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US Diplomat Donald Lu Remains ‘Hated’ Figure in India After Meddling Attempts

© AFP 2023 STRINGERU.S ambassador to Albania Donald Lu (C) speaks during a civil society rally in Tirana on July 19, 2016.
U.S ambassador to Albania Donald Lu (C) speaks during a civil society rally in Tirana on July 19, 2016.  - Sputnik India, 1920, 16.05.2024
US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Donald Lu, undertook a three-nation visit to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh this week.
The just concluded visit of US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu to the three South Asian nations has done little to undo his controversial track record of interfering in political processes of the region, be it India or Bangladesh.

"Donald Lu is a hated figure in India due to his interference attempts in Indian democracy. Last year, he entertained Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi at the White House," Dr Anant Bhagwat, the Founder-President of Global Strategic Policy Foundation Pune (GSPFP), a national security and foreign policy think tank, told Sputnik India.

Bhagwat noted that Lu's criticism of India's human rights track record under Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, noting that Lu's mid-election visit to India proved yet again that the Biden administration was monitoring the Indian election closely.
"The Biden administration clearly doesn't want a strong and stable government which espouses an independent foreign policy, like Prime Minister Modi has done in the last 10 years. However, Lu's visit is too little and too late," stated Bhagwat.
Bhagwat also questioned Lu's purpose of visiting Chennai during his India stopover rather than the capital of New Delhi, the seat of Indian executive power. A US State Department readout announcing Lu's visit stated that he was scheduled to meet in Chennai US consular personnel at the Chennai mission to "bolster bilateral engagement in southern India".
At a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing back in March 2022, Lu expressed concerns about the "human rights challenges" and "discrimination against Muslims" in the world's largest democracy, a fact not forgotten in India.
Significantly, despite its frosty ties with Pakistan, Indian observers are keen of the fact that Lu played a key role in toppling former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. In fact, Khan directly blamed Lu for instigating a "foreign conspiracy" against his government in the wake of his visit to Moscow the same year.

US Failed Miserably in its Attempts to Interfere in Bangladesh: Awami League Official

Lu also visited Dhaka, his second visit to Bangladesh since Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League won the election for the fourth consecutive term in January.
A Bangladesh foreign ministry statement said that Lu held meetings with Foreign Secretary Masud bin Momen and also called on Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud.
"They discussed a wide range of topics of shared interest, including economic cooperation, trade, investment, education, environment and climate change, security, Rohingya humanitarian response, women empowerment, labour reform, and aviation," stated a Bangladeshi statement on the meeting between Lu and Mahmud.
After the meetings, Lu said that he wanted both the countries to "look forward and not look back", noting tensions between the two countries in the lead-up to 7 January vote.
The US Ambassador in Dhaka, Peter Haas, was widely perceived to be backing opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which boycotted the election.

Commenting on the senior US diplomat's visit, Squadron Leader (retired) Sadrul Ahmed Khan, a Member of Finance and Planning Affairs sub-committee of Awami League, said that the US has consistently failed to interfere in Bangladesh's internal affairs despite repeated attempts.

"Every bilateral visit is important and welcome, in diplomacy we shouldn't stop these engagements. Bangladesh maintains its founding foreign policy of friendship with everyone, malice to none," the Awami League official told Sputnik India.

US Attempts to Court Bangladesh Against China

Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, a former advisor to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, told Sputnik India that Lu's visit was part of ongoing American efforts to lobby Dhaka against Beijing, which is Bangladesh's largest trading partner.

"The US wants Bangladesh's support amid an intensifying competition with China in Indo-Pacific. However, we have been clear that we would maintain good relations with all the powers, primarily to serve our own national interest," Chowdhury said.

Chowdhury noted that Lu's visit took place against the backdrop of growing US-China trade and strategic tensions in Indo-Pacific.
However, the ex-PM advisor still looks at Washington's intentions with suspicion.

"The US piled up pressure on us before the election on various pretexts, mainly on the issue of human rights. However, the US seems to have realised the extent of support enjoyed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the country, as proven in the election results. That's why the tone and tenor of Lu is markedly different than what it was before the election," the former PM aide said.

"The US tried to put Bangladesh's government under stress by tacitly backing opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party's (BNP) demand that the election be held under a caretaker set-up, which is against our constitution," added Chowdhury.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, watches his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina wave to the media before their meeting in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. - Sputnik India, 1920, 20.12.2023
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