Indian media reports widely published about Prime Minister Sheikh Hasian’s visit to Delhi, tentatively April 7-8, and signing of a ‘ big defence deal’ has raised eyebrows in Dhaka. Opposition BNP leaders Dr Moyeen Khan and Ruhul Kabir Khan Rizvi viewed defence pact in line with Indian strategy will be perilous and will endanger the country’s integrity and sovereignty. Such a pact is likely to reduce the status of Bangladesh to Sikkim, now a part of India, and Bhutan, a tributary of India.
They warned that neither the nation nor the armed forces are likely to accept a defence pact with India. A section of the media expressing deep concern was also critical of the move, though the government has not yet confirmed its decision to sign along the dotted line of the India-proposed defence pact.
Pitfalls of such an agreement
After several postponements, it appears that the Prime Minister has finally agreed to visit India, but her government is believed to be reluctant to sign a defence pact that India is pushing for. The reason is obvious.
An analyst recently wrote in Quora (India), “India should seek for a defence agreement with Bangladesh that can allow transport of troops and military logistics to the Northeast Indian states through the transit corridor over Bangladesh soil” for ensuring the security of India’s Northeast states – a hub of insurgencies raging for decades for their independence from India. The various militant groups reportedly with external support are a constant threat to the Indian government. In the event of any escalation of the insurgency, it is natural that India would invoke the proposed defence pact to transport troops and arms through the transit corridor. This will no doubt endanger security and sovereignty of Bangladesh provoking the insurgents to trespass into Bangladesh territory. Given the urgency of the defence pact for India for transporting troops and arms through the available transit corridor, analysts have warned that India may even apply a stick and carrot policy to achieve its objectives.
This is not a mere fiction. Such a policy has succeeded in case with Nepal and Bhutan as well. It is no secret how New Delhi had orchestrated the fall of K P Oli government in Kathmandu for its open pro-Beijing stance and the Thinely government in Bhutan was overthrown for attempting to develop diplomatic relations with China. Delhi also allegedly orchestrated the fall of strongman Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka for his closer ties with China.
Why this defence pact?
Besides, Indian attempts to create trouble in Tibet in China and promoting Dalai Lama and his government in exile in India is a cause of long term concern for China. Delhi knows it and deliberately does it. Also there is long border dispute between India and China. In case of a flaring up of any of these disputes, India will invoke the defence pact with Bangladesh in a bid to protect its Northern Indian states to the annoyance of Beijing.
Quora (India) further suggested that India should also seek a trade and import corridor through Bangladesh plains which is less risky than the treacherous mountain route of Shilliguri Corridor that takes more than a day to reach remote Northeast Indian states. It will also facilitate quick movement of people to the mainland. According to the Indian media reports, Delhi wants to have a 25-year agreement on defence cooperation with Bangladesh but Dhaka still appears sceptical about such a long time frame. Sources suggest Dhaka may agree to sign a MoU, which would be less formal with no time frame.
Informed sources say, another factor why India wants to push for this defence deal is because China has emerged as a major supplier of arms to the Bangladesh Army and is also a destination for its officers to receive training. The recent purchase of submarines from China by Bangladesh has caused deep concern in New Delhi. Strategists in India are questioning why Bangladesh needed submarines as it is surrounded by India on three sides and it has already settled its maritime disputes with— Myanmar and India through international arbitration in 2012 and 2014, respectively.
Defending the defence pact
India is apprehensive that China is trying to encircle it by influencing its neighbours. China upgrading its relationship with Bangladesh during Xi Jinping’s visit in 2016 is seen as an evidence of the same. Bangladeshi diplomats however, say that Indian military hardware is not competitive and the recent examples are Myanmar and Nepal.
This is being touted as the reason why Bangladesh does not want to get into a long term defence pact with India when Chinese military equipments are better, cheaper and easy to use. In view of strong opposition at home against the India-proposed defence pact with India, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is unlikely to push the country’s armed forces toward this. Sources say, on questions of defence, she is likely to go by advice that military provides. India has been a traditional ally of successive Awami League governments, Hasina has addressed the entire gamut of Indian security and connectivity including pushing insurgents and allowing transit corridor to reach troubled Northeast states. It is now payback time for India.
During her upcoming visit to Delhi, Hasina needs to show some positive returns from India to the people for her pro-Indian policy, including sharing of Teesta waters and of other common rivers, stoppage of the continuous killings of unarmed civilians by the Indian border guards along the border.
Interestingly, while Hasina does not seem to want to upset the army by entering into a 25-year defence treaty with India or for that matter any country, she also would not like to upset New Delhi before the national election due in January 2019. It will be a quite difficult task for her to choose the right course.
Source:- Bangladesh Chronicle