US engagement with Bangladesh raises concerns


It has become increasingly evident that the United States is focusing its long-term strategy on Bangladesh, as the Biden administration places the country on its radar. While the Biden administration portrays itself as deeply concerned about democracy in Bangladesh, the underlying agenda appears to be positioning Bangladesh as Washington’s exclusive domain for potentially dangerous operations targeting Myanmar, China, and India. To achieve these objectives, the US appears to seek a compliant regime in Bangladesh that prioritizes Washington’s interests over national sovereignty.

History has shown that puppet governments primarily benefit Western corporations in the long run, leaving citizens powerless to address their concerns, often leading to persistent poverty and conflict. When the US intervened in Libya, Iraq, and more recently Afghanistan under the guise of promoting democracy, the results were often catastrophic. While President Joe Biden proudly champions the cause of upholding democratic values globally, his administration maintains close ties with authoritarian regimes such as Vietnam, raising questions about America’s true commitment to democracy. In today’s unipolar world, the US assumes the role of a global policeman, albeit sometimes perceived as a “bad cop”.

After pushing Afghanistan into turmoil and contributing to the instability of Pakistan, American policymakers seem to have turned their attention to Bangladesh, a move that could have dire consequences not only for Bangladesh but for the entire region. Allegations suggest that American intelligence operatives are secretly working to radicalize a significant portion of the 1.20 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, potentially aiding groups like the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in forming alliances with Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other regional militant outfits. Acting on Washington’s directives, Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) is reportedly conducting covert operations to spread Rohingya militancy deep inside India. Additionally, thousands of Rohingya Muslims have reportedly infiltrated India illegally since 2017, joining various terrorist and jihadist groups.

In April, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina accused the United States of attempting a regime change in her nation, asserting that they aim to eliminate democracy and install a non-democratic government. This accusation came following US criticism of human rights abuses in Bangladesh. Despite Bangladesh’s economic progress under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership, reports of discontent within the ruling Awami League were shared in American political circles. India has also cautioned the US against interfering in Bangladeshi elections, suggesting that Hasina’s claims have found some support.

On May 24, 2023, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced visa restrictions on Bangladeshi officials, prompting responses and arguments from Sheikh Hasina’s government. While a country has the right to control its borders, government officials usually receive specific justifications for visa denials rather than unilateral accusations of “democratic backsliding”.

Simultaneously, Bangladeshi ruling party members provided Blinken with video evidence of opposition figures vowing to obstruct elections, requesting equal application of the new American visa policy to both establishment and opposition figures. Critics argue that the US seems more concerned about opposition-induced obstructions to free and fair elections in a democracy.

Given the ongoing discussions on trade and exports between the two countries, Dhaka has been compelled to issue statements to placate the US government while also accusing it of fomenting unrest with the intention of changing the government at the center. In 2021, the US imposed sanctions on officers of Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and the Bangladesh Police. Furthermore, Bangladesh was not invited to the US Summit for Democracy that same year. Earlier this year, senior US State Department official Donald Lu visited Dhaka and suggested that the sanctions had brought about some positive changes, asserting that the RAB had been reined in as a result of US actions.

On September 22, 2023, the US State Department announced the implementation of visa policies affecting Bangladeshi citizens. Then, on September 24, 2026, US Ambassador in Dhaka, Peter Haas, revealed in an interview that the United States would also impose visa restrictions on journalists and members of the Bangladesh media. This revelation has led to concerns among journalists in Dhaka that the Biden administration is furthering its agenda to tighten its grip on Bangladesh. According to members of the Bangladesh media, the Biden administration is attempting to expand visa restrictions on journalists with the aim of silencing anti-Islamist and anti-Biden voices, and imposing unseen censorship on the media, which contradicts the principles of freedom of expression and press freedom.

Ambassador Peter Haas’s statement suggests that, under the guise of safeguarding democracy, the Biden administration may be pursuing a strategy that could push Bangladesh into the hands of anti-India and anti-China ultra-Islamist elements, ultimately transforming the country into a new arena for American hegemony.



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