Bangladesh–United States relations

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Bangladesh-United States relations
Map indicating locations of Bangladesh and United States


United States
Diplomatic Mission
Bangladeshi Embassy, Washington, D.C. United States Embassy, Dhaka

Bangladesh and the United States enjoy excellent diplomatic, economic and military relations. The relationship between the two countries is formed by strong bonds of friendship and shared values. Bangladesh is a key US strategic partner in South Asia.[1] The US is a major development partner of Bangladesh. On the economic front, American companies are the largest foreign direct investors in Bangladesh, and the US is also the single largest market for Bangladeshi exports. The US Military and the Bangladesh Armed Forces maintain long-standing cooperation in defense, counter-terrorism, maritime security and disaster management. Bangladesh also hosts flagship American international development programs in global food security, health and climate change.

Situated as the crossroads of Asia, Bangladesh is the one of the world's most populous countries, as well as a Next Eleven economy.[2] It is a major player in international peacekeeping, promotes regional economic integration and connectivity, and is a pioneer of social development in the developing world. It is the world's third most populous Muslim country, and its voice of moderation in the Muslim world is highly appreciated and respected.[3] In South Asia, it is a founding member of SAARC and BIMSTEC. The US considers Bangladesh as a country vital to maintaining regional and global stability.[4]

Over 53% of Bangladeshis expressed favorable views of the US in recent opinion polls.[5] During her visit to Dhaka in 2012, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked that America was “betting on Bangladesh” as the country achieves increasing economic and social progress.[6] President Barack Obama has strongly praised Bangladesh’s progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.[7]

The US-Bangladesh relationship is strengthened by the Bangladeshi American community. Prominent Bangladeshi Americans include the acclaimed structural engineer F R Khan, YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim, educationist Sal Khan, entrepreneur Sumaya Kazi, congressman Hansen Clarke and ambassador M. Osman Siddique. The Bangladeshi Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus has been awarded the prestigious US Presidential Medal of Freedom and the US Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honours of the United States. Over 20,000 Bangladeshi students also currently study in the US. On the cultural front, Sisimpur, the Bangladeshi version of Sesame Street, is the most watched children's program on Bangladeshi television. [8][9]


US President Bill Clinton with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Prime Minister's Office in Dhaka during his visit to Bangladesh in 2000.
The Parliament of Bangladesh, designed by American architect Louis Kahn, is a landmark of 20th-century modern architecture.

During the Bangladesh Liberation War, the Nixon administration provided substantial diplomatic assistance to Pakistan due to its strategic interests of developing close relations with China through the Pakistani military junta. Pakistan was a Cold War ally of the United States, and for this reason, Richard Nixon and his national-security advisor, Henry Kissinger, supported its military dictatorship.[10] However, there had been widespread public support for the cause of Bangladesh as world opinion began to be sympathetic towards the plight of Bengali civilians suffering from the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities. Influential US lawmakers such as Ted Kennedy, Frank Church and William B. Saxbe and such cultural figures such as Allen Ginsberg, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan engaged in formulating US public opinion against the Nixon administration. There was significant opposition and dissent within the US government, especially the State Department, against administration policy. The United States Consulate in Dhaka, led by Archer K. Blood, expressed profound dissent with administration policy through the famous Blood telegram, which is considered to be the strongest note of internal dissent in the history of the American Foreign Service. Ted Kennedy visited Bengali refugee camps in eastern India and strongly criticized the Nixon's support for Pakistan and its ignoring of "the brutal and systematic repression of East Bengal by the Pakistani army". In the summer of 1971, the Concert for Bangla Desh, was held at Madison Square Garden in New York, and was the world's first benefit concert, which future concerts such as Live Aid. The concert attracted 40,000 people and was organized by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar. The United States Congress reinforced arms embargoes on Pakistan and expressed strong opposition against the Pakistani military campaign and the role of the Nixon White House in supporting the Pakistani junta.

After the liberation of Bangladesh in December 1971, the United States formally recognized the newly independent country on April 4 1972 and pledged US$300 million in aid.[11][12] Herbert D. Spivack was the principal American diplomatic officer in Dhaka at the time.[13] Four days later, the United States and Bangladesh agreed to establish diplomatic relations at the embassy level.[14] The consulate-general was officially upgraded to an embassy on 18 May 1972.[15]

Today the relationship between the two countries is based on what is described by American diplomats as the "three Ds", meaning Democracy, Development and Denial of space for terrorism. The United States is closely working with Bangladesh in combating Islamic extremism and terrorism and is providing hundreds of millions of dollars every year in economic assistance. During his visit to Bangladesh in 2003, U.S Secretary of State Colin Powell praised Dhaka as "an elegant, compelling and greatly needed voice of moderation in the Muslim world".[16]

The United States has also assisted Bangladesh during cyclone relief operations in 1991 and 2007.[17] Operation Sea Angel One in 1991 and Operation Sea Angel Two in 2007 saw US Marines actively joining Bangladeshi troops in providing relief to thousands of people in southern Bangladesh who suffered as a result of the 1991 Bangladesh Cyclone and Cyclone Sidr.

A strategic partnership agreement between Bangladesh and the US was signed in 2012, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Dhaka.

In June 2013, following the 2013 Savar building collapse that led to over 1,000 deaths, the United States suspended a preferential trade agreement with Bangladesh that allowed for duty-free access to the US market over poor safety standards. The Bangladesh Foreign Ministry then issued a statement that read: "It cannot be more shocking for the factory workers of Bangladesh that the decision to suspend Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) comes at a time when the government of Bangladesh has taken concrete and visible measures to improve factory safety and protect workers' rights."[18]

In recent years, successive US ambassadors in Bangladesh have openly acknowledged the Nixon administration's role in 1971 as a "tragic mistake" and "foolish".[19][20] However, they pointed out that the United States soon recognized Bangladesh after independence and became a leading trade and development partner to the country.[21] In 2011, the Government of Bangladesh announced it would honour 88 Americans, along with 600 other foreigners, as heroes for campaigning for Bangladesh in 1971. The list includes Ted Kennedy, Allen Ginsberg, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.[22][23]

Diplomatic presence[edit]

Dan Mozena. Official US State Department photo

See also[edit]


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  10. ^ Bass, Gary. "LOOKING AWAY FROM GENOCIDE". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  11. ^ Newsom, Phil (1 June 1972). "U.S. Strives to Improve Relations with Bangladesh". Beaver, Pennsylvania, USA: Beaver County Times, via Google News. United Press International. 
  12. ^ "U. S. recognizes Bangladesh". United Press International (Chicago Daily Defender). 5 April 1972. p. 14. 
  13. ^ Welles, Benjamin (5 April 1972). "Bangladesh Gets U.S. Recognition, Promise of Help". The New York Times. p. 1. 
  14. ^ Sabharwal, Pran (9 April 1972). "Mujib agrees to embassy ties with U.S.". The Baltimore Sun. p. A8. 
  15. ^ Trumbull, Robert (19 May 1972). "A Toast Drunk in Tea, and Dacca Has a U.S. Embassy". The New York Times. p. 4. 
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  17. ^ "Operation Sea Angel II". Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
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 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Department of State (Background Notes).

External links[edit]

Media related to Bangladesh – United States relations at Wikimedia Commons