maritime domain because some of those vessels could carry contraband, people, arms and drugs.

On the economic front, she said Bangladesh is a country with a large population and an emerging market. The US has been importing a lot from here and it also wants to export and invest here. 

"The US companies can export or invest here. Dredging companies are interested to invest here…not only in RMG but beyond that."

Keiderling also spoke of promoting democracy, human rights, equality and labour rights during her meeting with the Bangladesh officials.  

She said the Americans have struggled for freedom, democracy and human rights, which are fundamental values. 

"The bottom line is we just don't want to do business and make money. The American diplomacy desires to protect and promote democracy."


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