BD-India to sign defence MOUs, despite doubts in Dhaka 

BD-India to sign defence MOUs, despite doubts in Dhaka 

SAM Report,

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 Hasina’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 Delhi airport this afternoon setting aside protocol, Indian media reported. 

During the visit, among other deals, Dhaka is expected to sign two MoUs with Delhi on defence cooperation. A credit facility worth $50 million would be extended to Dhaka to purchase military equipment from India.

Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar on Thursday (6 April) night briefed Bangladeshi media persons in Delhi about the latest position of MoUs and agreements that would be signed during the Sheikh Hasina’s visit. 

Terming the visit as the ‘most important’ visit this year in India, Jaishankar said, it will raise the level of the two countries’ relations to a new height as the relations have already shown great progress. 

He said, defence cooperation between Bangladesh and India will certainly be one of the outcomes of PM Sheikh Hasina’s India visit.

“India maintains defence cooperation with Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar and Afghanistan. Why don’t we have it with Bangladesh?” Jaishankar said.

However, the Indian Foreign Secretary suggested Bangladesh to wait a bit with “some patience” on the much-awaited Teesta water sharing deal.

Briefing the Indian media on Sheikh Hasina’s visit, Indian external affairs ministry official Sripriya Ranganathan saidthat India intended 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.

Delhi reportedly would give Dhaka a credit of around $500 million for defence-related purchase.

Although the Teesta is being put on hold, at least 33 MoUs and agreements were reportedly finalized to be signed between India and Bangladesh. The summit-level meeting between Hasina and Modi will be held on Saturday (8 April).

This visit comes seven years after Sheikh Hasina’s previous visit to India in January 2010 and almost two years after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden visit to Bangladesh in June 2015.

Although Indian defence experts feel the need of strong defence ties between Delhi and Dhaka against the backdrop of the Beijing-Dhaka ties, many in Bangladesh think the proposed MoUs would not benefit Dhaka much and could even go against the country’s interests.

“Bangladesh does not need a defence 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,” Serajul Islam, a former Bangladeshi diplomat, told VOA. 

“With China, a sworn enemy of India, Bangladesh has been in defence-related cooperation for decades. If Bangladesh signs such a defence pact [with India], it would be viewed by Beijing as a deal directed against it.”

Opposition parties in Bangladesh have also raised objectionsto the defence deals saying that it would weaken the country’s security.

Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, Senior Joint Secretary General of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), at a news briefing on Thursday (6 April), said that people would not allow weakening of the country’s defence. 

While replying to a question at a function in Dhaka on 6 April, BNP standing committee member Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury told reporters, “This [the defence] is a very sensitive matter – what would be its mid-term and long-term effects on our people, independence, sovereignty and defence force? So, a party or a group cannot decide on its own.”