No plans for military base in Bangladesh waters: US

February 9th, 2009 - 11:22 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaDhaka, Feb 9 (IANS) The US has expressed its willingness to assist Bangladesh in maritime patrol and secure its unprotected territorial sea lanes, but has said that it has no plan to set up a military base.
Richard Boucher, the US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, Sunday clarified this point while winding up his two day visit here.

Boucher told the media: “I think there are some interests in maritime patrol so you can protect your sea areas better. We can help their (border security agencies’) activities but the modalities will depend on what Bangladesh wants.”

He brushed off a suggestion that the US might be planning to set up a military base in Bangladesh. “We do not have any intention for a permanent presence (in Bangladesh),” New Age quoted him as saying Monday.

A military base is a sensitive issue in Bangladesh and it goes back to the cold war era.

Boucher said: “The US has a lot of cooperation with different countries, different governments and different agencies. Some are with civilian agencies, like police, and some are with military agencies.”

Boucher, who interacted with Bangladesh’s top leadership, including opposition leader Khaleda Zia, ended his visit even as Dhaka, in the midst of diplomatic activities, prepared to receive Indian Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee.

Mukherjee is due here later Monday.

Boucher said his talks explored areas of cooperation between the new governments in Dhaka and Washington headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and President Barack Obama.

The US official identified new areas like climate change, agriculture and health-care and assured continuation of US support to Bangladesh.

The issue of cooperation in marine patrols came in the backdrop of a row over oil and gas exploration between Myanmar and Bangladesh in waters claimed by Dhaka in the Bay of Bengal.

Both Bangladesh and Myanmar have deployed warships in the Bay of Bengal to establish their claims. Diplomatic efforts involving China and South Korea by Bangladesh’s then military-backed government of Fakhruddin Ahmed apparently put to an end the row.

There was a stand-off with India last November when Bangladesh Navy confronted an Indian survey ship backed by a naval vessel. The row was sorted out through diplomatic talks.

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