Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set for a two day visit (March 26-27, 2021) to Dhaka where he will be holding talks with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set for a two day visit (March 26-27, 2021) to Dhaka where he will be holding talks with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina. Briefing the media persons in New Delhi ahead of the visit, Foreign Secretary Harsh V Shringla said “The expansion of Defence and Security is an important aspect of our relationship with Bangladesh. And, India will continue to add “more depth and momentum” in this aspect of our bilateral relations.”
India-Bangladesh Defence Agreement
In October 2019, both countries had inked a pact for setting up a joint coastal surveillance system. This has been set up to protect their strategic interests in the maritime domain. Under the pact India has to set up around two dozen coastal surveillance radar stations.
Financial Express Online has reported earlier that both countries have been working towards deepening existing initiatives, including intelligence sharing, while simultaneously exploring new areas for cooperation. With a successful resolution of the maritime boundary between the two countries in 2014, security cooperation has also been extended to the maritime domain.
“Both countries have an agreement in place and have been conducting joint military exercises on a regular basis which focus on training and capacity building. Also, it is a regular practice for chiefs of our armed forces to visit Bangladesh,” the foreign secretary said.
According to Foreign Secretary Shringla, “Besides extending a $500 million Line of Credit to Bangladesh for defence imports from India, under army-to-army cooperation 18 new 120mm mortars have been given to the Bangladesh Army in December 2020.”
“Earlier this year, a 122-member Bangladeshi tri-services contingent had participated in India’s Republic Day parade. For the first time in the last 50 years, two Indian naval ships — INS Kulish and INS Sumedha — visited Mongla Port of Bangladesh from March 8-10,” he added.
The Indian Naval Ships Sumedha is an indigenously built Offshore Patrol vessel and Kulish is indigenous guided missile corvette.
Even the chief of Indian Air Force (IAF) RKS Bhadauria, had visited Bangladesh in February.
The foreign secretary’s remarks assume significance as India has been focusing on enhancing infrastructure connectivity with Bangladesh.
Why is Bangladesh a key partner in the neighbourhood?
Both countries share a common culture, history and language. India shares its longest land boundary, connecting India’s Northeast region with Bangladesh. Its unique geographical location has made it crucial for development of India’s Northeast, especially for improving the region’s connectivity. Therefore, Bangladesh has a strategic importance in India’s security, particularly for securing peace and stability in the Northeast.
Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s neighborhood-first policy, special emphasis is being given to improving ties with Bangladesh, which has emerged as a key gateway for India’s sub-regional initiatives, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). And the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) initiative too.
India-Bangladesh Maritime Security
For the first time two Indian Navy ships reached the port of Mongla in Bangladesh. This was in line with SAGAR – Security and Growth for all in the Region, and to pay homage to the Bangladeshi and Indian combatants and citizens who laid down their lives during the Liberation War of 1971.
Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, the former spokesperson of the Indian Navy Capt DK Sharma says, “Our relationship with Bangladesh is unique and special. It is our very important maritime neighbor. The rise of Chinese influence and presence in Indian Ocean Region is a cause of concern for all the littorals and the presence of Chinese IUU in our waters, is a real threat (as is being reported by littorals of South China Sea).”
“Bangladesh is joining hands with like minded democracies of the World, in fighting this assertive behaviour of China is a step in the right direction as it would ensure free and rules based order in global commons. Indian Navy has been having bilateral exercises with Bangladesh with coordinated patrols on the IMBL,” the former spokesperson explains.
“We liberated them from the atrocities leashed onto them by Pakistan. The military ties with Bangladesh have been on the upswing over the years and are likely to be strengthened in the days ahead. We are aiming to be the preferred security partners for all our littoral neighbours and have extended all the help in their capacity building and capability enhancement.”
“India has a robust defence industry. New Delhi has extended a line of credit of USD 500 million for defence exports from India and we have also extended them the facilities of our Defence Shipyards in case of need,” he says.
According to Capt Sharma, “The geography of the state is very crucial for us considering the neighbours they have in their North and South. And the country has turned herself from a `Least Developing Country’ (LDC) to a `Developing Nation.’ Therefore, the economic upturn achieved by Bangladesh during the pandemic times when the world had a free fall is another factor which should be taken into account.”