US Deputy Secretary of State to arrive in Bangladesh

US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun will meet senior Bangladeshi government officials in Dhaka today to reaffirm bilateral strategic

US Bangladesh

Photo: Reuters

US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun will meet senior Bangladeshi government officials in Dhaka today to reaffirm bilateral strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

Washington has recently indicated its desire for closer ties with the country through defence diplomacy, including cooperation on increasing arms sales and a military modernisation plan. These efforts are part of a larger US attempt to erode Chinese economic influence in Bangladesh, although the $110 million in American arms sales pales in comparison to the country’s $2.59 billion purchase of Chinese weaponry since 2010.

Expect Beijing to hedge against Washington’s investments in Bangladesh by continuing to pave economic inroads with Dhaka, exemplified by its pandemic-relief exports and recent slashing of tariffs on Bangladeshi goods by 97%. Beijing has also offered Dhaka $1 billion in irrigation development after negotiations with New Delhi failed over the allocation of Teesta River waters, creating a further point of tension between China and India on top of the Ladakh border dispute that broke out in June. If China continues to provide for Bangladesh and the US fails to engender a Bangladeshi turn to Western allies, the possibility of Dhaka’s tilt towards China—and a subsequent erosion of Western-allied security cooperation—remains far more likely.

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