By: Shubham Ghosh
Bangladesh has withdrawn the “extra security escort” provided to top diplomats of India and three other countries, with foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen saying Dhaka will not provide this service with taxpayers’ money.
Policemen equipped with riot gear used to escort in their vans the envoys of India, the US, the UK, and Saudi Arabia during their movements in the city and an intensified security vigil for them was enforced following the July 1, 2016, Islamist militant attack in a posh Dhaka restaurant.
The attack killed 20 people — 17 foreigners, including an Indian girl.
Most of the other foreigners killed in the attack were however Japanese and Italians.
“The additional security protocol we were providing to ambassadors and high commissioners of some particular countries has been withdrawn. But the normal security measures for them are in place,” a diplomatic security division official of Dhaka Metropolitan Police said on Tuesday (16).
The official, who preferred anonymity, said the police gunmen will continue to accompany the envoys during their movements and the personnel from the designated police unit guarding the chancery complexes and residences of senior diplomats will also remain as usual.
The foreign minister said the existing law and order no longer required additional security measures for a few envoys and the decision to withdraw the extra protocols was taken as several embassies other than the four were demanding identical security rituals.
“We have decided not to provide additional security escort services to foreign ambassadors of any country,” the minister told the media at the sidelines of an event.
“We won’t provide this extra (security) escort service with taxpayers’ money,” United News of Bangladesh quoted Momen as saying. He added that if any country felt the need for additional security measures, they might hire the services.
Momen said many countries were now asking for a similar protocol “but we will not give it to anyone, because it is discriminatory (and) no one gives such benefits to our ambassadors abroad”.
Embassies and police were informed of the decision through a letter from Bangladesh’s ministry of foreign affairs a week ago, the Dhaka Tribune reported.
Shortly after Momen’s comments, Dhaka Police Commissioner Khandker Golam Faruq told reporters that the shortage of manpower prompted authorities to make the decision to refrain from providing any additional protocol to certain diplomats.
A foreign ministry official, familiar with the development, said a specialised unit of para-police Ansar Force was made ready to provide VIP protection services in exchange for payments and the foreign missions could hire them if they wanted.
Meanwhile, the Public Diplomacy Section of the US embassy in Dhaka in a statement said, “The safety and security of our diplomatic personnel and facilities are of the utmost importance.”
“In accordance with longstanding policy, we do not disclose security details concerning the US Embassy. As per the Vienna Convention, the host country must uphold its obligations to ensure the protection of all diplomatic missions and personnel,” Sean McIntosh, the counsellor in charge of the US Embassy Public Diplomacy Section said.
The three other embassies where envoys were getting the extra privilege made no comment on the development so far.