Sun, 19 May 2024
The Daily Ittefaq

52 years of Bangladesh-US ties, looking forward to the next 52

Update : 05 Apr 2024, 11:34

On 16 December of 1971, Bangladesh was liberated as an independent country after the Pakistani occupation forces surrendered following a bloody nine-month-long war. Before the Pakistani surrender only two countries, India and Bhutan, formally recognised Bangladesh. Other countries took months, or even years to follow suit. For example: China recognised Bangladesh on 31 May, 1975. But, majority of member states (Soviet Union, Australia, United Kingdom, Japan, France, Canada) in the United Nations recognised Bangladesh as a sovereign nation in 1972. 

The United States recognized Bangladesh on April 4, 1972, in a press statement from Secretary of State William Rogers. Herbert Spivack, the principal U.S. officer in Dhaka, delivered a message from U.S. President Richard Nixon to Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman informing him that his government wished to establish diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level.

Sheikh Mujib sent a letter to Nixon on April 09 in which he acknowledged the recognition accorded his country. Diplomatic relations between the two countries and the American Embassy at Dhaka were established on May 18, 1972, with Herbert D. Spivack as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim. The first Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary was Davis Eugene Boster, who presented his credentials after two years, on April 13, 1974.

It is to be mentioned here, the United States established a consulate in Dhaka (then referred to as “Dacca”) on August 29, 1949, when Bangladesh was the eastern part of Pakistan.

However, United States has long shared a strong friendship with Bangladesh. It has been a significant development partner for Bangladesh since its independence. According to the US State Department, over the last 50 years, they have provided approximately $8 billion in development assistance to Bangladesh. They have partnered with the people of Bangladesh to save lives following deadly cyclones, combat terrorism and human trafficking, and help people lead healthier and more prosperous lives. 

The USAID (United States Agency for International Development) program in Bangladesh is the largest in Asia, with some of the world’s most important food security and health programs, along with strategically important democracy and governance, basic education, and environment activities. The agency also oversees a large humanitarian assistance portfolio in Bangladesh in response to the Rohingya crisis. 

US is the leading contributor of humanitarian assistance in response to the Rohingya crisis, having provided over $2 billion since the outbreak of violence in August 2017, including more than $1.6 billion to assist Rohingya refugees and host communities.

US shared safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine doses with countries and economies around the world. Between May 2021 and February 2024, the country donated, in partnership with COVAX, Caricom, AVAT, and bilaterally. In this period U.S. donated more than 692 million vaccine doses to 117 countries and economies. Bangladesh has received the highest chunk of these free vaccines. The US has given a total of 114.6 million doses of vaccine to Bangladesh for free. Not only vaccination, the United States has provided nearly 140 million dollars in aid to Bangladesh to combat the pandemic.

Bangladesh has become the largest recipient of US assistance in Asia outside of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The countrt has invested billions of dollars to improve the lives of Bangladeshis. US assistance fosters engagement with the Government of Bangladesh – helping to grow more food, build more roads, and train more skilled teachers, health care providers, and soldiers. 

Marking the Two Year Anniversary of his arrival in Bangladesh, US Ambassador Peter Haas recently wrote, "I remain impressed by the potential of the country, by the energy and resiliency of its people, and by its vibrant civil society." For this, one should give credit to his country too as USAID democracy and governance activities in Bangladesh focus on enhancing citizen confidence in government by strengthening democratic processes and civil society, increasing access to justice, protecting human rights, supporting a culture of tolerance, and providing development opportunities for women, youth, and the marginalized. The activities integrate participation, inclusion, transparency, and accountability to support citizen responsive governance. USAID is working in 'Agriculture and Food Security', 'Environment, Energy and Climate Resilience', 'Health', 'Education', 'Disaster Response and Community Resilience' sectors also.

The US is the Biggest export destination for Bangladesh. In the fiscal year 2021-22, Bangladesh exported goods worth $52.08 billion, with the US accounting for $10.42 billions. Garment shipment to the USA, the single largest export destination of Bangladesh, almost doubled in the last five years. The main source of foreign direct investment (FDI) for Bangladesh is the United States. The country has now become the second-largest source of remittances for Bangladesh too.

On 4th April of 2022 marking the '50th anniversary of the US-Bangladesh partnership' Ambassador Haas wrote, "Through its remarkable first five decades of independence, I like to think that Bangladesh has found no better partner than the United States. And we intend to build upon that partnership over the next 50 years."

"The United States and the people of Bangladesh want the same things: a vibrant, secure, and prosperous democracy, an accountable judicial system, and basic human rights for everyone. Bangladesh can count on our partnership for decades to come to accomplish these shared goals", he concluded.

Sources: United States Department of State, USAID, U.S. Embassy Dhaka, U.S. International COVID-19 Vaccine Donations Tracker.

Tarique Choyon is a journalist & a columnist


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