Vol. 4 Num 36 Wed. July 02, 2003  
Front Page

US has no plan for military base in Bangladesh
Ambassador Mary Ann Peters talks of Washington's commitment to sign repatriation treaty with Dhaka

US Ambassador to Bangladesh Mary Ann Peters yesterday categorically said her country "has no plan or desire to establish a military base in Bangladesh".

She also said her government is committed to moving progressively toward signing a repatriation treaty with Bangladesh in near future.

The US-Bangladesh repatriation issue was shelved following the change of political regime in Dhaka in 2001.

She was speaking as the main speaker of a talk titled 'Security of South Asia: A US Perspective' at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS).

The BIISS talk came on the heel of wild speculations that Washington was desperate to lease a military base from Dhaka to station its forces somewhere between the Far and Middle East(s).

Delving into a wide range of issues, the ambassador said, South Asia has become a major focal point of the US foreign policy.

The speech reflected a US perspective that quintessentially stems from US concern over terrorism, weapons proliferation and the near stagnation in the region's socio-economic developments. The ambassador criticized the poor level of intra-regional trade in South Asia compared with the NAFTA and the EU.

Pinpointing the issue of terrorism, she said, "South Asia occupies our counter-terrorism map."

Former ambassador MR Osmany, chairman of the board of directors of BIISS, in his concluding remarks sought to draw a parallel between the US policy toward Canada and Mexico and that of India's toward her small neighbours.

Ambassador Peters, however, surmised the region's misfortune from a purely geopolitical angle. " Progress in South Asia is hostage to the Kashmir conflict," she asserted.

The US-Bangladesh relationship dotted a substantial part of the envoy's speech as she eulogised Bangladesh's efforts in eradicating polio, controlling population boom, improving women's rights and maintaining an excellent international profile by dedicating to peacekeeping missions and adopting a moderate stance as a democratically- run Muslim nation.

The talk became further animated when a crosscurrent of opinions dominated the question-answer phase.

Former army chief General Nuruddin Khan mentioned that Dhaka does not seem to get the same attention from Washington as Delhi or Islamabad does, although Dhaka has always been a 'good boy' in dealing with some of the thorniest issues of international relations (like the signing of the Non-proliferation and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaties).

Both India and Pakistan refused to sign those treaties.

Ambassador Peters responded: " we don't deal with Dhaka like we deal with a wheel that squeaks."

To highlight further the importance Washington attaches to Dhaka, she cited Secretary of State Colin Powell's recent Dhaka visit as an example.

The US envoy refused to be drawn into making an opinion about the China-India rapprochement.

Nuclearisation and terrorism are the two major US concerns in South Asia, she said. "We want India and Pakistan not to transfer nuclear technology to other countries. We also seek more coope-ration in uprooting terrorism," she added.

Major General Md Abdul Mubeen, director general of BIISS, delivered the welcome speech at the beginning of the talk.

Former ambassador MR Osmany speaks at a discussion on "Security of South Asia: A US Perspective", organised by the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), while US Ambassador Mary Ann Peters, far left, and BIISS Director General Abdul Mubeen, far right, look on. Photo: STAR