The nine-hour whirlwind visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to Dhaka just three months ahead of formal exit of the Obama administration was a good gesture of the US to the Bangladesh government. The visit took place even when the US administration repeatedly said a 'flawed election' in 2014 was held to come to power. The visit, however, does not mean that the US administration has deviated from its stand, as has been reflected in Kerry's remarks during the visit.
As reported by ABC News channel, John Kerry emphasised on democracy which provides the 'most resilient and reliable platform'. The Secretary of State said that he does not believe the government of Bangladesh has 'its head in the sand' and that there are links between the Islamic State and extremists around the world, including Bangladesh.
While addressing a select gathering at Edward M.Kennedy Center at Dhanmondi in Dhaka on August 29, John Kerry spoke for caring about rights of labour workers, appropriate wages to workers in factories. These workers provide annually $28 billion dollar to Bangladesh by exporting the products they produced by their hard labour. This is another area of concern of the US government.
John Kerry 's decision to be at the Edward Kennedy Center was meaningful. The Center was established by the US embassy in Dhaka with cooperation of the Liberation War Museum to recognise Kennedy contribution of Senator Edward Kennedy to 1971 war. The US Senator was not allowed to visit erstwhile East Pakistan on the advice of Pakistan's UN permanent ambassador Agha Shahi whose communication reached this writer's hands while he was serving in the external publicity wing in the Pakistan Ministry of Information and National Affairs in Islamabad from 1968 to August,1971. The Nixon administration was very angry over the role played by Senator Edward Kennedy. However, Kennedy visited Dhaka in February of 1972 to pay respect to freedom fighters of Bangladesh. He planted a banyan tree on the campus of Dhaka University.
During his short visit, Kerry met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia, and members of civil society and held official talks with Foreign Minister A.H.Mahmood Ali. He expressed concern about security and human rights.
Kerry is the fourth US Secretary of State to visit Bangladesh, first being Dr.Henry Kissinger during the administration President Gerald Ford in 1974.
The writer is a retired diplomat from Bangladesh.