Over the past few years, the relations between Bangladesh and the United States of America (USA) have undoubtedly deepened more substantially than any time in the past. The present USA, unlike during the tenure of Hillary Clinton, approaches Bangladesh as a full-fledged partner while collaborating on development, democracy, security, or economic issues. Apparently there are few issues between the two states where either side has walked away. Both the countries are rooted in a common experience that they fought for their independence through a sea of bloodbath. The common foundation of the two nations has offered a good platform to build up a strong relationship, quite similar to that of best friends who not only cooperate with one another but also argue on several disputes.
Also working for the shared goals has paved the way for a better and robust partnership. Both the countries, in partnership, have been working for democracy and fighting the scourges of terrorism, drug trafficking, better promotion of the economies and wellbeing of both the peoples.
During Bernicat’s mission in Bangladesh
- The US ensured support for Bangladesh over Rohingya issue.
- US exports rose by 61 per cent in 2017 to reach $1.47 billion.
- Two-way trade exceeded $7 billion.
- The US appeared as top source of foreign direct investment in Bangladesh.
- The US partnered with Bangladesh to promote peace and stability in South
- The US ensured efforts to address violent extremism in Bangladesh.
- Bangladesh became one of top 25 countries sending students to the US and one of top nine countries sending graduate students.
The one who has played a key role in escalating the ties between the two nations is Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat. She came as a US Ambassador to Bangladesh on February 4, 2015 and worked with all her heart to promote the Bangladesh-US relations. And that she has been successful to a great extent can be claimed unhesitatingly. Truly she worked to translate her beliefs into real achievements. We appreciate her belief that a stronger more prosperous Bangladesh will make the world safer. We acknowledge her contributions towards boosting up US’ role in Bangladesh significantly.
During her tenure in Bangladesh, US exports increased by 61 per cent last year to reach $1.47 billion dollars, and two-way trade between the United States and Bangladesh has reached over $7 billion dollars. The country has laid ground for further expansion of trade in both directions. The number of Bangladeshi students has increased to place Bangladesh as one of the top 25 countries sending students to the US and within the top nine countries sending graduate students. Currently, there are over 7,000 Bangladeshi students in the US.
Investment has increased to make the US the top source of foreign direct investment. The investments made by Chevron, General Electric and Coca Cola in particular signal to other companies that there is a good opportunity to invest in Bangladesh.
Ms Bernicat also sided with Bangladesh on the very Rohingya issue. She lauded Prime Minister (PM) Sheikh Hasina’s leadership noting that the PM has shown a humanitarian attitude to the forcedly displaced Rohingya people. She assured the USA will always be there beside Bangladesh over the issue and also urged the global leaders to come forward to resolve the long-pending crisis.
She herself witnessed Bangladesh’s economic progress in recent times very closely. She acknowledged Bangladesh has made impressive gains in many key development indicators, in fact more than any other country in recorded human history. She made remarks, “Bangladesh’s success in reducing maternal and child mortality has been one of its most outstanding achievements. Both maternal and infant mortality have been reduced by more than 60 per cent.”
She especially mentioned that Bangladesh’ agriculture is now an area of huge success. Rice production has virtually tripled and there have been tremendous advances in the use of science and technology to increase both productivity and resilience.
She, in a certain meeting, said, “The United States has partnered with Bangladesh to promote peace and stability in South Asia through combined training, such as the Disaster Readiness Exercise and Exchange, now led by the Bangladesh military, and Exercise Shanti Doot, a multinational peace keeping operation training that took place at the Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support Operation Training (BIPSOP). The United States Global Peace Operations Initiative is a proud supporter of BIPSOP.”
She also said the US has ensured its efforts to address violent extremism in Bangladesh. As partners over the years, both the nations developed the resources, the commitment, and the shared experiences required to counter terrorism and violent extremism.
After her almost four-year-long journey completing today, Ms Bernicat is leaving Dhaka tomorrow. She visited almost every corner of Bangladesh and mixed with the commoners so comfortably that she never seemed to be a foreigner to those people. She has aptly demonstrated her skill and management ability in her profession. Her previous assignments in Washington and South Asia dealing with that region gave her an excellent platform for preparation to serve with distinction in Bangladesh.
In her multi dimensional career, Ms Bernicat was Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau (2008-2011). Prior to that assignment, she served as Office Director for India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bhutan in the Bureau of South Asian Affairs at the Department of State (2006-2008). From 2004 to 2006, she was the Senior-Level Director and Career Development Officer in the Bureau of Human Resources at the Department. Ms Bernicat also served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy Bridgetown, Barbados (2001-2004), and as Deputy Chief of Mission at US Embassy Lilongwe, Malawi (1998-2001). She was Principal Officer at the US Consulate in Casablanca, Morocco (1995-1998), Deputy Political Counsellor at US Embassy New Delhi, India (1992-1995), and Desk Officer for Nepal and India in the Bureau of Near East and South Asian Affairs in the Department (1988-1990). Her other assignments with the Department included serving as a Special Assistant to Deputy Secretary John Whitehead, Watch Officer in the Operations Centre, Consular Officer in Marseille, France, and Political/Consular Officer at US Embassy Bamako, Mali.
We congratulate on her achievements and successful completion of the Bangladesh journey. We hope she enjoyed Bangladesh, its food, it people, its culture, and in fact most of its aspects. We wish her best success in career and life. She wished she would like to come to Bangladesh ye again and we too echo the same. But for the moment, adieu Ms Bernicat!
Kamal Hosen is Assistant Editor, Bangladesh Post
Ms Bernicat was born in 1953 and grew up in Tinton Falls, New Jersey and graduated from Monmouth Regional High School. In 1975 she earned a BA from Lafayette College, where she majored in history. Through work with her mentor and thesis advisor, she became particularly interested in the League of Nations and the relationship between the United States and the United Nations. She earned an MS from Georgetown University in 1980.
Bernicat began her career working in a managerial position at Procter & Gamble in New York City.
1982 Bernicat began her career as a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. embassy in Bamako, the capital of Mali. She served as consular officer at the U.S. consulate general in Marseille, France from 1984 to 1986. From 1986 to 1989 she held position in the U.S., but successive moves after that had her assigned in India, Morocco, Malawi and Barbados. From 2006 to 2008 she was office director for several Asian countries. In that role she was engaged in negotiations to supply India with non-military nuclear materials. She was nominated by George W. Bush in 2008 to be U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau.
From 2012 to 2014 Bernicat served as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Human Resources at the Department of State. In 2014 she was nominated and confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh. She spoke with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about Bangladesh, noting that it is the eighth largest country in the world by population and third largest Muslim majority nation. Bangladesh, she observed, is known for traditions that are moderate and pluralistic.