Bangladesh-India defence coop framework finalised

Bangladesh and India are to sign a five-year memorandum of understanding (MoU) to formalise defence cooperation between the two countries, officials concerned confirmed.

The draft of MoU includes cooperation in the defence industry and joint initiatives for its development, defence technology, research and maritime infrastructure development.

Officials told Prothom Alo on Wednesday that the draft framework of the defence cooperation MoU between Bangladesh and India has been finalised after about three months of talks between the two countries.

If all goes according to the plan, the deal will signed during prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in April, they added.

According to the draft schedule, Sheikh Hasina is to arrive in New Delhi on 7 April on a four-day state visit to India. After her talks with the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, on 8 April, several agreements and MoUs are expected to be signed, including the defence memorandum.

Talks are reportedly on also for an MoU pertaining to the purchase of military equipment from India under a credit agreement for the first time. Once the MoU is finalised and signed, Bangladesh will purchase defence equipment worth about Taka 4,000 crore ($500 million) from India.

Officials of various ministries concerned have said that so far 49 agreements and MoUs have been discussed for signing during the prime minister’s forthcoming visit.

However, the long-unresolved Teesta treaty is not included among these.

The list includes nine MoUs including the one for defence cooperation. Till last week, so far 17 agreements and MoUs have been finalised. More are likely to be finalised in the next few days.

Officials of the foreign ministry said that so far there has been no indication of the Teesta treaty to be signed during this visit. If it is finalised at the last minute, that will be a dramatic development.

However, even if the Teesta deal is not signed, India may come up with a specific declaration regarding river basin management, the officials said.

India had proposed long-term agreement framework to consolidate defence cooperation between the two countries. Last December, India’s defence minister at the time Manohar Parrikar came to Bangladesh and discussed the issue with the prime minister Sheikh Hasina. After discussions at several levels, Bangladesh finally agreed to an MoU for defence cooperation rather than a long-term agreement. Bangladesh and India finalised the drat MoU in the first half of February this year.

In giving a formal shape to the existing defence cooperation, the armed forces of the two countries will show respect towards international and national laws, each other’s laws, relevant conditionalities, policies and customs.

In order to enhance the efficiency of officers in the defence sector, the two sides will exchange training, military experts, trainers and observers, military curricula and information. The two sides will organise cooperation in military equipment maintenance, and training pertaining to disaster and relief cooperation.

Talks will be held among the army, navy and air force regarding defence cooperation. Exchange trips by sea vessels and aircraft will be arranged. There will be joint patrol of the international maritime boundaries.

The defence industry cooperation will include joint investment, cooperation in outer-space technology, technical support, exchange of experience, training and maritime infrastructure development.

Annual meetings will be held between the defence secretaries and principal staff officers of the armed forces of the countries to review the defence cooperation. These meeting will be held alternatively in the two countries.

As to why an MoU is being signed rather than a full-blown defence pact, a government official, on condition of anonymity, told Prothom Alo, this is the first time Bangladesh is signing any framework with any country and so due to many considerations, it was decided not to sign an agreement at first. It is simply a matter of caution.

Source: Prothom Alo

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