No chance of reaching compromise with BNP, Foreign Minister tells visiting US congressmen

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told two members of the US Congress there is no scope for compromise with the opposition BNP, that is waging a movement for the fall of the government.

Momen told journalists after his meeting with Ed Case and Richard McCormick at the state guesthouse Padma, “They asked us if there was any scope for compromise. I said no because the BNP wants the fall of the government.” The US congressmen arrived in Dhaka on Saturday on a four-day visit.

Before the meeting, they paid respect to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by placing a wreath at his portrait at Dhanmondi 32. Ed Case is a Democratic representative from Hawaii, while Richard McCormick is a Republican representative from Georgia.

The visit has triggered some speculations as it comes ahead of Bangladesh’s general election, scheduled to be held by January, in which the US is taking an interest. The Biden administration has announced a policy to restrict visas for those who would stand in the way of free and fair polls in Bangladesh.

Earlier, six members of the US Congress in a letter urged President Joe Biden to intervene in Bangladesh’s electoral process. In another letter, 14 congressmen asked Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the UN, for measures against the Bangladesh government ahead of the country’s general election.

However, none of the visiting congressmen was the signatory of any of the letters. They will meet leaders from both the ruling Awami League and the opposition BNP. They will also go to Cox’s Bazar to meet Rohingya refugees living in camps there.

During the meeting with the foreign minister, Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Climate Change Saber Hossain Chowdhury, Member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Kazi Nabil Ahmed and newly elected MP Mohammad A Arafat were also present.

The foreign minister said, “We had a very good discussion. We are happy that many representatives from the US are coming to Bangladesh.In the US they have a false perception that Bangladesh is a dangerous country – you will be killed if you go there. That is why we want them to keep coming here and see our developments.We discussed a lot of things. We discussed development, climate change, the Rohingya crisis, and trade and investment issues.”

Momen said our trade is increasing, but investments are not increasing as expected. Despite that, the US is the number one investor in Bangladesh. He had urged them to partner up with Bangladesh in different sectors, particularly pharmaceuticals. He reiterated the government’s commitment to holding a free and fair one.

Foreign minister added, “The Awami League is always an election-focused party. We want elections to be free and fair. If all parties cooperate, the election can be held in a non-violent manner. The government and Election Commission alone cannot guarantee non-violent elections. They need support from all political parties.”

Giving examples from the US, the congressmen told the foreign minister that Democrats and Republicans always found ways of consensus. In reply, the foreign minister said, “There is no demand for consensus in Bangladesh. We want free and fair elections. But our opposition does not care about elections. They only want the government to step down. It cannot be a topic of discussion.”

As they asked for any scope to compromise on election, Momen in reply asked them whether the government in Washington would step down before the election there. “Certainly not,” the foreign minister said, adding that: “Will you sit in a discussion on such a demand? Certainly not.”

On the Rohingya issue, the foreign minister said the congressmen had advocated for allowing them to hold jobs. “I told them we are the most densely populated country in the world. Every year two million people enter the job market. We cannot give jobs to all of them. We want them (Rohingyas) to be sent back. You (the US) can also take them in. You said before that you would take some of them in, but it has not happened yet.”

He said, “They always hear that Bangladesh is a dangerous country, that we (Bangladesh) fell into China’s trap and police are killing people all. They think Bangladesh is a dangerous country. The congressmen also asked us about China.I told them we are not going to fall into any Chinese debt trap. We took out about 1% of our total loans [from China].”

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