Monday, August 2, 2021

India, Bangladesh Boost Counter-Terror Cooperation As 10-Day Military Drills Conclude

India and Bangladesh strengthened their counterterrorism cooperation through a 10-day multinational military exercise, ‘Shantir Ogroshena’ (Front Runner of the Peace).

The military drills, which concluded on Monday, marked the golden jubilee of the Bangladesh liberation war fought with India’s military assistance.

Held at Bangabandhu Senanibas (BBS) in Bangladesh, the exercise saw the participation of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka. The US, the UK, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Singapore were observers of the proceedings.

The Indian Army said the military exercises were aimed at strengthening defense ties and enhancing interoperability among the neighboring countries to ensure effective peacekeeping operations.

Without the presence of Pakistan or China, the event offered India a platform to exchange information and bolster defense ties with its South Asian neighbors.

The Indian military contingent comprised 30 personnel. Chief of the Army Staff, General MM Naravane delivered a Keynote Address on ‘Changing Nature of Global Conflicts: Role of UN Peacekeepers’ on April 11.

The event also marked the birth centenary of the ‘Bangabandhu’ Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh and the father of the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of India-Bangladesh cooperation as India offered military assistance to help oust the Pakistani regime in 1971.

The ruling party of Bangladesh, the Awami League, has deep-rooted ties with India as the latter had offered refuge to the party’s leaders while they fled from Pakistani aggression during the Bangladeshi freedom struggle. The party has always been described as “pro-India.”

Indian Prime Minister Modi’s first foreign visit after the COVID-19 outbreak was to Bangladesh, on March 26, to mark the country’s 50th independence day. Bangladesh is the centerpiece of India’s ‘Neighborhood-Dirst’ policy to counter Chinese influence while heightening India’s status in the region.

India has been promoting and investing in infrastructure projects in Bangladesh to not only boost alternative connectivity with the strategic north-eastern region but also to counter Chinese financial aid. Modi had virtually inaugurated ‘Maitri Setu’ on March 10, about 55 miles from China-built Chittagong port.

The flourishing bilateral economic relations will also benefit Bangladesh by helping it leave the UN list of least-developed countries.

Counterterrorism A Key Focus Area

Counterterrorism was one of the key themes of the just-concluded exercise, in which the military forces participated in UN-mandated anti-terror exercises.

The last decade saw a sharp increase in terrorist acts in Bangladesh, along with the emergence of radical Islamic groups. While the Sheikh Hasina government tackled these threats with an iron hand, the problem still persists. India’s support is crucial for the current Bangladeshi administration.

During his visit, Modi had stated that “India and Bangladesh must remain vigilant and united to counter threats like terrorism as well as ideas and powers behind such inhumane acts.”

Nevertheless, despite the warm ties between Bangladesh and India, Dhaka’s growing economic ties with Beijing have been a cause of concern for New Delhi.

Another rough patch is that Dhaka and New Delhi are yet to find a solution to their decades-long water-sharing dispute. Even PM Modi’s recent visit failed to address the Teesta water issue. Analysts argue that India must solve this problem for lasting gains.

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