US-Bangla Dialogue Reemphasizes Voluntary, Sustainable Rohingya Repatriation

By Muktadir Rashid   13 June 2019

DHAKA—The United States and Bangladesh in their seventh U.S.-Bangladesh Partnership Dialogue in Washington DC on June 10 reaffirmed their commitment to an enduring partnership and emphasized the need for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of 1.1 million Rohingya to their homeland of Myanmar.

The United States also committed to providing additional security assistance for Bangladesh to increase maritime domain awareness, piracy, and regional security coordination in the Bay of Bengal, pending congressional approval.

In a joint statement issued on June 12, the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka stated the meeting was co-chaired by Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Md. Shahidul Haque and the United States Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale.

Both governments reaffirmed their commitment to close cooperation on security, development, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and counterterrorism.

Shahab Enam Khan, professor in international relations at Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka, told The Irrawaddy, “this meeting was very significant in consideration to Bangladesh’s emerging importance in global geopolitics and geo-strategic relations, in the context of the Rohingya crisis, as well as its trade and security partnerships with other countries including China.”

It could be considered as a regular multi-dimensional meeting two or three years back, he said, but it’s of more significance when the new government with same leadership in Bangladesh reaffirms their commitment in the pretext of the U.S.-China trade war and growing regional political instability.


Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is planning to visit China in the first week of July where she is set to discuss further partnership and the Rohingya issue, among others, according to her foreign office in Dhaka.

The press statement said the two governments emphasized the pressing need for Myanmar to address “the root causes of the crisis, and to create the conditions necessary for the voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable repatriation of Rohingyas” to Myanmar.

“The United States committed to engaging the international community to mobilize additional assistance for the forcibly displaced Rohingya temporarily staying in Bangladesh,” it read.

The two governments agreed to continue to work closely with the global community including the United Nations and international organizations to continue to support the Rohingya and host communities, and to put effective pressure on Myanmar for a resolution of the crisis.

The meeting came just one day after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Myanmar does not want the more than 1 million Rohingya refugees currently sheltering in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar to be repatriated.

Hasina said she had spoken to the leaders of India, China and Japan, who agreed that the Rohingya were Myanmar nationals and should be repatriated.

The Bangladeshi prime minister said aid agencies shared the blame for the delay in the repatriation process.

Over 730,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since Aug. 25, 2017. Some 300,000 others fled earlier waves of violence in Myanmar, where Rohingya are denied citizenship under a 1982 law.

The joint statement said the two governments agreed to continue to cooperate closely to advance a shared vision of a free, open, inclusive, peaceful and secure Indo-Pacific region.

The two leaders acknowledged the continuing challenge of terrorism and the importance of adhering to human rights obligations while advancing security objectives.

The United States, however, requested Bangladesh to continue the discussion on the protection of “classified military information shared between the two countries.”

The United States encouraged Bangladesh to redouble efforts on the protection of human rights and combating trafficking in persons and raised concerns over certain provisions of the Digital Security Act.

The joint statement concluded that both the United States and Bangladesh agree to work toward security and economic cooperation and enhancing people-to-people ties in support of a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.

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