Dhaka and New Delhi are set to sign a large-scale defence cooperation deal under the cover of Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasinaâ€™s four-day visit to India, which has begun today (7 April). The deals are expected to give Delhi extra leverage for an advantageous position in the geopolitics of Southeast Asia, security experts feel.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi received his Bangladeshi counterpart at DelhiÂ airportÂ this afternoonÂ setting aside protocol, Indian media reported.Â
During the visit,Â among other deals,Â Dhaka is expected to sign two MoUsÂ with Delhi onÂ defenceÂ cooperation. AÂ creditÂ facility worth $50 million would be extendedÂ to Dhaka to purchase military equipment from India.
Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar on Thursday (6 April) night briefedÂ BangladeshiÂ mediaÂ pers
Terming the visit asÂ theÂ â€˜most importantâ€™ visit this year in India,Â JaishankarÂ said,Â it will raise the level ofÂ theÂ two countriesâ€™Â relations to a new height as the relations have already shown great progress.Â
He said,Â defenceÂ cooperation between Bangladesh and India will certainly be one of the outcomes ofÂ PMÂ Sheikh Hasinaâ€™s India visit.
â€œIndia maintainsÂ defenceÂ cooperationÂ
However, theÂ Indian Foreign SecretaryÂ suggestedÂ Bangladesh
Briefing theÂ Indian mediaÂ onÂ Sheikh Hasinaâ€™sÂ visit, Indian external affairs ministryÂ officialÂ Sripriya RanganathanÂ saidthat IndiaÂ intendedÂ to sign two MoUs on defence: one a framework for cooperation for a few years for supply and research and development, and the second for Bangladesh to source defence equipment from India under which a line of credit would be earmarked.
DelhiÂ reportedlyÂ wouldÂ give Dhaka a credit of around $500 million for defence-related purchase.
Although the Teesta is being put on hold,Â at least 33 MoUs and agreementsÂ were reportedlyÂ finalized toÂ beÂ signedÂ between India and Bangladesh.Â The summit-level meeting between Hasina and Modi will be heldÂ on Saturday (8 April).
This visit comes seven years after Sheikh Hasinaâ€™s previous visit to India in January 2010 and almost two years after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modiâ€™s maiden visit to Bangladesh in June 2015.
Although IndianÂ defenceÂ experts feelÂ the need ofÂ strongÂ defenceÂ tiesÂ between Delhi and DhakaÂ against the backdrop of the Beijing-DhakaÂ ties,Â many in Bangladesh think the proposedÂ MoUsÂ would not benefitÂ DhakaÂ muchÂ and could even go against the countryâ€™s interests.
â€œBangladesh does not need aÂ defenceÂ pact with India, or for that matter with any other country, because it does not face any threat of external aggression from any of its neighbors,â€ Serajul Islam, a former Bangladeshi diplomat, toldÂ VOA.Â
â€œWith China, a sworn enemy of India, Bangladesh has been inÂ defence-related cooperation for decades. If Bangladesh signs such aÂ defenceÂ pact [with India], it would be viewed by Beijing as a deal directed against it.â€
Opposition parties in Bangladesh haveÂ also raised objectionstoÂ the defence deals sayingÂ thatÂ itÂ would weaken the countryâ€™s security.
Ruhul Kabir Rizvi,Â SeniorÂ Joint Secretary GeneralÂ of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP),Â at a news briefing on ThursdayÂ (6 April),Â said that people would not allow weakening of the countryâ€™s defence.Â
While replying to a questionÂ at a function in DhakaÂ on 6Â April,Â BNP standing committee member Amir Khosru Mahmud ChowdhuryÂ told reporters, â€œThisÂ [the defence]Â is a very sensitive matterÂ –Â what would be its mid-term and long-term effects on our people, independence, sovereignty and defence force?Â So, a party or aÂ group cannot decide on its own.â€