The US has continued to support Pakistan for short-term geopolitical considerations. On the other hand, the US has been unfair to Bangladesh by alleging that the democratic process there had been disrupted.
Indian strategic analyst Brahma Chellaney said in an article titled 'Uneven U.S. treatment of Bangladesh and Pakistan makes little sense' in Nikkei Asia published on June 12 that the US has adopted a double-standard policy towards Bangladesh. He also said that the US has a vested geostrategic reason for targeting Bangladesh, a small peaceful country, while leaving alone Pakistan, despite its gross human rights violations.
Mass arrests, disappearances, murders and torture have become a regular occurrence in Pakistan that has been under proxy military rule. But the US is not making any noise about it. On the contrary it has stepped up to “protect democracy” in Bangladesh by imposing the ban that "those who obstruct the election will not be given US visa". How exactly can such double standards towards the two countries be explained? In fact, democracy promotion serves as a major tool for US policymakers to promote their strategic interests.
Few people would disagree with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken's statement that 'the US's goal is to ensure that the 2024 elections in Bangladesh are free and fair'. However, his threat to suspend visas of those "responsible for or involved in obstructing the democratic electoral process" does little to promote this cause and may even be counterproductive.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the leader of Bangladesh's independence struggle and the daughter of the first president Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, has claimed that the United States was through the democracy ruse seeking to topple the ruling government. Last April, she told the National Parliament, "They want to uproot democracy and install a government that will not have democratic legitimacy."
Striking contrast with Pakistan
Bangladesh's record economic growth stands in striking contrast to that of Pakistan, a country on the brink of bankruptcy. Yet, despite having so many positive aspects, Bangladesh was not invited to the democracy conference organized by the United States. But Pakistan was invited!
The US has continued to support Pakistan for short-term geopolitical considerations. On the other hand, the US has been unfair to Bangladesh by alleging that the democratic process is being disrupted. In 2021, the Biden Administration also imposed sanctions on Bangladesh's elite force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and six of its top former and current officers. They were charged with human rights violations and their assets in the US were seized.
In December last year, US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas demanded an investigation into police violence against the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the country's largest opposition party that is allied with hardline Islamists. And Blinken recently expressed concerns about "violence and intimidation against the media and civil society" to Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abdul Momen, the US State Department said.
The tough stance of the US towards Dhaka makes little sense because Hasina's government could have been an important partner of the US in boosting regional security in Asia. PM Hasina visited Washington last month and met with officials of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, but she did not meet with any official of the Biden Administration. As a result of the ham-handed US action, the relationship between the two countries now stands strained.
(The author is a Canada-based independent researcher and writer. Views are personal. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)