Why did Indian Army Chiefgo to Bangladesh?
By: DR Arpita Hazarika
The chief of army staff of India, General ManojPande completed his Bangladesh visit recently (from July 18 to July 20) as part of the “outstanding” bilateral defense relations between Bangladesh and India.
General ManojPande was on his first trip abroad since taking over the post. First day of his visit, the army chief laid a wreath at ShikhaAnirban to honor the valiant souls who made the ultimate sacrifices during the Liberation War of 1971.
Indian Army chief General ManojPande received a Guard of Honour at a convention centre of Bangladesh Armed Forces here on Monday.
Indian Army Chief General ManojPande paid a courtesy call on his Bangladesh counterpart General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed at the Army Headquarters in Dhaka on Monday. The two discussed ways to enhance and strengthen bilateral defense cooperation.
ManojPande met with senior members of the security establishment several times throughout the day to discuss defense-related topics. In Dhanmondi, at the Bangladesh’s Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh MujiburRahman Memorial Museum, he also paid respects. He met with Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday and focused on strengthening bilateral ties.
The army chief spoke the Defense Services Command and Staff College, Mirpur, professors and students on the second day of his visit.
After that, he met with staff at the Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support and Operation Training, a prestigious institution in Bangladesh that prepares peacekeepers for work in a variety of UN peace operations, and engage in conversation with them. After that, he visited the Bangabandhu Military Museum in Mirpur.
ManojPande’s visit has strengthened relations between the two armies on a bilateral level and served as a catalyst for improved coordination and collaboration between the two nations on a variety of strategic problems.
In South Asia, Bangladesh is an important ally of the India. The two nations work closely together on problems like climate change, counterterrorism, and regional security. This visit may serve to cement bilateral defense ties. Defense cooperation between nations could strengthen bilateral ties. Both India and Bangladesh are essential to the region. Despite some bilateral issues, both countries are greatly interested in further solidifying their bilateral ties, which was made clear by this visit. This could assist in bolstering bilateral ties and reflecting better bilateral understanding. This visit is highly important for Bangladesh and India in the region. Bangladesh and the India must work together as reliable partners to address some shared issues. Through this visit, India and Bangladesh have further reinforced their defense ties.
India played a significant role in the Bangladesh War of Liberation in 1971, helping the then-East Pakistan transform into the new country of Bangladesh, which permanently altered the dynamics of South Asia. India and Bangladesh agreed to a “Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation” that would last for 25 years. Given the numerous cultural, diplomatic, economic, and security linkages that exist between India and Bangladesh today, the two nations’ bilateral ties are now stronger than ever. Bangladesh occupies a special place in India’s heart as a close neighbor and an essential part of the country’s “Neighborhood First Policy.”
Defense, security, and strategic connections between India and Bangladesh are expanding daily. Bangladesh is seen by India as an enduring strategic ally. In addition to giving 18 brand-new 120mm mortars to the Bangladesh Army in December 2020 as part of army-to-army cooperation, India has granted a $500 million line of credit to Bangladesh for defense procurement from India.
A 122-member group from Bangladesh’s tri-services also took part in the Republic Day parade in India in January 2021.
From March 8–10, two Indian naval ships—INS Kulish and INS Sumedha—visited Bangladesh’s Mongla Port, making it the first naval visit India had made in the previous 50 years. Bangladesh is still India’s “closest neighbor,” and relations with it are at a “golden age.” India wants to strengthen its relationship with Bangladesh just as the US wants to engage with it more strategically. Of sure, both nations would benefit from the situation.
In an effort to improve bilateral defense cooperation, Bangladesh’s new army chief Gen S M Shafiuddin Ahmed and India’s new army chief General ManojPande spoke via video chat earlier this month.
It is believed that the two army commanders also discussed how the geopolitical landscape was changing and how that would affect regional security.
In recent years, India and Bangladesh’s defense and security relations have improved. The 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s Liberation was in 2021. Both India and Bangladesh have highly trained, experienced military, and they work together to keep the Eastern region peaceful.
Due to the close ties between the two countries, India is also hosting a number of events to commemorate the liberation of Bangladesh 50 years ago.
The Bangladeshi and Indian militaries are increasingly collaborating on defense. Through a variety of initiatives, such as joint training and drills and defense discussions, the two countries’ armed forces have been working together more and more.
Two defense agreements were signed between Bangladesh and India during Sheikh Hasina’s four-day trip to New Delhi in April 2017. These were the first such pacts inked by India and any of its neighbors. According to the accords, the troops of the two nations would engage in cooperative training and exercises.
In order to achieve self-sufficiency in defense manufacturing in Bangladesh, India will assist Bangladesh in setting up manufacturing and service facilities for the defense platforms that both nations currently possess. Additionally, India will offer the Bangladesh military specialized training as well as technical and logistical support. India also gave a neighboring nation, Bangladesh, its first ever line of credit for defense-related purchases, in the amount of $500 million.
Additionally, the forces of the two nations have taken on a significant role in conducting training programs for dealing with counterterrorism challenges, natural catastrophes, and ensuring humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR).
General M.M. Naravane, the current chief of staff of the Indian Army, visited General Aziz Ahmed, the chief of army staff of Bangladesh, in March 2019 while serving as GOC-in-C of the Eastern Army Command to discuss expanding intelligence sharing between the two nations and expanding other areas of defense cooperation. The visit most importantly took place at a time when Myanmar made the decision to take decisive action against insurgent groups that were active in foiling terrorist activities on both the sides of India and Myanmar. Discussions were also held about various ways to improve the conduct of military exercises at a more rapid and decisive scale.
Defence and security are significant elements of India and Bangladesh’s bilateral relations, and the armed forces of the two nations cooperate and coordinate with one another on numerous levels.
As some selected items are being prioritized, Bangladesh would soon import goods connected to defense from India under the US$ 500 million Line of Credit offered by New Delhi, according to Foreign Secretary Harsh VardhanShringla on December 16.
On December 15, 2021, President Ram NathKovind met with the top officials of Bangladesh during his first state visit there at the invitation of his counterpart, M Abdul Hamid, to attend the golden jubilee celebrations of Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan in 1971.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina welcomed President Ram NathKovind, and the two leaders spoke about a range of topics of bilateral cooperation and shared interest. They talked about the development of their intricate and extensive bilateral relations.
The defense issue came up during President Kovind’s meetings with Bangladesh’s top officials.
India has added an additional $500 million to its line of credit for defense products. Under this line of credit, a number of items have been identified and are being accelerated quickly; their processing is at a fair degree of sophistication. (In accordance with news reports)
India presented Bangladesh with a $500 million line of credit in 2019 to help the neighboring nation purchase defense equipment.
The Armed Forces Division of Bangladesh and the Export Import Bank of India (Exim Bank) inked a contract on April 11 to allow the latter access to a US$ 500 million line of credit (LOC).
The Memorandum of Understanding aims to finance Bangladesh’s acquisition of defense equipment. In April 2017, India promised to provide Bangladesh with a US$ 500 million Line of Credit during Prime Minister Hasina’s visit to New Delhi.
Bangladesh has a “special place” in India’s “Neighborhood First” policy, according to President Ram NathKovind, who also told Bangladesh’s top leaders that the two countries’ relationship, which is based on sovereignty, equality, trust, and understanding, is mature enough to handle even the “most complex of problems.”
India and Bangladesh have been providing the most soldiers to United Nations peacekeeping missions in terms of bilateral military cooperation. The two Armies’ collaboration has grown in the field of counterterrorism.
India’s determination to combat terrorism in all its manifestations was echoed by Bangladesh’s resolute stance against terrorism. India is aware of Bangladesh’s efforts to prevent terrorist organizations from using space to conduct activities against India. In response, India should keep up its efforts to stop any terrorist group from using its territory to harm Bangladeshi interests.
India had encountered challenging circumstances in some of the States bordering Bangladesh, but since Prime Minister ShiekhHasina’s government came to office in 2009, it has provided all assistance.
It made sure that no one could hurt a neighboring country by using Bangladeshi soil. Bangladesh has made a commitment to not support terrorism or radicalism in any form and to prevent these activities from taking place on its soil.
Indian Prime Minister NarendraModi, Indian President RamnathKovind, Indian Foreign Minister, Indian Home Minister, and Chief Ministers of surrounding states have frequently voiced their praise for Bangladesh’s zero-tolerance approach to combating terrorism.
As a result of the insurgency’s current low point in North-East India, Chief Minister of Assam HemantBishwa Sharma has thanked Bangladesh for its assistance and emphasized his wish to improve trade and connection between Bangladesh and North-East India.
To strengthen the defense and security facets of their alliance, Bangladesh and India can cooperate in the field of defense. The two nations should be dedicated to further developing the defense and security component of their partnership based on the needs expressed and each party’s ability to respond to them using different methods, including through capacity building and potential technology transfer. India can assist Bangladesh in achieving the goal of implementation of Bangladesh’s visionary military plan “Forces Goal 2030.”
The writer is a Gauhati University, Assam, India-based researcher. <[email protected]>