Bangladesh is ‘important partner’ in US’s Indo-Pacific strategy: Lisa Curtis

Lisa Curtis has termed Bangladesh an “important partner” of the Indo-Pacific strategy of the Trump administration and said Washington would stand by the country to resolve the Rohingya crisis.

Published : 4 March 2018, 03:45 PM
Updated : 4 March 2018, 04:15 PM

The deputy assistant to the US president and senior director for South and Central Asia at the National Security Council also says the US administration will continue to press Myanmar to create conditions so that Rohingya people can return back home safety and security.

She concluded her three-day visit on Sunday after meeting Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, Prime Minister’s Security Affairs Adviser Tarique Ahmed Siddique, International Affairs Adviser Gowher Rizvi and Foreign Secretary Md shahidul Haque, among others.

She has also visited Cox’s Bazar to get the Rohingya victims’ account of atrocities committed in the Rakhine State by Myanmar military.

“We will continue to work with Bangladesh and help to support the Rohingya people and press Myanmar to create condition safe to their return. This is a priority of the US administration,” she said, after her meeting with the foreign minister on Sunday.

She also said Bangladesh could be a “model” in the world on how to deal with such humanitarian situations.

“The United States is looking towards having a broad-based and strong relation with Bangladesh. We have so many other issues. Bangladesh is an important partner of our Indo-Pacific strategy. We want to work together,” she said.

Curtis did not elaborate on the Indo-Pacific cooperation during her short remark to the waiting journalists.

The foreign ministry later in a statement said focusing on President Trump’s National Security Strategy, Curtis, during the meeting with the foreign minister, highlighted the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the US Administration.

She said that “US’s eagerness to further deepen its engagement with Bangladesh, as the country, is a vibrant democracy with the impressive economic growth.”

The senior officials of the Trump administration have been speaking about the Indo-Pacific region from the beginning.

To them, it means a region stretching from the US West Coast through the Bay of Bengal. This region represents more than half the global population and more than half of the global economy.

The US is one of the leading trading partners for the region and is also a major donor and investor, both through its private sector companies and through its role as the largest or co-largest individual shareholder in both the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

From a security standpoint, the Indo-Pacific is the region in which the United States has its longest maritime border, several long-standing treaty allies, as well as being home to its Pacific fleet, one of the most advanced naval units in the world that has conducted countless joint exercises with like-minded countries and trainings for nearly every military in the region, according to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Dan Rosenblum.

“In short, we are committed to this region because we are a part of it and because we have a major stake in its success,” he had said during his visit to Dhaka in January.

Rohingya issue now part of US policy discussion

The foreign ministry said ongoing Rohingya issue 'featured prominently' in the meetings during Curtis visit.

The foreign minister said that the relationship between Bangladesh and US is getting “stronger and expressed Bangladesh government’s gratitude to the US government, President Trump and its people for strong political and humanitarian support towards Bangladesh in addressing the crisis”.

In this regard, he urged the US side to continue playing a strong role in the United Nations Security Council.

He also emphasised the sustained pressure by the international community including the US on the Myanmar government to create a safe and secured condition in Northern Rakhine for the safe and sustainable repatriation of Rohingyas to their homes.

Curtis assured that “Rohingya issue is now a part of the US policy discussion and it will continue the pressure on Myanmar government for their safe and dignified return”.

Praising the role played by Bangladesh Military in humanitarian response to the Rohingyas, Curtis expressed deep condolences for the death of four Bangladeshi UN Peacekeepers in an explosion in Mali last week.

On the return of the killers of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Curtis informed that she would convey the message to the concerned high authorities in Washington.

Free, fair elections

On a query from Curtis, Foreign Minister mentioned that Bangladesh government is committed to a “free, fair and participatory election”.

She emphasised “multiple party” participation in the general election.

“The Foreign Minister agreed with her and informed that the election would be free, fair and participatory, and observers from different countries including the US are welcome as well to observe the election.”

Rohingya camp visit

She shared her experience of visiting Cox’s Bazar and getting the victims’ account of atrocities committed in the Rakhine State during her meeting with the foreign secretary on Saturday night.

She mentioned that the Rohingyas wanted to go back to their homes in Myanmar if the conditions are safe.

Curtis assured the Rohingyas that “they won’t be forgotten”. She deeply appreciated Bangladesh’s role in sheltering the persecuted Rohingyas and providing necessary support to them.

She also mentioned that US would “remain with and stand by Bangladesh” in resolving the crisis and offered further US assistance to deal with the upcoming challenges, especially when the monsoon is approaching soon.

She discussed the prospect of strengthening bilateral cooperation in the areas of defence and security during her meeting Security Affairs Adviser to the PM Tarique Ahmed Siddique.

She left Dhaka Sunday evening.