Published:  03:30 AM, 05 December 2019

US seeks stronger defense ties with BD

US seeks stronger defense ties with BD US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Randall G Schriver speaks at a hotel in Dhaka on Wednesday. -UNB

US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Randall G. Schriver on Wednesday said they have no issue with Bangladesh improving relations with other countries mentioning that it seeks "stronger" defense relationship and closer partnership with Bangladesh.

"We expect Bangladesh will have good relations with its neighbors and we've no issue with Bangladesh improving relations with other countries," Schriver said while talking to a small group of journalists at a city hotel before wrapping up his brief visit.

The senior US defense official said the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) is a free, open and inclusive vision and it is not a direct counter to China or China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), reports UNB.

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen recently said Bangladesh will effectively remain engaged in any future 'Indo-Pacific Alliance' for its economic aspects.  "We're sure we'll be effectively engaged in any future Indo-Pacific Alliance if it's found to be purely economic in nature," he said adding that Bangladesh has already joined China's BRI.

During his meetings with top government and military officials, Schriver talked about the IPS that has several pillars, including economic, good governance and security.Being part of the department of defense, he focused mostly on the security pillar of the IPS and explained their vision which is an inclusive one.

The IPS supports free, fair, and reciprocal trade, open investment environments, good governance, and freedom of the seas are goals shared by all who wish to prosper in a free and open future.During his discussions here, the senior US official said he was able to see lots of alignments in Bangladesh's views and their views.

The US side discussed a number of initiatives to strengthen defense partnership and cooperation, including the proposed two "foundational defense" agreements -- General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA).

Responding to a question on GSOMIA and ACSA, Schriver said they want to do these in a correct way in terms of making sure that they have mutual confidence and both sides see benefits. "We're interested in making sure it's done correctly and properly."

He said the "sense of urgency" relates to the fact that they want to do more and want to advance the defense relationship with further cooperation. "So, our urgency just comes from a desire to move this relationship forward and these are important steps."

Schriver termed these two proposed agreements foundational and enabling agreements saying it will help open opportunity for more cooperation, information sharing and closer cooperation.

He said they also discussed priority areas -- counterterrorism, maritime security and internal challenges to Rohingya situation to understand how the two countries can be good partner and support Bangladesh address its challenges. Schriver appreciated Bangladesh's contribution to peacekeeping operations with tremendous record. "It's very impressive contribution."

On Rohingya issue, the US defense official laid emphasis on "durable solution" to Rohingya crisis with "conditions appropriate and conducive" for peaceful return of Rohingyas that needs to be sustained.

"We use the means that are available to us," he said adding that they will also continue to support Bangladesh which has provided temporary shelter to over 1.1 million Rohingyas.The US senior official said they have a very limited defense engagement or military-to-military engagement with Myanmar.

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