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Cablegate: Staffdel Ahuja Discusses Environment and India,

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PP RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHNEH RUEHPW
DE RUEHKA #0062/01 0190952
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 190952Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9908
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV PRIORITY 0135
RHHJJPI/PACOM IDHS HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DHAKA 000062

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

H PLEASE PASS TO JASMEET AHUJA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR KDEM PHUM IS BG
SUBJECT: STAFFDEL AHUJA DISCUSSES ENVIRONMENT AND INDIA,
PRESSES REPEAL OF ISRAEL BOYCOTT

REF: DHAKA 19

Summary
-------
1. (SBU) Professional Staff Member of the House Committee
on Foreign Affairs Jasmeet Ahuja's January 12 - 14 visit to
Bangladesh highlighted the importance of cooperation
between the U.S. and Bangladesh to combat terrorism and
climate change. Ahuja also pressed Bangladesh to lift its
trade boycott against Israel. During her trip, Ahuja met
with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the opposition
Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami, other
senior political leaders, non-governmental organizations
and think-tanks and the American Chamber of Commerce.

Focus on Ending Israel Boycott and Broader Cooperation
--------------------------------------------- ---------

2. (SBU) Ahuja told Muhammad Ali Sorcar, Director General
of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Americas and Pacific
Wing, that Chairman Berman and other Members of Congress
were disappointed with Bangladesh's handling of the
Avery-Dennison case (reftel) and that Bangladesh should
repeal its boycott or risk Congressional reaction. Sorcar
said the boycott did not come under the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs but under the Ministry of Commerce, but promised to
look into it. When Ahuja expressed disappointment with
Bangladesh's recent human rights votes in the United
Nations about North Korea and Iran, Sorcar responded that
Bangladesh did not want to politicize the General Assembly
and therefore opposed any discussion of Human Rights
issues. Sorcar said Bangladesh preferred that these issues
be referred to the UN's Human Rights Committee, instead.
These two contentious matters aside, Ahuja praised
Bangladesh for its democratically-elected government and
both she and Sorcar agreed there was a great deal our two
countries could do together.

Opposition Criticizes Prime Minister,s India Visit(
--------------------------------------------- -----

3. (SBU) Ahuja's meeting with leaders of the Bangladesh
Nationalist Party occurred during Prime Minister Hasina,s
state visit to India and the trip dominated the
conversation. Reaz Rehman, former Bangladesh Foreign
Secretary and former Permanent Representative to the United
Nations, told Ahuja that it did not matter if Hasina got
along well in India -- he said the Prime Minister did not
have to make friends, the people of the two countries
needed to be friends. The two countries had a great deal
in common, including fighting side-by-side for Bangladesh's
independence in 1971 and a common threat from India's
northeast, and should be making common ground here,
according to Rahman.

( and Expect PM to Offer Hand of Reconcilliation
--------------------------------------------- ---

4. (SBU) The Bangladesh Nationalist Party leaders told
Ahuja they were committed to a democratic Bangladesh and
wanted to work with the current Awami League government.
They said they went to the opening of parliament in January
2009 in good faith but were rebuffed by Prime Minister
Hasina. They were willing to end their boycott of
parliament, but Hasina would have to reach out to them
first; they said it was her responsibility as Prime
Minister.

Rapid Action Battalion
----------------------


5. (SBU) Ahuja asked the Bangladesh Nationalist Party
leaders about the Rapid Action Battalion, which she
pointed out was created by a Bangladesh Nationalist
Party government in 2004. Party Advisor Shafik
Rehman said the Rapid Action Battalion was even more brutal
now than it was during the Caretaker Government and should
be disbanded.

Civil Society Leaders Look to Future
------------------------------------


DHAKA 00000062 002 OF 002


6. (SBU) In wide-ranging conversations with civil society
representatives, Ahuja discussed the human rights situation
in Bangladesh, Prime Minister Hasina's trip to India, and
the impact of climate change. Adilur Rahman Khan of
Bangladesh's leading human rights non-governmental
organization, Odikhar, detailed how the government was
systematically directing money away from Odikhar and trying
to shut it down. Farooq Sobhan of the Bangladesh
Enterprise Institute stressed to Ahuja the importance of
the Prime Minister's meetings in India. Bangladesh needed
greater trade with India. He said Hasina's intervention
could move Bangladesh from a six percent annual growth rate
to nine percent.

Climate Change a Key Challenge
------------------------------

7. (SBU) Professor Monwar Hossain of the Bangladesh
University of Engineering and Technology outlined the
implications of global climate change for Bangladesh. He
said it was important not to get lost in the political
rhetoric between the Awami League and the Bangladesh
Nationalist Parties -- arguing over this or that dam was
not going to solve the serious and very real problems
Bangladesh faced. Ahuja and Hossain agreed that before
solutions were offered, serious study was required, and it
was there where the United States could help.

Jamaat-e-Islami Ponders Potential Ban
-------------------------------------

8. (SBU) When he was asked what his party would do if the
government was successful in its apparent intention of
banning religious parties, Barrister Abdul Razzaq of
Jamaat-e-Islami answered Jamaat would likely turn to a
Turkish model where Jamaat would change its name to
something secular but retain its Islamic principles. He
said, however, that he believed these Islamic principles
were misunderstood in both the United States and large
swaths of Bangladesh. Jamaat, he said, was committed to
democracy and women's empowerment, and he did not
understand why the government would do something so
undemocratic as to ban certain political parties.

Comment
-------

9. (SBU) Together with two other Congressional Staff
Delegations which visited Bangladesh in late January,
Staffdel Ahuja's visit to Bangladesh reflected welcome
interest and growing momentum in U.S.-Bangladesh ties.
Ms. Ahuja shared views from the Congress with the Bangladesh
Government, opposition, and civil society on issues which
reinforced our efforts to promote democracy, prosperity
and security in Bangladesh. We will follow-up on
her discussions on Bangladesh's ban on trade with Israel
to push toward to a positive resolution.

10. (U) Professional Staff Member Jasmeet Ahuja cleared
this cable.
MORIARTY

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