Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said on Tuesday that the country had requested India’s support to withdraw sanctions placed by the United States, reported the Dhaka Tribune.
“We sought their help after the US imposed sanctions on RAB [Rapid Action Battalion],” Momen said in Dhaka. “They have been very nice to us. The Indian side said they would raise it.”
Momen added that Bangladesh had also requested the support of the Indian-American community in the United States. “The Indian community in the US is very influential,” he said.
On December 10, the United States, citing human rights violations, imposed sanctions on Bangladesh’s most elite paramilitary force, the Rapid Action Battalion. Seven of the RAB’s current and former officers were also included.
Human rights organisations such as the Human Rights Watch and the Amnesty International have accused RAB of carrying out extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances with the force enjoying legal impunity within Bangladesh.
Momen’s unusual statement has raised eyebrows in both India and Bangladesh given the unusual nature of the request asking Delhi to lobby on behalf of a third country.
On Thursday, the Union government declined to comment on Momen’s claim.
“[The] External Affairs Minister is currently in Dhaka,” said Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs. “In fact, literally, I think he is going to have a meeting very soon. So I don’t think I am going to say anything at this point on what the discussions have been, or have we received it in advance or have talked about it, let the visit happen and then we will see if we are in a position to share with you any further details on this.”
The spokesperson confirmed that he was aware of Momen’s claim but would be unable to share publicly what India’s response was. “As I said if we have received it, and if we have happened to share with another country, then maybe we may not be in a position or like to share it publicly,” Bagchi said.