US Secretary of State John Kerry was on a nine-hour visit to Dhaka on August 29 to tell Bangladesh that his country wants to share the country's fight against militancy. Both the countries agreed to increase cooperation between their intelligence agencies. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina agreed to cooperate with the US very closely in fighting terrorism and violent extremism.
In a speech at a mixed gathering in Dhaka, John Kerry said elements of Islamic State are connected to some degree with operatives in Bangladesh. The government has all along maintained that there is no organisational presence of Islamic State in the country and the recent terrorist attacks in Bangladesh are acts of home-grown militants. But a number of such attacks have reportedly been claimed by IS.
Kerry said that non-Syrian terrorists of the IS were returning home facing defeat in the battlefield. When the PM wanted to know about the sources of funds and arms of the IS, he said that the IS terrorists got money by selling oil from the areas which have been captured by them. They also impose high taxes on the people in the invaded areas. Hasina said it was surprising that the children of well-to-do families were getting involved in terrorist activities.
Kerry described the fight against terrorism as one of the world's big challenges, one that will take a generation or more to resolve. No country is immune from terrorism and none can win this fight without support from others.
Although John Kerry's visit was short, he met all sections of the people. He met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and held official talks with Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali and other officials. He also met BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia and a cross-section of people.
According to Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the Secretary General of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Khaleda Zia elaborately discussed Bangladesh's next election with the US Secretary of State at a meeting in the US embassy. The current state of democracy in Bangladesh, press freedom, human rights and rule of law and current crisis over militancy and terrorists were discussed extensively at the meeting.
The US government has seemingly changed its previous position in respect of Bangladesh. He visited the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum and signed the visitors' book with positive comments.
Dhaka-Washington relations have reached a new height after the visit of John Kerry. Both the sides have expressed satisfaction over the visit. Cooperation between Dhaka and Washington will increase on anti-terrorism campaign. Bangladesh took the opportunity of requesting John Kerry for duty- and quota-free access of Bangladeshi goods to the USA.
John Kerry emphasised on upholding democratic values, human rights and peaceful political environment.
The writer is an economist and columnist.