Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina to visit India in April; weaning Dhaka away from China’s influence is key

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Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina is all set to visit New Delhi in April. The latest development comes days after India’s foreign secretary S Jaishankar met the Awami League leader in Dhaka on 23 February. However, The Hindu added that the meeting was supposed to take place in December 2016, but had to be postponed.

While Jaishankar has said that the meeting will focus on “issues of connectivity and development initiatives”, the real reason may well be to do with defence and security.

According to a report in Hindustan Times, India is expected to offer Bangladesh a defence pact comprising the sale of military hardware and a credit line of over $500 million for military purchases.

The credit line offered by India will be the highest if the pact is signed by both countries.

According to reports in the Indian media, the growing closeness between Bangladesh and China will encourage India to seal a defence deal with Dhaka. It is to be noted that from 2009 onwards, Beijing has been Bangladesh’s biggest arms supplier, accounting for over 80 percent of the total arms delivered to the country in that period.

As recently as in November 2016, Dhaka had purchased two submarines from China which raised many eyebrows in New Delhi.

According to a report in the South China Morning Post, many Bangladeshi military officials are not keen on purchasing Indian military equipment, which are themselves imported from other nations.

Hasina has been considered a pro-India leader compared to her arch-rival and former prime minister Khaleda Zia, who has been controversial due to the support she enjoys among the Islamic hardliners.

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