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US, China Compete To Woo Bangladesh As Washington Seeks Indian Help To Get Dhaka On Its Side

After the two largest South Asian nations – India and Pakistan are already allied towards the US and China respectively, Washington is now turning towards Bangladesh to strengthen ties as part of the Indo-Pacific strategy. 

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Last month Keith Krach, U.S. undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment asked American companies to invest in Bangladesh’s energy, IT, pharmaceutical and agriculture sectors in a virtual meeting held on September 30, reported Nikkei Asia. This was the first-ever high-level consultation between the two countries based on economic cooperation.

Bangladesh is surrounded by India on 3 sides

Washington has also signed an aviation pact with Dhaka enabling direct flights between Bangladesh and the US under Washington’s Open Skies policy. The pact was also signed on September 30.

The pact will “further expand our strong economic and commercial partnership, promote people-to-people ties, and create new opportunities for airlines, travel companies and customers,” the US Department of State said in a statement.

The Hindu revealed in a report that the US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun will visit Dhaka from October 14-16.

“The Deputy Secretary’s engagement in Bangladesh will focus on advancing our common vision of a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and secure Indo-Pacific region with shared prosperity for all, US-Bangladesh cooperation on COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, and sustainable economic development,” the US Embassy in Dhaka said in a statement.

Amid tensions between the US and China, both the nations are trying to woo Bangladesh. Beijing recently won the $250 million tender for developing the aircraft terminal in return of 97% reduction in tariffs on Bangladeshi products.

Beijing has also pledged $20 billion in loans to 27 projects in Bangladesh under Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Rahman, who led the Bangladesh side in the recent consultations with the US, has dismissed the notion that partnership with Washington would sour relations with Beijing, noted the Nikkie Asia report. He called relations with China as “excellent”. “Our business environment is improving [and] we’re investing in infrastructure,” Rahman said.

US deputy secretary of state Stephen Biegun has told New Delhi that the United States will be consulting it more on its neighbouring countries, as he takes a key step towards resetting ties with Bangladesh at a meeting with PM Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday.

According to reports, Biegun, in his discussions with India’s foreign secretary Harsh Shringla, explored possibilities to boost the QUAD security dialogue and sought India’s inputs on its neighbourhood.

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