Earl Robert Miller was sworn in as US Ambassador to Bangladesh on November 13, 2016. He had previously served as ambassador to the Republic of Botswana.
Miller, a senior member of the US Foreign Service, joined the State Department in 1986. He has served as US Consul General in the US embassies in Johannesburg, South Africa, India, Iraq, Indonesia, Malaysia and El Salvador. Ambassador Miller is a graduate of the University of Michigan and a former Marine Corps officer. He has received numerous honors from the United States government, including the State Department Award for Bravery and the Shield of Brewery Award from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Ambassador Miller speaks French, Spanish and Indonesian.
Miller is leaving Bangladesh after serving for more than three years and two months.
In an exclusive interview given to Manabjamin just before leaving Dhaka, the ambassador openly answered various questions about the relations between the two countries. Interviewed by our senior reporter Tariq Choyan. The first episode of the two-part interview is published today:
What has caught your attention the most during your stay in Bangladesh in these three years? What is your best experience here?
Earl Miller: The sincerity and generosity of the people of Bangladesh. I have been working as an American diplomat for 35 years. I have never seen such a hospitable, thoughtful and sincere person in any other country as the people of Bangladesh who welcome people in this way.
Traveling to different parts of this wonderfully diverse and stunning country has been a wonderful experience, one that will never be forgotten. I have toured all the eight divisions of the country, I like all the places. In my heart, in my memory I will carry the form, juice, color, smell and diversity of this fascinating country. The greenery of Sylhet, Barisal and Bandarban, the endless beaches of Cox’s Bazar, the beauty of the Sundarbans, the antiquity and modernity of old Dhaka (laughs) but I will not stop … They inspire me. Their strength, their optimism, their passion gives us hope. Which is very necessary for the world.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of US-Bangladesh relations. How would you rate this relationship? How do you describe the current Dhaka-Washington relationship?
Earl Miller: The relationship between the United States and Bangladesh is strong and it is getting stronger. I am envious of Peter Haas, the newly appointed Ambassador to Dhaka, for being here to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. Ah! What a celebration that will be! We have planned a number of truly exciting events to celebrate this special milestone for both our countries.
Because for the past five decades, the United States has been Bangladesh’s biggest supporter, biggest fan, most reliable and most trusted partner and friend. The United States has provided more than $ 6 billion in development assistance since Bangladesh’s independence. We contribute more than 200 million a year in aid. After the typhoon, we rushed to the rescue. We are fighting together against Corona. The United States has donated more than 26 million doses of the corona vaccine for free. It has provided more than 121 million (121 million) in other public health assistance.
From our historic struggle for independence to human bonds – there are many similarities between our two countries.
Our mutual cooperation on economic issues, development, security and climate change underscores our strong partnership and future prospects.
We plan a number of high-level official visits and dialogues between the two countries in 2022 to fix the idea of working together and to lay the groundwork for our partnership over the next 50 years or more.
The United States and Bangladesh are also closely linked through their people-to-people ties. Thousands of Bangladeshi students study at US universities. In fact, Bangladesh now ranks 14th among all countries in the world in terms of the number of students studying in the United States.
Whatever happens to friends – our two races, can’t always agree on everything. But even then, since our relationship is mature and strong enough, we can move forward by leaving them behind through open dialogue with honest intentions.
How do you see the future direction of this relationship? What is the difference between the two countries’ perspectives on the ongoing relationship?
Earl Miller: As I said before, our relationship is strong and it is getting stronger. The US-Bangladesh partnership is essential not only for the future prosperity and security of both countries, but also for meeting the challenges of the 21st century.
We will continue to commend and support Bangladesh’s remarkable progress as it begins to move beyond the status of a least developed country. We will continue to work together to address the global threat of climate change and look to Bangladesh for strong leadership from among the climate-sensitive countries.
Bangladesh is our important and valuable partner in its own right. But it is increasingly growing in the Indo-Pacific region
It is also playing a leading role. In a region where more than half the world’s population lives, the region is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies (of course, you are). The region accounts for about 40 percent of global GDP. The Indo-Pacific region is at the heart of the long-term strategic and economic interests of the United States.
What do you think is the state of democracy in Bangladesh? What are the major political challenges in the field of democracy and human rights in Bangladesh?
Earl Miller: Looking back at our two countries’ struggle for independence, the United States and Bangladesh are partners in democratic values. The story of all democracies is the same in terms of adhering to our established ideals and principles, and that is the struggle for democracy, democracy is not complete and the process is ongoing. For example, freedom of the press and expression are essential to a healthy democracy. The media, civil society, members of the opposition and peaceful protesters must be able to express their views, work for change without fear of reprisals. Dissent and dissent must be listened to and respected. Strong democracy develops through regular and lively debate.
The United States is working to promote democracy worldwide. How can the United States work with Bangladesh for the development of democratic values, democratic institutions, good governance, etc. in the friendly country of Bangladesh? In your view, what are the main problems of Bangladesh in these cases?
Earl Miller: Very nice question. We have regular bilateral discussions on democracy, human rights, governance through our embassies and other (diplomatic) channels between the capitals of the two countries and daily work. We discuss how government institutions can uphold the rule of law and how the culture of impunity undermines the democratic institutions of any country. We have training programs and exchange programs through which Bangladeshi scholars, journalists and government officials visit the United States to see how we address the challenges of democracy and governance. In our history (even our most recent history) the United States has at times fought for democracy and good governance. President Biden is committed to restoring, sustaining, and promoting democracy at home and abroad. In my opinion, there is a great system of government in the United States to do checks and balances created by all the talented people. But it is also not perfect. We don’t even claim that. But, we are working on that, always working. The United States (with Bangladesh) can share those experiences to build a more perfect ‘union’ as a friend.
How do you see the role of Bangladesh (economic, political or military) in Indo-Pacific strategy? Rumor has it that the United States sees Bangladesh in someone else’s eyes for geopolitical or strategic reasons …
Earl Miller: The United States works directly with Bangladesh, certainly not in the eyes of anyone else.
In the case of the Indo-Pacific region, the United States is uniting partners, allies and institutions to address the major challenges of the time. These include corona, climate change, emerging technologies, trade and economy in a systematic way, investment in eco-friendly infrastructure and modern methods of counter-terrorism. Apart from all these areas, Bangladesh is also a key partner in other areas.
We have an optimistic outlook, because the United States is always optimistic about working with countries in the region, especially strong partners like Bangladesh, so that problems can be addressed openly; The rules are transparent and fairly enforced; Products, ideas and people roam freely on land, cyberspace, and the open sea.