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Bangladesh-US friendship sees new era

Publication Date : 05-05-2012


Bangladesh hopes Hillary Clinton's visit will take Dhaka's political, economic and security cooperation with Washington to a new height and clear the clouds that recently shrouded the ties over Nobel Laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus.

The US Secretary of State will arrive in Dhaka today.

During her less-than-24-hour stay, Hillary would hold talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and Opposition Leader Khaleda Zia, said official sources.

She is also expected to meet Yunus whose removal as the managing director of Grameen Bank prompted Washington to warn that the government move might affect the bilateral relations unless he was allowed to have a respectable exit from the bank he founded to pull millions of poor rural women out of poverty.

Since then Dhaka and Washington worked patiently to overcome the tension spawned from the Yunus issue and took some significant steps to warm up the relations.

Hillary's visit, which is seen here as a major diplomatic triumph for Sheikh Hasina's government, follows a series of high-level visits by US officials in recent months.

Last month, the US and Bangladesh held their first-ever security cooperation talks in Dhaka. It signified that Washington was keen on moving forward despite concerns over the Grameen Bank without Yunus' leadership and the state of human rights in Bangladesh.

Hillary is due to arrive from Beijing at 4:10pm leading the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue for her country. Foreign Minister Dipu Moni will receive her at the VVIP Lounge of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. After Bangladesh, the US secretary of state will go to New Delhi.

Dhaka has taken unprecedented security measures centring the visit. Hillary will be hosted like a head of state with Special Security Force deployed the whole time of her stay.

Her visit will coincide the visit of Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is due to arrive in Dhaka from Manila today at 9:00pm. Mukherjee will be given the same status of reception as of Hillary.

The US secretary of state will lead a 38-member delegation, including 14 media personalities.

As per the programme schedule, Hillary will first join the bilateral talks with her Bangladesh counterpart Dipu Moni at 6:00pm at the Prime Minister's Office.

Dhaka is expected to request for duty- and quota-free access of readymade garments, Bangladesh's inclusion in the Millennium Challenge Account, development assistance and economic cooperation, and reiterate the long-standing demand for the deportation of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's condemned killer Rashed Chowdhury from the USA.

The US side will raise the issues of political stalemate, human rights situation, governance and killing of labour leader Aminul Islam at the talks. Besides, it will push for inking the Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement, engagement and cooperation between the two militaries, strategic collaboration to tackle militancy in South Asia and elsewhere, regional counterterrorism, energy cooperation and security in the Bay of Bengal.

The two countries are expected to strike a joint document styled “Declaration of Bangladesh-US Partnership Cooperation”, which will work as a platform to discuss all bilateral issues and cooperation.

After the meeting, Hillary and Dipu Moni will address a joint press briefing at 7:00pm on the outcome of the talks.

The US secretary will then call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for half-an-hour at her office which will be followed by about an hour's meet with Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia at her Gulshan office.

Hillary and Khaleda will discuss different bilateral issues, the country's political stalemate over the mechanism of holding the next general election, human rights situation, disappearances of BNP leaders, including that of Ilias Ali's, repression on the opposition activists etc.

Bangladesh foreign minister will host a dinner in honour of the US secretary.

Hillary is expected to meet the representatives of the civil society and Prof Yunus tomorrow.

She will leave for New Delhi Sunday around noon.


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