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Bangladesh, US approve draft pact on defence cooperation

DHAKA (PTI):  Bangladesh and the US have passed a draft defence agreement during their eighth partnership dialogue here, according to officials.

US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, addressing reporters along with Bangladesh's Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen, on Sunday said that the two sides have passed the draft agreement on the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA).

Finally, GSOMIA is the gateway to being able to do more on the security front today, we passed a draft agreement and we are very confident that we will be able to get the issue settled, so that we can do more on the security side together and that will be looked forward to, she said.

Bangladesh officials earlier said that Washington wanted Dhaka to sign two defence agreements -- GSOMIA and the Acquisition Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA).

Momen, however, said that the two sides had elaborate talks on stronger defence and security cooperation alongside exchanging views on areas such as investments, trade facilitation, defence, security and connectivity.

We had a frank, elaborate and quite fruitful discussion today on the whole gamut of the bilateral relations between our two countries, encompassing political, economic and security domains, the foreign secretary said.

Asked for comments on the US Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS), Nuland said it involved economic, security and technology elements and we love to see Bangladesh be involved in much of it (IPS) as you (Dhaka) are interested in being involved in with .

Momen said that Bangladesh has high expectations from the Biden administration in terms of building a comprehensive bilateral partnership.

We had a frank, elaborate and quite fruitful discussion today on the whole gamut of the bilateral relations, encompassing political, economic and security domains, the foreign secretary said.

The dialogue came three months after the US slapped sanctions on Bangladesh's elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and several of its incumbent and former commanders on charges of gross human rights violation.

Nuland said her country noticed progress in RAB activities in honouring human rights issues in recent months.

According to media reports and rights watchdogs, no extra-judicial killings which the RAB or police previously called encounter with armed gangs and drug peddlers, were reported since the sanctions were imposed.

Dhaka, however, said the punitive measure against the RAB, which draws personnel from the Army, the Navy and the Air Force alongside the Police, might affect Bangladesh's efforts to combat terrorism.

Nuland acknowledged Dhaka's concerns involving the sanctions but called them a complicated and difficult issue since our security and counter-terrorism cooperation is so important .

The senior US State Department official's comments came as she emerged from a nearly 90-minute eighth Partnership Dialogue with Bangladesh foreign secretary at the state guesthouse Padma here.

US is never going to be silent when we see human rights abuses, when we see violation of basic laws, so we talked about it, Nuland said.

Asked how the US viewed Bangladesh's stance on the Ukraine crisis, Nuland said both sides had a rich conversation over the issue while the key inflection point was for the battle between autocracies and democracies around the world.

All democracies now need to stand together, and I am confident that we will stand together in speaking the truth about this (Ukraine conflict), and trying to bringing an end to this war and restoring peace and security, Nuland said.

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