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Manohar Parrikar to visit Bangladesh to bolster defence cooperation

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by November 15, 2016 General
NEW DELHI: India is dispatching defence minister Manohar Parrikar to Dhaka later this month to chalk out a major upgrade in bilateral defence cooperation in the backdrop of China continuing to expand its strategic footprint in Bangladesh.

Government sources said on Tuesday that a new defence cooperation framework, which will lead to stepped-up military supplies, technology transfer, training and joint exercises as well as closer cooperation in counter-terrorism, will be discussed during Parrikar’s two-day visit to Bangladesh from November 30.

“It is likely to be inked when Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina visits India in December. Incidentally, Parrikar will be the first Indian defence minister to visit Bangladesh in years,” said a source.

The visit comes soon after Bangladesh took delivery of its first-ever submarines from China on Monday. The two diesel-electric submarines, handed over to Bangladesh Navy chief Admiral Mohammad Nizamuddin Ahmed at the Dalian seaport of Liaoning province in China, is a big indicator of the extensive military ties being forged between Dhaka and Beijing.

In mid-October, Xi Jinping also became the first Chinese president in 30 years to visit Bangladesh, which led to 27 deals worth $25 billion being inked. India, of course, can neither match China’s economic muscle nor its domestic defence industrial base.

But India is trying to counter China’s inroads into its neighbourhood, ranging from Sri Lanka, Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius to Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal. Apart from supplying air defence guns, radars and mine-protected vehicles to Sri Lanka, for instance, India is also constructing two naval offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) for the island nation now.

“Similarly, India can supply OPVs to Bangladesh through innovative financing mechanisms. The training of Bangladeshi personnel in Indian military establishments will also be increased under the overall capacity-building,” said the source.

The sixth edition of the India-Bangladesh joint military exercise “Sampriti” is also currently underway at Tangail in Dhaka. “With the focus being on counter-terrorism, the exercise will boost interoperability between the two armies. Regular naval and air force exercises will also be on the agenda now,” said the source.

India’s ties with Bangladesh are certainly once again on upward trajectory now under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership. The two have backed each other on terrorist attacks on their soils, with Dhaka supporting New Delhi’s stand on boycotting the SAARC summit in Islamabad.

India was also relieved at Bangladesh’s move to scrap China’s bid to construct the Sonadia deep-sea port at Cox’s Bazaar earlier this year. But China has several other projects underway in Bangladesh, which also supports the former’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

India, on its part, has actively worked towards bolstering ties with Bangladesh over the last three-four years, with one of the main objectives being the need for the two to `resolutely’ tackle terrorism together.

India has also been holding direct Army-to-Army staff talks with Bangladesh since 2009. The importance of the talks can be gauged from the fact that India has similar staff talks with just a handful of countries, which include US, UK, Israel, France, Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

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