A powerful Senate panel has asked Pentagon to expand its maritime security initiative to three additional countries, including Bangladesh.
The two other countries are Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
Such a move by the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee is seen as part of the American move to counter the increasing Chinese influence in the Asia Pacific region.
In its voluminous report running more than 600 pages that accompanied the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2018, the Senate Armed Services Committee directed the Department of Defense to continue with the Maritime Security Initiative.
“In addition, the committee believes that, consistent with new authorities, the Secretary should expand the Department’s efforts under the Maritime Security Initiative to encompass additional countries, including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar,” the report said.
The defense secretary should also include India among the countries eligible for payment of incremental expenses in connection with training under the Initiative, the report said.
The report by Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Senator John McCain, came as the US Pacific Command Commander Navy Admiral Harry B Harris concluded his visit to Bangladesh, during which he met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
During Harris’ first visit to Bangladesh as PACOM’s commander, he also participated in the dedication of a $3.6 million multinational training facility at the Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support Operations Training.
“The United States and Bangladesh cooperate closely on security issues ranging from counterterrorism to peacekeeping,” a State Department Spokesperson told the Bangla Tribune on Tuesday.
“Counter Terrorism and Countering Violent Extremism assistance to Bangladesh is designed to help the government address terrorism threats from domestic and transnational terrorist organisations,” the spokesperson said.
“US assistance builds the government’s capacity to impede these groups’ efforts to plan and conduct attacks by cutting off important sources of support to these groups, such as funding and recruiting, and addressing the drivers of radicalisation to violence,” the official said.
The State Department official added, the United States and Bangladesh share a long history of cooperation and a vision for a tolerant, democratic Bangladesh.
“Bangladesh serves as a bridge for commerce between South and Southeast Asia and an anchor for stability and prosperity in the region,” the spokesperson said.
“On pressing global concerns from health to food security to countering violent extremism, our countries and our people share complementary goals and visions,” the official said in response to a question.