US top human rights official visits India, Bangladesh

Close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the US, the Biden administration’s top official on human rights issues is on her visit to India and Bangladesh for talks with a number of senior government officials, and civil society activists.

Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights and US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues Uzra Zeya is accompanied by the State Department’s point person for South Asia, US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu and a senior USAID official in the tour which was started on July 8-14, 2023.

“In India, she will meet with senior government officials to discuss the deepening and enduring U.S.-India partnership, including advancing shared solutions to global challenges, democracy, regional stability, and cooperation on humanitarian relief”, a State Department release said on July 7.

“In Bangladesh, the Under Secretary will meet with senior officials to discuss shared humanitarian concerns, including the Rohingya refugee crisis; labor issues; human rights; free and fair elections; and combating trafficking in persons.”

The release also said, “In both countries, Under Secretary Zeya will engage with civil society organizations on freedom of expression and association, and inclusion of women and girls, persons with disabilities, and vulnerable groups, including marginalized religious and ethnic minorities.”

The team’s visit in Bangladesh is deemed particularly important as the agenda includes the topics of holding free and fair elections in the country which is approaching its 12th national polls in coming months. The US has been consistently vocal for a free and fair election in Bangladesh and it announced a new visa policy in May for the South Asian nation to promote the environment for free and unintimidated voting. Under the new policy, the US will be able to restrict the issuance of visas to any Bangladeshi individual, believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh.

Ahead of the visit, Uzra met Bangladesh ambassador to the United States Muhammad Imran in Washington on July 6 and they had a ‘productive’ discussion.

‘Thank you, Bangladesh ambassador to the United States Muhammad Imran for a productive discussion on democracy, human rights, fair labour practices and humanitarian cooperation. I look forward to deepening our strong partnership,’ she tweeted.

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