Bangladesh - Foreign policy

Bangladesh enjoys cordial relations with the main global powers influential in the region: the United States, Japan, and China (which Zia visited for five days in December 2002). Ties with these countries center primarily on trade and economic assistance. Khaleda Zia's government faced challenges in building peaceful relations with the other developing countries in the region, especially India, while keeping the support of powerful Western nations, especially the United States. Soon after her government was sworn in, the United States asked to reopen discussions on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). The SOFA would facilitate military cooperation between the two countries. The previous AL-led government had failed to approve the SOFA, although the U.S. military did deliver four military aircraft to Bangladesh in 2001. The U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh described the aircraft delivery as a "gift" to Bangladesh to enhance the country's peacekeeping capabilities and dismissed any questions of corruption related to the aircraft delivery.

Early in 2003, Bangladesh was added to the list of countries whose nationals visiting the United States must register with immigration authorities for security purposes.

The main focus of the government's foreign policy agenda has been to resolve outstanding issues with its neighbors. India and Bangladesh have been at odds over sharing and managing common water resources since the mid-1970s when India built the Farakka Barrage, 18 km (11 mi) upstream from its border with northwestern Bangladesh to divert water from the Ganges River to Calcutta. In December 1996, however, the two countries signed a 30-year water-sharing agreement, with India also receiving road transit rights across Bangladesh territory to its remote northeastern states.

Tensions arose again in February 2003, as India attempted to deport people it claimed were Bangladeshi migrants, but Bangladesh refused to accept them, insisting that they were Bengali-speaking Indians.

On Bangladesh's southeastern frontier, Zia's administration appears to be courting the Myanmar (Burma) regime with plans for road building and petroleum pipelines between the two countries. Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar continues to seek refuge in Bangladesh.

In May 2002 the national airline of Bangladesh reintroduced direct air service to India's capital, New Delhi.

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