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Special Report
04 November 2016, Friday
Wilson Center on Bangladesh
Dhaka politics is unlikely to relent anytime soon
Justnews -
Dhaka, Nov 4 (Just News): Unfortunately, given Bangladesh’s notoriously polarizing political environment, fueled in part by an ugly vendetta between the country’s prime minister and its top opposition leader, Dhaka is unlikely to relent anytime soon.

The US based Wilson Center for scholars said this on Thursday in a new volume written by Michael Kugelman on U.S policy in Asia. It identifies key challenges for the next U.S. president across the region, and it makes a series of policy recommendations.

In Bangladesh part it writes, over the last decade or so, Washington has relegated its relations with Dhaka to the backburner of South Asia policy, where they have been subordinated to America’s relationships with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India (though to be fair, the United States has provided ample aid to Bangladesh—more so than to any country in Asia other than Afghanistan and Pakistan). Until recently, this relative inattention to Bangladesh made sense, particularly given serious stability concerns in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Bangladesh, despite great political volatility, did not pose major threats to U.S. interests. However, deprioritizing Bangladesh has now become an untenable policy as the country suffers through an increasingly violent campaign of Islamist terrorism, culminating in an ISIS-claimed attack on a popular Dhaka cafe in July. Like several other attacks that preceded it, the assault on the Holey cafe targeted foreigners. In effect, in Bangladesh, America’s core interest—stability—and American lives are both at risk.

 These developments suggest the need for greater U.S. engagement with Bangladesh. How to orient this engagement, however, is a delicate matter. In an ideal world, Washington would ramp up counterterrorism cooperation with Dhaka in order to help Bangladesh identify local extremists and probe possible links between homegrown militants and global terror outfits like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

However, Bangladesh’s government frequently uses counterterrorism sweeps as pretexts for cracking down hard on the political opposition. If Washington does choose to increase security cooperation—and particularly security assistance—then it will need to work to ensure that its dollars do not end up being used to bankroll draconian measures against Dhaka’s political opponents.

U.S. officials should press Dhaka to exercise restraint in its dealings with the opposition—not just to safeguard human rights, but also to forestall terror.
By cracking down on political opponents and cutting off peaceful channels to air grievances, prospects for radicalization are heightened and particularly when these channels are denied to the likes of Jamaat-e-Islami, an anti-government Islamist party that harbors hard-line views and harbors violent factions.

(Just News/gys/1830hr)

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