What are the possible consequences of US visa policy for Bangladesh?


There still is confusion in the minds of politicians, officials and citizens in Bangladesh centering recently announced US visa policy. Almost immediately after publication of this visa policy through a press release by the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, American ambassador in Dhaka Peter Haas has intensified numerous activities, while he has been regularly meeting politicians and members of the civil society – at different venues and trying to assess their reaction on this matter. Meanwhile, within two days of holding an exclusive meeting with Ambassador Haas, an opposition leader has silently left Dhaka for Dubai along with two key figures of his party for meeting several unknown individuals. One of those individuals is an officer of Pakistani spy agency Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) who had arrived in Dubai one day earlier accompanied by a female named Zerin, who according to a credible source is one of the top-graded honeytraps of the agency. Both of them have boarded in the same hotel possibly for the sake of keeping the meetings with the Bangladesh politicians secret. The same source also said, during his stay in Dubai, this Bangladeshi politician wanted an appointment with the Israeli Consul General.

Meanwhile, the new US visa policy has generated intense discussion and debate in Bangladesh and already drawn substantial attention from the international media. Although the policy is explicit in its intention, there are questions about the modus operandi of its execution and efficacy in achieving the targeted goal of protecting Bangladesh’s democratic institutions and freedom of expression. According to experts, the United States adopts similar visa policy as a follow up to earlier measures and it may lead to far harsher measures such as sanctions on individuals, organizations, institutions and even the entire country.

Although the US claims the newly announced visa policy is aimed at supporting fair elections in Bangladesh and strengthening democratic systems, according to analysts, it is in reality adopted with the ulterior agenda of forcing Bangladesh in abandoning its extremely cordial relations with China and India and entering into exclusive grips of the United States. In other words, Washington desires to turn Bangladesh into its vessel state. With this agenda, Washington shall use this new visa policy in punishing those who want Bangladesh to uphold its sovereignty and maintain friendly relations with every country in the world. Anyone opposing America’s hegemonic behavior shall fall victim to this visa policy, along with members of their families while their properties and cash in the United States shall be confiscated under various excuses. Those who may come under the purview of the new policy include current and former Bangladeshi officials, members of political parties and members of law enforcement, the judiciary and security services.

Meanwhile, key policymakers in Washington DC are currently working on a list of Bangladeshi nationals against whom they may initiate action under the Global Magnitsky Act. Such actions may begin either before October this year or immediately after the announcement of the election schedule.

But, at the end of the day, America’s attempt of cow-towing Bangladesh through this multi-faced visa policy may backfire. Previously, similar visa restrictions have been imposed on individuals from Nigeria, Somalia, Uganda, Nicaragua and Belarus, where in most cases, these measures did not have any real impact. Moreover, in Bangladesh’s case, for the US embassy in Dhaka, it would be a herculean task to prepare solid grounds against any individual before imposing punitive measures against them. Most importantly, a large number of local staffs at the US Embassy in Dhaka are reportedly having history of their affiliations with Islamist forces in Bangladesh during their student life. Meaning, any future action by the US authorities would be mostly controversial and may exclusively target members of the secularist forces in the country.

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