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Clinton asks Bdesh to exploit its strategic location

Dhaka: Asking Bangladesh to exploit its "strategic location", US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today said the political geography of the country, which is situated between "rapidly progressing" India and China, gave it an opportunity for development.

"China is surely the most developed developing country (and) India also is rapidly progressing … you are strategically situated between China and India," she said at a dialogue with Bangladeshi youths before wrapping up her two-day Dhaka visit. Clinton appreciated Bangladesh the way it handled the maritime issue with Myanmar and for its handling of bilateral issues with India, saying "it is very smart" and exactly the way the issues should be dealt with.

She also suggested that Dhaka exploit its economic opportunities in Myanmar, saying "the transition in Burma after 40 years of military rule is an opportunity for you". With its powerful political parties, Bangladesh was in "right path" of democracy, while stronger demands by people could keep it on the right track, the top US diplomat said. "You are in democratic route, though (it is) messy but democratic process could be messy. You have strong political parties," she said.

She said the people of the country being backed by stronger civil societies, should wage a greater campaign to ensure the political parties deliver the right things as abuse of power was the biggest problems in developing countries. "Every (political) leader has to be asked are you in politics for yourself or for the people … this should not be asked by journalists (alone) but by millions of people." Bangladesh witnessed the return of democracy after two years of military backed interim government in 2008. It is now experiencing political tensions over electoral system.

When a student sought her reaction about a perception that the United States was against Islam, Clinton said she was deeply hurt by the charge as she staunchly defended her country`s record in protecting minorities. "It`s a painful perception to hear about and I deeply regret that anyone believes that or propagates it … it hurts me so much," she said. The US Secretary of State, however, acknowledged that "unfortunately" there could be discriminations in the United States like anywhere in the world as "human nature does not change dramatically."

"There is discrimination against people of different religions, of different races, of different ethnic groups all over the world … but I don`t think that it is at all fair to hold up the United States (over discrimination)," Clinton said. "I believe that the United States through our laws and through our constant political dialogue has gone probably farther than anywhere else in the world in trying to guarantee legal protections for people."

Clinton`s 24-hour visit to Bangladesh is part of an Asia tour that started in China and will conclude in India, where US officials want assurances that New Delhi is taking strong action to cut oil imports from Iran. Clinton, who earlier visited Bangladesh in 1995 as US First Lady, today said the country had made impressive strides in growing its economy, combating poverty, improving agricultural productivity and reducing maternal and child mortality.

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