Indian Army chief’s Dhaka visit: Bilateral security and strategic ties are set to get stronger

India-Bangladesh bonhomie on the security front has reached newer heights. Their strategic relations will continue to add more depth and momentum, writes Kamal Uddin Mazumder for South Asia Monitor

Kamal Uddin Mazumder Jul 26, 2022
Indian Army chief, General Manoj Pande visited Dhaka (Photo: Twitter)

Indian Army chief, General Manoj Pande visited Dhaka from July 18-20 at the invitation of his Bangladesh counterpart, General S.M. Shafiuddin Ahmed to further strengthen defense and bilateral ties. This is the first foreign trip of Gen Pande since taking charge of the office. The tour manifests his respect for Bangladesh and the historic and existing good relations between the two armies. 

Gen Pande met his Bangladeshi counterpart at the Dhaka Cantonment where they discussed various aspects of mutual cooperation for future advancement between the two military forces. He called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who gratefully recalled the crucial role India played during the 1971 Liberation War. 

At present, India and Bangladesh share a warm relationship. They are cooperating in various socio-economic, political, military, technological and cultural spheres. There are now regular reciprocal visits by leaders of their governments and armed forces. Such visits play a significant role in consolidating the dynamism of contemporary ties.  

Cementing ties 

The visit of Gen Pande is testimony to the high priority both countries attach to each other and their desire to further strengthen this relationship based on shared values, mutual trust and understanding. It will act as a catalyst for closer coordination and cooperation on a host of strategic issues. Talks between the armed forces can help dispel misconceptions harboured by both parties and contribute to mutual understanding of each other’s viewpoints. 

India’s relationship with Bangladesh is one of the main pillars of its ‘Neighbourhood First’ and ‘Act East‘ foreign policies. Understandably, Bangladesh is key to India’s land links eastwards. When Prime Minister Hasina came to power in 2009, Dhaka assured Delhi that it would never allow even “an inch of its territory” to be used for any extremist activity against India in line with the former’s zero-tolerance policy against terrorism and militancy. India's major security concerns in its northeast has been addressed significantly by Bangladesh.  

India is today one of Bangladesh's most important economic partners. Bangladesh is India's largest trade partner in South Asia and India is the second largest trade partner of Bangladesh. Despite the pandemic, bilateral trade grew at an unprecedented rate of 14 percent from $9.46 billion in 2019-20 to $10.78 billion in 2020-21. Bangladesh is also India’s most important development partner both in terms of value and range of cooperation. India extends about a third of its total global development assistance under the lines of credit to Bangladesh. 

Military cooperation 

Defence cooperation has seen significant progress in the last few years. This is demonstrated in the exchange of visits as well as in training programmes, joint exercises and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR). 

Apart from economic cooperation, major engagements in border management, counter-terrorism, capacity-building, technology exchange, space research, cyber security, connectivity, shipping and other areas of cooperation are expanding. The defence services of both countries are now participating in joint exercises, medical assistance and training programmes.  

SAMPRITI, the joint military exercise operation to counter terrorism, completed its 10th edition at Jashore Military Station on June 16. The exercise provided an opportunity for both armies to understand each other’s tactical drills and operational techniques as well as to share their experience in counter insurgency/counter terrorism, peacekeeping and Disaster Relief Operation under the UN mandate. 

As the Bay of Bengal region is prone to cross-border organized crime such as human trafficking besides fake currency, arms and narcotics smuggling, a high level of cooperation between security agencies can help tackle such challenges as well as secure maritime trade for littoral countries, especially for Bangladesh. 

China dependence 

Though Bangladesh is heavily dependent on China for conventional military weapons, some security experts view that time has come to move away from a single -source supply of defense equipment. Thus, China needs to be balanced by strengthening defence cooperation with India and Russia too. Bangladesh and China have an umbrella agreement on defence cooperation signed in December 2002 when Khaleda Zia was the Prime Minister. 

During Prime Minister Hasina’s 2017 visit to India, the two countries signed a series of agreements and MoUs for enhancing cooperation in national security and strategic and operational studies. Both the countries inked a pact on the defence cooperation framework apart from signing an agreement for extending a $500 million Line of Credit for the purchase of military hardware. 

India-Bangladesh cooperation on the security front has reached newer heights. Their strategic relations will continue to add more depth and momentum in the defence and security aspects of the relationship. 

(The author is a security and strategic affairs analyst in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Views are personal. He can be contacted at 

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