The sanctions imposed by the United States administration on the Rapid Action Battalion of Bangladesh and the elite force’s six current and former top officials have brought to surface the dormant diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
The Bangladesh authorities believe that the US sanctions are part of geopolitics while the US version is that its national security interests have been threatened by the Rapid Action Battalion undermining the rule of law, human rights, fundamental freedoms and economic prosperity of the people of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh diplomats view that the tensions with the US are also linked to the change in the focus of the US administration since the election of Joe Biden, a democrat, as the president of the country replacing Donald Trump, a Republican.
“We would carry out analyses to see if Bangladesh has become a victim of geopolitics,” foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said on Saturday.
A US diplomat in Dhaka on Sunday also indicated that there were tensions in its relations with Bangladesh.
Successive US administrations were annoyed with the Bangladesh government over the enhancement of its relations with China and Russia with high-profile financial engagements and procurements, including submarines and nuclear power plants, a Bangladesh diplomat said.
There have also been constant pressures from successive US administrations on the Bangladesh government to engage in the Indo-Pacific Strategy and procure defence materials and services from the US, said the diplomat.
The most worrying part of the US sanctions is that these have been imposed in partnership with the United Kingdom and Canada, another diplomat said.
The United States on Friday (December 10) declared the sanctions on the Rapid Action Battalion and six of its serving and former senior officers.
The officers include former RAB director general Benazir Ahmed, now the inspector general of police, current RAB DG Chowdhury Abdullah Al-Mamun, current RAB additional DG Khan Mohammad Azad and former additional DGs Tofayel Mustafa Sorwar, Mohammad Jahangir Alam and Mohammad Anwar Latif Khan.
The charges the US authorities mentioned against them included gross violation of human rights, including extrajudicial killings, mostly targeting opposition party members, journalists and human rights activists.
US Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo stated that the sanctions were used as tools to expose and hold accountable perpetrators of serious human rights abuses, in partnership with the United Kingdom and Canada, to send a message that democracies around the world would act against those who would abuse the state power to inflict sufferings and repression.
The visa restrictions slapped by the US on Benazir might make him ineligible for entry into that country and some other countries, including UK and Canada, as these restrictions are linked to foreign operations and related programmes of the US authorities, diplomats said.
They also said that the US authorities might announce separate targeted measures against other officials brought under the sanctions.
The US authorities are highly likely to specify implications of the sanctions imposed on the RAB and other officials in the next course of actions, said a diplomat.
The implications of the sanctions imposed on the RAB officials also include the possibility of freezing their property for serious human rights abuse or corruption under the US executive order 13818 of 2017.
Both the US and British governments expressed concern in their 2020 annual human rights reports over the incidents of enforced disappearance, extrajudicial killing and the use of the Digital Security Act.
There were no improvement in the human rights situation and democracy in Bangladesh, the reports said.
Political freedom in Bangladesh remained restricted as there were incidents of violence and allegations of intimidation and voter suppression in the elections, they observed.
Foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen on Sunday said that the government of Bangladesh would remain engaged with the US authorities on the matters.
The US sanctions on the RAB and its six current and former top officials coincided with the cancellation of the visa of former Bangladesh army chief Aziz Ahmed and declaring him persona non grata to that country.
The US kept Bangladesh out of its first Summit for Democracy held during December 9-10 with the participation of some 110 countries.
In April 2021, Chinese defence minister General Wei Fenghe, during his visit to Dhaka, emphasised the need for Bangladesh to take joint efforts against the formation of a military alliance led by the US to maintain what Wei called ‘hegemony’ in South Asia.
The US authorities have long been in negotiations with their Bangladesh counterparts on signing the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement and the General Security of Military Information Agreement to facilitate advanced defence services and materials to Bangladesh.
This article first appeared in NewAge Bangladesh. Click here to go to the original.