NEW DELHI: As Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina here on Saturday for bilateral talks, one of the areas that could come up is maritime ties. Nearly a dozen agreements are expected to be signed after the two leaders meet.
India has agreed to join the celebrations to commemorate the birth centenary of ‘Bangabandhu’ Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, the founder of Bangladesh, next year and an International Fleet Review in 2021 to mark the golden jubilee of the liberation of Bangladesh. To give final shape to the engagements, India’s Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh was in Bangladesh around 10 days ago. The issue of coastal radar chain network figured prominently during his visit to bring Bangladesh into a network that already has several countries in the region. The issue may come up again when Sheikh Hasina meets Modi. Last year, she had expressed willingness to share Indian Navy’s expertise in ensuring Bangladesh’s maritime and coastal security.
The Indian Navy has been imparting extensive training to its Bangladeshi counterpart. As Bangladesh seeks to expand its ship-building industry, India has offered its expertise in ship design and manufacturing. Bangladesh’s Chittagong Dry Dock plans to build frigates, tall ships and small vessels for which India has offered to build some under the $500 million line of credit given to boost ‘Make in India’ initiative. Indian shipyards still await orders from Bangladesh though. “Some development is expected in this regard,” said a source in the Defence Ministry. Also, the white shipping agreement is on the plate.
The navies of India and Bangladesh are likely to undertake their second coordinated patrol (CORPAT); the first edition was held last year with an eye on boosting maritime security.
Enhanced defence ties with India may help wean Dhaka away from China which has so far been Bangladesh’s lead supplier of military equipment. Last year, China handed over two submarines to Bangladesh and India is keen on limiting Chinese footprint in its periphery.