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Thursday, December 5, 2013

[] US welcomes Bangladesh polls schedule

US welcomes Bangladesh polls schedule

Senior Correspondent,

Published: 2013-12-04 12:59:44.0 BdST Updated: 2013-12-04 13:47:46.0 BdST

The US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal has welcomed the announcement of Bangladesh's elections schedule to conduct polling on Jan 5.

"….while we really welcome the announcement of elections on January 5th, we do think that there is an urgent need for concerted efforts at dialogue to bring the two major political parties closer," she said in her first appearance at the foreign press centre in Washington after being sworn in on Oct 21.

She was in Bangladesh last month when the ruling Awami League installed an 'all-party' interim cabinet to oversee the Jan 5 elections. The BNP did not join the cabinet.

Opposition BNP rejected the polls schedule and launched a movement by imposing shutdowns and blockades to press for its demand for an election under a non-party government.

Biswal said they would like to see 'a process that is free, fair, credible, and free from violence'.

"That has been the message that we have underscored. And for that to take place, both of the major political parties need to come together," she said, adding "the solutions are not going to come from the international community".

"The solutions are there within the people and the institutions and the parties of Bangladesh. What is needed is a dialogue to take place to allow a compromise to emerge for elections in which the people of Bangladesh can have confidence and can feel are credible.

"And that has been our underlying message publicly and privately," she said.

File Photo

File Photo

Biswal said she had witnessed Bangladesh's "enormous progress and enormous future potential" during her visit.

But in her opinion, Bangladesh's potential would be undermined if there is 'no political transition that is free, fair, smooth, and acceptable to the Bangladeshi people'.

"We would like to see this country continue to move forward on the path of development and prosperity.

"And the United States and our friends in the international community don't have a stake in who wins the election".

She said during her trip she emphasised 'all sides to restrain violence'.

"Violence has no place in the democratic process. And we think it's very important that all sides find ways to move forward to have free, fair, credible, and peaceful and violence-free elections in Bangladesh".

She said the US's relations in the South Asian region were not just government-to-government, "but it's people-to-people, citizen-to-citizen, and friend-to-friend."

"And I hope I can underscore that during my tenure".

She said this is a region of extraordinary geographic, linguistic, cultural diversity, extraordinary beauty, and incredibly vibrant societies.

But she said many see the political transition in this region 'as a source of anxiety or uncertainty'. "I actually see them as a source of opportunity".

She also highlighted President Obama's talks about the "rebalance to Asia". This she said was "fundamentally the vision that he's (Obama) talking about – the vision of an Asian landscape that is bound together in trade and commerce, a vision of an integrated trade landscape".

She said the political transition in Myanmar "creates an enormous opportunity to connect India, Bangladesh, and other countries of South Asia, to the countries of Southeast Asia".


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