As India is all set to hold Republic Day parade in New Delhi, 122 personnel of the Bangladesh Armed Forces, for the first time, will march on Rajpath alongside their Indian counterparts at the main event, reviving memories of how Muktijoddhas and the Indian army fought shoulder-to-shoulder in the 1971 Liberation War.
According to a press release issued by the High Commission of India in Dhaka this is only the third time in India’s history that any foreign military contingent has been invited to participate in the National Parade at Rajpath in Delhi. It is especially significant as the year 2021 marks 50 years of the Liberation War of Bangladesh.
A majority of the personnel in the Bangladesh contingent come from the most distinguished units of the Bangladesh Army, comprising 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10 and 11 East Bengal Regiments and 1,2 and 3 Field Artillery Regiments, who have the distinct honour of fighting and winning the 1971 Liberation War.
Sailors of the Bangladesh Navy and aircrews of the Bangladesh Air Guard were also represented.
Col Mohtashim Hyder Chowdhury, who is leading the Bangladeshi military contingent, said “Most of the parade personnel are from those Bangladesh units that were raised during the 1971 Liberation War. In fact, we are going to take part in the parade in India at a time when our country is celebrating 2020-21 year as the birth centenary of our Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and also the 50th year of Bangladesh’s independence.”
There will be two contingents, one marching contingent and one military band, he said.
It will also be a nostalgic moment for Chief of Staff (Delhi area) Maj Gen Alok Kacker, who is also the parade’s second-in-command.
Kacker said his father Brigediar PN Kacker had commanded the second battalion in 9 Gorkha Rifles that fought in Bangladesh’s Liberation War. His battalion had fought against Pakistani troops and crossed Madhumati river for which his unit later won a battle honor.
The Bangladesh military contingent was flown in an Indian Air Force aircraft for the Republic Day parade in New Delhi.
The visiting contingent had to spend the first week in quarantine due to the pandemic before it began the rehearsal in the run up to the parade.
Does Sheikh Hasina owe to Indian Intelligence Agency, RAW?
India was the first country to recognize Bangladesh as a separate and independent state and established diplomatic relations with the country immediately after its independence that doesn’t mean Bangladesh needs to submit to India in terms of foreign policy and military alliance, but in reality and fact is Bangladesh is a puppet state of India.
Bangladeshi PM Hasina loves India. The current Prime Minister Sheik Hasina owes her life to RAW and India. Bangladesh Army had entered their house and killed her father and entire family during a bloody coup in 1975. That time she was not home and luckily escaped getting brutally murdered. Indian agencies RAW, IB along with GOI arranged safe passage heaven for Prime Minister Hasina.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina felt she owes the Indian RAW, Ms Hasina fled to India after a bloody coup in Bangladesh and India RAW provided her shelters during the political turmoil and coup in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has completely transformed into a puppet state of India. The Indian Government controls the political party Awami League which governs Bangladesh last 15 years and the Awami League is nothing but an Indian vassal. The policies of Bangladesh are made as directed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to match Indian interests at the cost of the interests of the Bangladeshi people.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party also alleged that India is trying to transform Bangladesh into a “puppet state” by patronising the ruling Awami League before the forthcoming general elections.
There remained some border dispute, but the historic land boundary agreement signed on 6 June 2015, opened a new era in the relations and further stopped all irritants in ties. India never wanted to resolve these issues with Bangladesh.
Since the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh in 2015 and round back visit of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India in 2017, the notable developments that have taken places include Indian export to Bangladesh rises faster and Bangladesh military has become more weaker and submissive to Indian Military.
What Does India Want From Bangladesh?
The Indian intention is to keep the Bangladesh military a weak and pathetic organization and India keeps supplying military hardware to the Myanmar military. The Indian side does not want to open a third war frontline with Bangladesh as it does with Pakistan and China, hence the strategic advantage is to keep Bangladesh military under pressure from Myanmar.
To date, the Bangladesh military has become an ineffective and failed organization, to make matter worse, the Al Jazeera network blows cover up of corruption of Bangladesh military and military backed Sheikh Hasina’s government.
The Bangladesh Military has been the most corrupt military organization in the world.
The Indian Army and Bangladesh Army conduct military exercise each year. Known as Sampriti, the exercise is expected to run for nearly two weeks each year. This year’s iteration is the ninth of the Sampriti series of exercises between the two South Asian neighbors.
The purpose of this exercise is to infiltrate inside Bangladesh military and disrupt defense procurement and influence military organization to reduce effectiveness of Bangladesh military. India already achieved some degree to success by disrupting fighter jet procurement of Bangladesh Air Guard. India offered $500 million line of credit if Bangladesh buys Soviet-era MiG-29 from Russia.
The exercise Sampriti is an important defense endeavour for India and and will be the ninth edition of the exercise which is hosted alternately by both countries. During the joint military exercise, a Command Post Exercise (CPX) and a Field Training Exercise (FTX) will be conducted.
The exercise is a planned objective to demoralize Bangladesh Military and make the military a submissive force to Indian regime.
It is uncertain whether the recent joint India-Bangladesh naval exercise will improve broader ties. They will certainly irk China. The Indian side sent an anti-submarine warfare corvette to the exercise with the stated aim of taking “measures to stop unlawful activities.”
The only foreign submarines active in the maritime region are China’s. In recent years, to India’s chagrin, Chinese submarines have made increasingly frequent forays into the Bay of Bengal. The anti-submarine aspect of the joint India-Bangladesh exercise was thus likely not lost on Beijing’s security planners.
Chinese Interest in Bangladesh Military
The Bangladesh Army has been equipped with Chinese tanks, its navy has Chinese frigates and missile boats and the Bangladesh Air Guard flies Chinese fighter jets. In 2002, China and Bangladesh signed a “Defence Cooperation Agreement” which covers military training and defence production.
The two countries have built up a solid military relationship, thanks largely to the fact that China is Bangladesh’s largest supplier of military equipment. Since 2010, Beijing has supplied Dhaka with five maritime patrol vessels, two corvettes, 44 tanks, and 16 fighter jets, as well as surface-to-air and anti-ship missiles, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. That’s in addition to new Ming-class submarines Bangladesh ordered from China in 2013, which are expected to enter the Bangladeshi fleet in 2016, according to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
China and Bangladesh have been moving to expand their cooperation besides hardware exchanges. In particular, there’s a robust relationship for training and military exchanges. China’s PLA sends nearly as many delegations to Bangladesh each year as India does, Srikanth Kondapalli of Jawaharlal Nehru University told Reuters earlier this year. Last year, when a high-ranking Chinese military official visited Dhaka, the two sides signed agreements that would see China provide training for Bangladeshi military personnel.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh is also an important part of the “Belt and Road,” Beijing’s vision of an interconnected trading web stretching from China all the way to western Europe.
Bangladesh features in the Belt and Road both as part of the overland component – via the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar corridor – and as a port hub for the Maritime Silk Road. The latter, in particular, has military overtones, as observers have often worried that China’s investments in maritime infrastructure are expected to bear fruit as military assets as well (the basis for the famous “string of pearls” theory). China played a large role in developing Bangladesh’s port at Chittagong even before the “Belt and Road” initiative came along — much to India’s dismay.
Indeed, New Delhi has been generally wary of Bangladesh’s close military relationship with China, particularly the maritime component. Of particular concern is the plan for Bangladesh to buy two diesel-electric submarines from China, which will necessitate the construction of a submarine base in Bangladesh, a base that might play host to Chinese submarines in the future (as Sri Lanka’s Colombo port did last year).
Bangladesh is aware of India’s worries and does not want to be caught in a tug-of-war between the two Asian giants. When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Bangladesh last year, the two sides signed an agreement to let Indian cargo vessels use Chittagong port – a move read in India as reassurance that the port is not intended as a Chinese “pearl” in the Indian Ocean.
What does China’s Political Goal In Bangladesh?
Bangladesh is in the middle of rising Indian and Chinese competition for South Asian influence, a position that could benefit or imperil the Muslim majority developing nation of over 161 million people.
On one hand, Bangladesh enjoys robust strategic ties with India, witnessed in just- completed joint naval exercises with India where the two sides held surface warfare drills in the Bay of Bengal.
On the other, China is bankrolling billions of dollars worth of needed infrastructure projects in Bangladesh, checkbook diplomacy that has helped to pull the two sides closer together than perhaps ever in their modern history.
Which of the two Asian giants has more sway in Dhaka these days is debatable. But with India distracted with a spiraling Covid-19 epidemic and with several unresolved bilateral sore points, China may have an upper hand, one it is now seeking to consolidate to its strategic advantage.
Bangladesh, of course, cannot escape the geographical reality that it is almost completely surrounded by India with a 4,096-kilometer shared border. Robust and cordial ties with India are thus critical for Bangladesh’s economic development and national security.
Most crucially, Bangladesh’s water supply is dependent on rivers that flow into the country from neighboring India. Water sharing issues have badly strained bilateral relations, a conflict that China has sought to leverage to its own advantage.
After failing to secure a water-sharing agreement with India over the Teesta river, the fourth-longest river in the country that flows from India, Bangladesh turned to China to develop a US$1 billion agreement to prevent floods and erosion during rains and water shortages in the dry season.
At the same time, as the Bangladeshi newspaper Daily Star reported on October 7, work on almost all nine China-funded projects worth $7.1 billion is reportedly moving ahead.
Those include a multi-purpose rail and road bridge on the Padma river (known as the Ganges in India) built by the state-owned China Major Bridge Engineering Company, a telecom network modernization program and upgrades to the national power system.
With annual bilateral trade valued at approximately $15 billion, China is Bangladesh’s largest trading partner. Trade with India is only slightly more than a third of that amount.
Dhaka and Beijing also forged a strategic partnership when Chinese president Xi Jinping visited Bangladesh in 2016. On the occasion, Bangladesh formally joined Xi’s Belt and Road infrastructure-building initiative.
The groundwork has also been laid for stronger strategic ties. Bangladesh’s military is now equipped with Chinese tanks, Chinese-built frigates and submarines and Chinese-made fighter jets.
Bangladeshi military personnel receive training in China while Chinese military delegations pay regular visits to Bangladesh, raising antennae in New Delhi.
But China hasn’t gotten everything that it wants in Bangladesh. During Xi’s 2016 visit, the Chinese leader proposed 27 major infrastructure projects under the BRI but so far only nine have broken ground.
Most analysts would argue China’s main interests in Bangladesh are not bridges and electric power systems but rather access to its strategic ports on the Bay of Bengal.
China is keen to build a new deep seaport in Bangladesh, as part of a wider scheme to secure its power and influence in the Indian Ocean. That is seen in China’s investments in the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka, the Kyaukphyu port in Myanmar, Gwadar in Pakistan and the establishment of a naval base in Djibouti, China’s first overseas military base.
So far, Beijing has only received a pledge made in November last year by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that it may use Bangladesh’s two major ports at Chittagong and Mongla for trade.
Hasina’s commitment to China came just weeks after Dhaka signed an agreement with New Delhi for access to the same ports, including for sending goods to the isolated states in India’s northeast known as the “Seven Sisters.” Those often restive states are connected with the rest of India through a narrow strip of land between northern Bangladesh and Bhutan.
At the same time, the Rohingya refugee crisis has hampered China-Bangladesh relations. In June 2019, Dhaka asked for Beijing’s support for what Foreign Minister Abul Kalam Abdul Momen termed “the safe and dignified return of Rohingya Muslims to their own land in Myanmar.”
Currently, there are around a million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, most of them living in squalid camps in the already densely populated nation’s southeast. Momen said that “China has been playing a role in favor of Bangladesh on the Rohingya issue.”
That is highly unlikely, however, given the strategic importance China places on maintaining strong relations with Myanmar, the only country that provides China with direct access via land to the Indian Ocean. Myanmar has made it abundantly clear that it does not want the return of the Rohingyas, who many there consider “illegal migrants” from Bangladesh.
Soon after the August 2017 attacks by the insurgent Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on Myanmar security forces, crude assaults which prompted the Myanmar military’s brutal clear operations that forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas to flee across the border, China showed its hand.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said: “The Chinese side condemns the violent attacks that happened in Rakhine state of Myanmar [and] supports Myanmar’s efforts to safeguard the peace and stability of Rakhine state.”
Chinese officials have also warned Myanmar’s ethnic armed organizations with which they have contacts to refrain from dealing with ARSA or similar outfits. That’s because China believes they are or could be connected with Muslim militants in Asia, including the Uighurs it holds in vast detention camps in western Xinjiang state.
Indeed, all that Hasina received when she visited China in July 2019 was a promise to send some 2,500 tonnes of rice to the refugees, hardly a superpower overture to help broker a solution to the still vexed issue.
It is also not forgotten in Dhaka that China supported its close ally Pakistan during the 1971 liberation war when the eastern part of the country broke away to form Bangladesh. Dhaka and Beijing did not establish diplomatic relations until 1976.
India-Bangladesh relations deteriorated last year when India passed an amendment to its citizenship laws which made it easier for non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan to acquire Indian citizenship.
The law was passed after a program to register residents in the northeastern state of Assam, where many illegal migrants from Bangladesh live and work. Many in Bangladesh feared that the registration program and new law could spark an exodus of Muslims in India into Bangladesh.
Hasina denounced both moves and Bangladesh canceled some planned visits by Indian ministers in protest.
India Donates Submarine to Myanmar
India has given a submarine to Myanmar as part of a military outreach to its eastern neighbor that strategic analysts say is driven by New Delhi’s bid to counter China’s growing influence in Southeast Asia.
“Cooperation in the maritime domain is a part of our diverse and enhanced engagement with Myanmar,” Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said while announcing earlier that India is giving its neighbor its first submarine — a 3,000-ton diesel-electric, Kilo class Russian-built submarine that has been refitted.
Renamed UMS Minye Theinkhathu, a historical hero in Myanmar, the attack submarine was showcased in a naval exercise conducted by the Myanmar navy in mid-October. It can operate at a depth of up to 300 meters.
The submarine, the first supplied by India to any country, is part of an effort by New Delhi to step up its defense engagement with Myanmar as it tries to contain China’s looming presence in a country that is a gateway to the Bay of Bengal, a strategic waterway located in the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean.
India and Myanmar share a 725-kilometer maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal.
India’s decision to give an underwater vessel to its eastern neighbor comes four years after Bangladesh, which shares a border with both India and Myanmar, acquired two submarines from China. Beijing is also helping Bangladesh build a submarine base, funding the development of its Chittagong port and developing a deep-sea port in Kyaukpyu in Myanmar on the Bay of Bengal.
Analysts say that for New Delhi these projects represent yet another bid by China to expand its naval presence in countries that ring India, prompting it to strengthen its own partnerships in the region.
Military Coup In Myanmar, India Silent As It’s Long-Term Strategic Interest in Myanmar Not in Bangladesh
It may seem quite odd that India, the world’s largest democracy, has not been very forthcoming about its position vis-à-vis Myanmar ever since the country’s military seized power on February 1. The United States and Europe have expressed strong reactions against the arrest of country’s de facto leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and President U Win Myint
One answer could be that the Narendra Modi government does not want to ruffle the feathers of Myanmar’s junta given the fact that current military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has maintained a good rapport with New Delhi in the past. In July 2019, Min Aung Hlaing visited India and the two countries signed a defense cooperation pact.
The two sides also discussed “joint exercises and training provided to Myanmar Defense Services, strengthening maritime security by joint surveillance and capacity building, medical co-operation, pollution response and developing new infrastructure,” a statement from India’s defense ministry had said.
Another factor that works in India’s favor is Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing’s anti-China stance. Despite the friendly ties between China and Myanmar, the latter is aware of Beijing’s tacit support to Rohingya militants fighting against the Tatmadaw in Rakhine state.
When Myanmar faced the 1988 democracy uprising movement, known as “8-8-88,” the Indian Embassy in Yangon actively assisted pro-democracy activists and offered shelter to students and refugees in New Delhi and Indo-Burma border.
At that time, New Delhi strongly voiced its support for restoration of democracy in Burma and demanded that the military government recognize the 1990 parliamentary election results where Daw Aung San Su Kyi’s National League for Democracy won 392 out of 492 contested seats. However, New Delhi changed its policy in 1993 and forged closer relations with the junta for fear of growing Chinese influence in Myanmar
Now, at the root of India’s muted response to the Myanmar’s military coup is the former’s long-term strategic interest. It goes without saying that Myanmar is key to the Modi government’s Act East policy, aimed at countering China’s growing influence in the Asia Pacific region.
India’s growing defense ties with Myanmar are aimed at making the largest Southeast Asian country a strategic partner of New Delhi. One of the key projects that India has initiated in Myanmar is the Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project.
The multi-million-dollar project is aimed at linking Southeast Asia through Myanmar. Under the project, a sea route will be established between India’s Kolkata and Myanmar’s Sittwe Port in Rakhine state. It will be further augmented to Paletwa in Chin State via the Kaladan river route, followed by a road to Mizoram state in landlocked Northeast India.
In October, the two countries had agreed to have the strategic Sittwe port operational by early 2021. Even if the port becomes operational, another challenge facing India is the fact that a portion of the road passes through the Rohingya rebel-infested region.
In November 2019, five Indian nationals engaged in the Kaladan road project, along with a Member of Myanmar Parliament, two local transporters and two speedboat operators were abducted by the Arakan Army. Later, they were released because of India’s “timely intervention,” according to a statement by India’s foreign ministry.
Going forward, India would definitely need Myanmar army’s support for a smooth completion of the Kaladan project, especially to keep the Rohingya militants at bay. And the fact that Myanmar is fully aware of China’s back-channel dealings with the Arakan Army is something India would like to use to its advantage. It is likely that India would provide all necessary assistance to the Myanmar military in its fight against the Rohingya militants.
In addition, New Delhi depends on the Tatmadaw to flush out Northeast India’s rebels operating from Myanmar’s Sagaing division and Chin state. In April and May last year, as many as 22 Indian rebels were handed over to India by Myanmar following their arrest in Taga in Hukwang Valley. There could be more crackdowns on the rebels in the coming days if India continues to maintain “friendly ties” with the Junta.
Despite being especially hard hit by the Covid-19 crisis, India is also competing with China to deliver vaccines to Bangladesh. Here, too, Bangladesh is hedging its bets.
It is considering offers from both China’s Sinovac Biotech and the Serum Institute of India. That could become an important issue as China and India seek to play health politics at a time the virus has devastated Bangladesh’s economy.
Bangladesh, despite impressive economic growth over the last decade, is still a developing country with the vast majority of its people still living under the poverty line. And it clearly lacks the resources and facilities to handle a health crisis of this magnitude.
Bangladesh thus now finds itself in the vulnerable middle of the region’s budding new Cold War. Faced with its own resource constraints, India is reportedly now looking at the possibility of cooperating with Japan to counter China’s rising influence in Bangladesh.
In December 2017, premiers Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe established the India-Japan Act East Forum, which, according to a statement issued at the time: “aims to provide a platform for India-Japan collaboration under the rubric of India’s Act East Policy and Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.”
India is focused on specific projects in India’s northeast and the development of connecting infrastructure between the remote area of India and Bangladesh.
Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said last month that the two sides are looking to cooperate on projects in Bangladesh to forge new partnerships “with countries across the Indo-Pacific in the face of China’s growing aggressive and assertive activities.”
The Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies, a think tank, said similarly that India and Japan’s initiatives in Bangladesh are “part of a broader move to activate the Indo-Pacific strategy” of the Quad, namely the budding alliance of India, Japan, the US and Australia.
It’s not clear for now that Bangladesh desires any association with what many see as an overtly anti-China alliance. More likely, Dhaka will continue to walk a tight rope between India and China while aiming to maximize their competing offers of assistance and support.
Everything from onions to vaccines to water and Indian Ocean warfare is in play in the Indian-Chinese competition for Bangladesh. Whether Dhaka can continue to strike a fine balance between the two giants could determine if it gets caught in the crossfire or hovers above the region’s budding new Cold War. But for now, as long as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is in power in Bangladesh, Bangladesh will play by the rules of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
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