Monday, May 14, 2007

In the News: "Give Bangladesh Priority: US Team Urges Bush"

By Nazrul Islam, Dhaka, May 13:

A high-powered US delegation that made a brief visit to Bangladesh has suggested the Bush administration to give Dhaka high priority as a strategic partner in the US's efforts on war on terror, especially against the Islamic extremists.

The delegation headed by a Congressman, in a letter to US President, also praised the role of the Bangladesh's military forces, which is now backing the interim government to fight corruption and bring transparency in political process, according to a media report.

"The US has rare opportunity now to help shape the future of an important nation. Bangladesh is potentially a crucial player in the struggle against Islamic extremism, and this is a crucial period for that country," the Daily Star newspaper quoted the letter to have said.

The five-member delegation, headed by Congressman Curt Weldon, during the visit held a series of meetings with leaders in the interim administration, senior civil and military officials and businessmen.

Bangladesh is geo-politically important because of its three nuclear-capable neighbours - India, China and Pakistan - in the region.

The team also comprised the former deputy assistance secretary of defence W Bruce Weinrod, retired US Air Force Major General Ronald J Bath, retired US Army Colonel Timothy D Ringgold, and retired US Coast Guard commander Michael D Kearney.

They had discussions with various leaders and officials in Bangladesh keeping in mind the US foreign and national security policies against the backdrop of its exposure to Islamic extremism to develop the framework for a major conference on homeland security issues to be held in Bangladesh later this year.

The letter said the US could help ensure a democratic and pro-Western nation, and prevent the emergence of another highly unstable Islamic nation vulnerable to extremism by giving priority to Bangladesh.

The team termed Bangladesh as a generally moderate Islamic country although it is the third largest Muslim country, and it could be "a strong member of a moderate Islamic coalition that rejects fanaticism and terrorism".

The security team in its letter also recommended that the US take a pro-active role in assisting Bangladesh to improve its political and economic situation so that Bangladesh will not provide fertile ground for extremist fanaticism.

It noted that Bangladesh was passing through a "political and economic transition" when key leaders were seeking to strengthen and deepen the national democratic political system and also crack down on "endemic" corruption.

On increased defense ties, the letter pointed out that the Bangladeshi military plays a key role in the nation.

"The military leadership is at this time assuming a low-profile and positive role in encouraging needed changes in the Bangladeshi political system" and in the efforts to end rampant corruption there.

"The US should reinforce and in effect reward the Bangladeshi military for their role and restraint. Enhanced military-to-military and as appropriate, civilian-to-military programs and visits are very much in the US national interest," the delegation's letter said.

No comments: