In the first ever bilateral visit by an Indian Defence Minister to Bangladesh, Manohar Parrikar will visit Dhaka on a two-day visit from Wednesday.
New Delhi is keen to assist Dhaka in domestically building its military infrastructure and capacities, and it would be key part of the discussions, officials said.
Defence sources said this visit was a way to revitalise India’s defence partnership with its immediate neighbours, especially Bangladesh and Myanmar, which share long land boundaries.
“We didn’t really have a defence relationship so far, except some training and military-to-military cooperation which continued at a fairly good level. Under the Sheikh Hasina government, there is a forward looking policy from Bangladesh. With land and maritime disputes behind us, it is logical to deepen defence cooperation,” the sources said on Tuesday.
Mr. Parrikar will meet the top brass of the country during his visit. He will call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who also holds the Defence portfolio, President Abdul Hamid and the security adviser to the Prime Minister.
This is also an attempt by India to offset growing engagement by China and Pakistan with Bangladesh on the defence front.
As part of the efforts, India is open to selling them platforms and is keen to extend cooperation in the naval area.
“Bangladesh would like to see growth in their own capacity domestically. We are trying to see if they can work with Indian public and private sector to create manufacturing and infrastructure in Bangladesh,” the sources said. India is also keen on concluding a white shipping agreement to exchange information on commercial traffic and has submitted a draft to Dhaka. “We are waiting for them to come back,” they added.
The other broad focus is intensification of military to military cooperation across all services.
Underscoring its importance, Mr. Parrikar is scheduled to visit the military academy in Chittagong.
The armies of India and Bangladesh have last week concluded the sixth edition of joint military exercise “Sampriti-2016” which focussed on counter-terrorism operations and the sources said Dhaka was keen to deepen the scope of the exercises by adding Special Forces drills among others. Joint exercises in the Naval and Air domains are also on the cards.