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Diplomatic hitch with US envoy Peter Haas comes to light

Editorials 2023-11-27, 1:08pm

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US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter D Haas. Wikipedia



The disclosure made to the Indian media by Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen in New Delhi on November 26 cleared the smoke over the unceremonious absence of US Ambassador Peter D. Haas from the scene in Bangladesh for 10 days. The Foreign Secretary’s interview broadly hinted that a question of interference in the internal affairs of Bangladesh was raised. 

Masud Bin Momen told WION diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal, “…if any country interferes with Bangladesh's domestic affairs, obviously Bangladesh will try to remain engaged with them and make them understand that they have no reason to doubt Bangladesh's intentions.” He added, "Well, each country, you know, has their right or prerogative, and they are all our development partners," according to a report published by the UNB news agency based on the WION report.

Ambassador Peter D Haas who was quite active with various programmes related to US supported activities in Bangladesh silently left in a Colombo flight on 16 November. Before that voices were raised from the ruling party to expel the US diplomat for being vocal over US sanctions and visa restrictions against those who would undermine democracy and free-fair elections.  

Soon after the departure of the US Ambassador for Colombo, diplomatic correspondents in of print and the electronic media based in Dhaka did ask the Foreign Office’s spokespersons to know the whereabouts of Peter D Haas and were told that the US envoy has informed them about his movement as per diplomatic norms but they were not supposed make the information public. The spokesperson advised the reporters to contact the spokesperson of the US Embassy in Dhaka instead.

The Foreign Secretary who has visited the Indian capital of New Delhi has also addressed about 90 heads foreign diplomatic missions on the scenario of parliamentary elections slated for January 7 next. 

He is quoted to have said, Election schedule has been announced by the Election Commission which is independent and the government also committed to hold free and fair elections. 

"And currently, all the political parties except a few are going through the various processes of nominating, selecting the candidates," Masud said.

Hopefully, he added, with people's participation, they will have free and fair elections and are also open to welcoming foreign observers so they can come and observe elections and see how free and fair they are.

The interview, given to WION diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal in New Delhi, for the first time brought to light the concealed diplomatic friction with Ambassador Peter D Haas over the US sanctions and visa restrictions being imposed on Bangladesh citizens to promote free and fair election in the country.  However the Dhaka media, so to say the people of Bangladesh deserved knowing this 10 days before, or if required for the sake diplomatic nicety, 2-3 days after his departure from Dhaka.

The diplomatic action was preceded by complains for AL leaders against the US Embassy of giving access of Islamist Jamaat leaders and Ambassador Peter Haas of holding meetings with leaders of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Now allegations are being made in the media of endorsing Bangladesh’s opposition against the government in power for 15 years.   

The Foreign Secretary’s meeting with heads of diplomatic missions in New Delhi on the Bangladesh election and political scenarios was unique. Normally such diplomatic briefings of Bangladesh are held in Dhaka.