US or Russia? Bangladesh is undecided about whom to vote in UN’s ICT agency

US has sought Bangladesh’s vote for its candidate against Russia’s nominee

Published : 8 August 2022, 09:05 PM
Updated : 8 August 2022, 09:05 PM

The United States has called for votes in favour of its candidate against Russia’s aspirant in the elections to the International Telecommunication Union or ITU, the United Nations agency for information and communication technology.

Michele J Sison, the US assistant secretary of state for international organisation affairs, is touring India, Bangladesh and Kuwait from Aug 2-10 as part of the election campaign. She flew into Dhaka on Saturday afternoon on a three-day trip.

After a meeting with her on Monday, Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen said Bangladesh has not yet decided who it will vote for. “There is still time. We’ll assess who’s doing well and who’s more likely to win.”

The Plenipotentiary Conference 2022 of ITU, known as the UN’s internet agency, will be held in Bucharest, Romania, Sept 26 to Oct 14. The Russia-Ukraine war in Europe and the escalation of tensions in US-China relations over Taiwan have added more significance to the polls.

The quadrennial conference will set forth the policy, strategies and financial plans for the next term while electing the officials of the senior management, including a new secretary general.

Doreen Bogdan-Martin from the US and Russia’s Rashid Ismailov is in the running for the top post this term.

Masud said it was “only natural” that the US promoted its candidate for the post. “We’ve also asked for their vote in the Human Rights Council Election.”

They also discussed the “proper” use of the Digital Security Act. “We’ve had a general discussion about human rights. We are currently working on the loopholes in the Digital Security Act and they’ve talked about it with our other stakeholders.”

“We don’t want any contradiction in the enforcement of the Digital Security Act so that no one faces losses because of it. We’re working on it with other ministries and [the US delegation] also talked to them.”

International human rights groups and many countries, including the US, are concerned about the abuse of the law to suppress freedom of speech.

“We’ve discussed with the consultants of the German government and are looking into how we can improve [the act’s] application based on their experiences,” Masud said.

The foreign secretary also asked Sison to withdraw US sanctions on the Rapid Action Battalion or RAB. “They said the Treasury Department will look into it, not the State Department. The RAB issue was a legal process.”

“We’ve said that we wanted to work through their system and were observing many on-the-ground improvements. We’ve engagements with a legal firm in the US. We’ve asked the State Department for support.”

Masud mentioned that there was no explicit discussion about Taiwan. “But they’ve said that we should support the core of the UN charter. We’ve stated that we’re committed to it. We want everyone to maintain the UN principles of world order.”

Beijing is enraged over US Congress House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent trip to Taiwan. Bangladesh has already expressed solidarity with Beijing’s “One China Policy”.

The meeting also discussed US-Bangladesh ties, food security, Rohingya issue, health, peacekeeping, climate change and other international matters, the foreign secretary added.

“We spoke on many topics. But multilateral issues were more prominent. A high-level UN meeting is coming up. We discussed different events there and on which issues we can strengthen our relationship.

“They will play a more active role in [climate change]. We talked about how they can be of further assistance in this.”

“The US also promised to expand their aid to Bhashan Char. We asked for their assistance in the ICG trial process.”

Masud said there were discussions about sending the Rohingya people away to a country other than Bangladesh or Myanmar. “We said the issue will only be resolved if they go back to Rakhine.”

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher