The US Treasury Department imposed sanctions against the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Bangladesh’s elite paramilitary force, and seven of its current and former officials accusing of human rights abuses through extrajudicial killings. This decision was like a “bolt from the blue” for Bangladesh as the sanctions were imposed “unilaterally” without any “prior information.” Also, the sanction surprises the other US allies, especially in developing worlds, as Bangladesh is one of the most trusted and dependable friends of USA in South Asia. Critics gave a contentious look on the decade-long US-Bangladesh friendship after the sanction. But recently, all the doubts have been cleared after the speech from US Congressman Gregory W Meeks where he said that the US does not have any plan to impose sanctions against Bangladesh.
Gregory W Meeks, an influential US Congressman, has been a US representative of Democratic Party from New York since 1998, and serving as the chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs since 2021. Meeks, an eminent lawyer, has told in a speech that there is no planof the USA to impose any sanctions against Bangladesh. The speech was delivered in a fundraising luncheon function at a restaurant in New York’s Queens Area where he praised about the excellent relationship between the Washington and Dhaka. In order to keep the bilateral ties intact and cozy, both countries are working closely on to address this much-talked issue.
Meeks also responded to a question about a vested quarter, both from inside and outside of Bangladesh, who are strongly lobbying for convincing the US government to impose more sanctions on Bangladeshi politicians and officials of security forces. Arguably, this clarifies one points, Bangladesh government has been claiming from the very beginning of the sanctions, that the sanction is just the results misreading of Bangladesh by the USA. In an article of Asia Times,Nandita Roy, a Bangladeshi columnist, explained that there was a better way for the US to redress the issue instead of imposing sudden sanctions on Bangladesh. The Biden administration could have discussed the allegations in theirbilateral Partnership Dialogue, or it could have arranged a separate dialogue with Bangladesh where it could have provided guidelines to reform RAB in a constructive manner.
Though this statement from the congressman water downs the situation to some extent, still there are issues that need to be addressed from the part of both countries to take back the relationship in the status quo. As the crisis has already begun, they should not let outsider or vested groups to worsen the situation which will subsequently harm their friendly relations. The US should clearly define what actually they expect from Bangladesh government, in case of RAB, as it is one of those countries who worked closely with RAB for a long period of time. And, Bangladesh should be ready to accept any positive and constructive suggestions from the USA, as a time-tested friend, bringing positive reforms in RAB.
To put in perspective, RAB has been praised for its role in countering terrorists and extremists, hunting drug dealers and smugglers, arresting transnational criminals as shared priorities with the USA. Law enforcing agencies across the world have been criticized from time to time for their negative role regardless of whether it was intentional or unintentional. For example: the US police have killed approximately 32 thousand people from 1980 to 2019 according to a report published by lancet. But this does not mean that the US does not need police or the US police do not have any role in maintain the law and order situation of the USA. Exactly for the same reasons, Bangladesh needs RAB for maintain law and order situation.
RAB has been playing a vital role in maintaining peace and stability of Bangladesh since its inception.Noteworthy, by ensuring justice to the seven murder case of Narayanganj, RAB has proved that no one is above the law and every member, regardless of his or her official position, is accountable to law.A suggestion to disband RAB is like “cutting the head to cure headache” which has been realized by the USA proving the old proverb “better late than never”. The recent US congressman’s statement is a sign of positive intention of the USA towards Bangladesh. Now, Bangladesh should strengthen its diplomatic efforts not only to take back its bonding with USA as before but also to take it to new plane of bilateral engagement.