Keener on arms from China, Bangladesh dithers on defence pact with India

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After several postponements, the prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, has finally agreed to visit India in April but her government is reluctant to sign an agreement on defence that India is pushing for.

While New Delhi has called for a comprehensive, 25-year agreement on defence cooperation, Dhaka is thought to favour agreeing a looser, and less formal, Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that would have no time frame.

India pitched the idea of greater defence cooperation with Bangladesh when its defence minister, Manohar Parikkar, visited Dhaka in December.

“India wants a long term comprehensive defence cooperation agreement. We want to take a more calibrated, phased approach. An MOU may be a good way to begin,” said a top Bangladesh diplomat who was privy to the negotiations. He said the issue surfaced during Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s recent visit to Dhaka in late February.

“We are for greater defence cooperation with India, the relations between our defence forces are improving and we want to tackle the threat of terrorism together, but I think it is not yet time for a long-term agreement,” the diplomat said.

The agreement India proposed would cover greater military-to-military cooperation, sale and supply of military hardware from India to Bangladesh and coordinated operations against mutually perceived threats. Read More…

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