Inside Bangladesh

US-Bangladesh Defence dialogue: cooperation remains as strong as ever?

Publish: 01:14 PM, 23 Aug, 2023


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Beginning on Wednesday, senior officers and civilians from the US and Bangladeshi defense establishments will gather in Dhaka for two days to assess current bilateral defense relations and discuss future goals.

The Indo-Pacific area should be free, open, tranquil, and secure, according to the shared vision of the United States and Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Armed Forces Division and Indo-Pacific Command will meet in Dhaka on August 23 and 24 to conduct the Bilateral Defense Dialogue in order to further these shared goals.

Senior military officials and citizens from the US and Bangladeshi militaries will participate in this discussion. They will talk about military education, defense news, and forthcoming military drills, like the Disaster Response Exercise & Exchange for the following year.

The conversation is a component of a more extensive connection between their defense organizations, which includes collaboration on a wide range of defense-related issues.

At the first BD-US Security Dialogue in 2012, a joint declaration between the two nations launched their defense dialogue. The tenth episode will be this one.

Brig Gen Husain Muhammad Masihur Rahman, director general of the Bangladesh Armed Forces Division, will lead the Bangladeshi side while Brig Gen Thomas J. James, director of strategic planning and policy at the US Indo-Pacific Command, will lead the US side.

The United States and Bangladesh have collaborated on a variety of security-related topics for the past 50 years, including border and maritime security, counterterrorism, peacekeeping, defense trade, and the development of defense institutions.

The US interacts with Bangladesh through a number of bilateral and multilateral fora, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum, the US-Bangladesh Security Dialogue, and the US-Bangladesh Partnership Dialogue.

According to the US embassy website, the US has given Bangladesh support with $7.29 million for international military education and training (IMET) and $66.9 million in foreign military financing (FMF) since 2015. The FMF assistance consists of $56.9 million in Bay of Bengal Initiative Regional FMF and $10 million in bilateral programming.

Through the assistance of FMF, the Bay of Bengal Initiative of the Department of State aims to strengthen the ability of civilian and military actors to identify illicit activity both within and beyond their borders, to establish networks and customs of cooperation to allow nations to share information, to increase their capacity to quickly respond to illicit activity, and to assist our partners in enabling a rules-based order in the Indian Ocean Region.

These funds have been used to buy patrol boats for the Bangladesh Army, more patrol boats for the Navy and Coast Guard, MRAP vehicles for border security and international peacekeeping missions, electronic and mechanical upgrades for the fast patrol boats and ex-U.S. Coast Guard cutters now used by the Bangladesh Navy, technical and professional training for Bangladesh military and Coast Guard personnel, and joint military exercises.

Under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system, the US government has $130.59 million in active government-to-government sales cases with Bangladesh. In 2013 and 2015, Bangladesh also acquired two ex-US Coast Guard Hamilton Class cutters through EDA, which are now the two biggest ships in the Bangladesh Navy.

To reinforce its forces in Mali, Bangladesh also acquired 50 EDA MRAP trucks in 2019. Through the Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) procedure, the US additionally sanctioned the permanent export of defense goods worth over $6 million to Bangladesh in FY2019.

Aircraft and related items, supplies, and other items, as well as fire control, laser, imaging, and guiding systems, are the three main categories of DCS to Bangladesh.

The United States has provided close to $44 million since 2005 to fund training, equipment upgrades, and facility upgrades to strengthen Bangladesh's capacity for peacekeeping.

However, the US has been working toward signing an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) and a General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Bangladesh. Recently, Foreign Minister Dr. AK Abdul Momen ruled on the possibility of concluding such agreements prior to the general elections.

He has previously stated, "I don't think we have the luxury of signing such types of agreements before the election." Bangladesh has expressed interest in purchasing cutting-edge equipment from the US as part of its plan to upgrade its military by 2030, thus Washington wants to sign the two defense accords.

The GSOMIA ensures that countries recognize the need of protecting classified military information and make a commitment to doing so. ACSA enables the US military and the armed forces of its allies to buy and pay for common goods and services. Everything from food, water, clothing, transportation, instruction, oil, ammo, maintenance, and medical services could be included.

Relations between the United States and Bangladesh, however, have gotten more challenging recently. Washington imposed penalties on Bangladesh's Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and a number of its current and former officers on December 10, 2021. The US has announced a new visa policy for Bangladesh. There are several problematic ties between Bangladesh and the USA.

Among these, the defense conversation is particularly crucial. However, Washington might continue to see Dhaka as a partner in regional security. The US is currently looking to partner with Bangladesh in a strategic alliance. Defense cooperation between states may increase bilateral ties and enhance defense connections between the two countries.

Bangladesh and the USA are both vital to the region. This conveyed that while having some differences, both countries are very keen in further strengthening their bilateral ties. This could help to resolve any bilateral concerns. Bangladesh and the USA must work as dependable partners to resolve some shared concerns.

The relationship between the United States and Bangladesh is crucial for a number of reasons. In terms of security, humanitarian assistance, and the economy, Bangladesh is first and foremost a crucial regional ally for the United States. Second, in counterterrorism efforts, Bangladesh has been an important strategic partner. Last but not least, the US wants to have a robust, all-encompassing partnership with Bangladesh based on shared values of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights (US Department of State, 2021).

Why is the US concentrating on developing closer ties with Bangladesh?

As soon as the United States formally recognized the newly constituted Bangladesh on April 4, 1972, diplomatic relations between the two nations were established. Both nations have maintained cordial ties for the last 50 years. In the last ten years, cooperation in trade, investment, and security has stepped up, with a particular emphasis on counterterrorism.

The two-way commerce increased by 12% from the previous year to $9 billion in 2019, with $2.3 billion of that amount coming from US exports to Bangladesh. At the same time, Bangladesh's exports to the US increased by 9.5% to $6.7 billion.

Bangladesh is the third-largest recipient of US aid among countries in South Asia, highlighting the importance of their bilateral relations. The US has praised Dhaka for its admirable role in providing refuge to Rohingya refugees, demonstrating its dedication to humanitarianism.

The United States' heightened focus on Bangladesh's democracy and human rights calls for investigation into the underlying causes of this current strategy. One hypothesis is that the US sees the country occupying a strategic position within its Indo-Pacific strategy.

Bangladesh is still convinced of the value of the Non-Aligned Movement. It is imperative that the US recognise Dhaka's support for Washington.

While the US contends that the acts of the Rapid Action Battalion have a negative influence on the rule of law, human rights, fundamental freedoms, and economic advancement for the people of Bangladesh, Bangladesh claims that the US sanctions have geopolitical roots. Dhaka sees the US sanctions as a part of a larger geopolitical plan for South Asia.

While investment and sanctions continue to be Bangladesh's top priorities, the United States is concentrated on protecting its interests in the region. The US must defend its position in the Indo-Pacific in the face of continued great power rivalry. The US is planning to sign the GSOMIA and ACSA defense agreements with Bangladesh in order to accomplish this goal.

However, Dhaka's position is against signing any defense pacts before the elections, since the government's top concerns right now are development demands, as Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen remarked last week.

Both nations have been exhibiting signs of development for some time. While the US reaffirmed its commitment to working with Bangladesh to improve the human rights situation, Bangladesh established human rights cells and sent out human rights reports.

Last but not least, Bangladesh hopes to spur South Asian economic change by forming alliances with the US and the EU and cooperating to support the tenets of the Indo-Pacific strategy. If understood properly, this may result in the "revitalization of Bangladesh-US relations" in the ensuing era within this complicated international environment.



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Inside Bangladesh

9 killed as microbus, auto rickshaw plunge into Barguna river

Publish: 02:18 AM, 23 Jun, 2024


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At least nine people were killed and several others injured as a microbus, carrying a bridal party, plunged into a river after a bridge collapse in Amtali upazila of the district today.

The deceased were identified as Rubia ,45, wife of Rakibul Howladar, Raiti Khan,22, wife of Sohail Khan, Fatema,35, wife of Babul Matbar, Shahnaz Akhtar, 37, wife of Abul Kalam, and her  two daughters Tahiyat Mejbin, 7, and Tasfia Mubassera, 12, Farida Begum,48,  wife of Fazlur Rahman Khan, residents of  Kokararchar village of  Shibchar upazila in  Madaripur district,  Zakia, 35 ,   wife of Zahirul Islam and her  daughter Rukaid Islam, 5, resident of Taktabunia village of Amtali Upazila Haldia Union in Barguna district.

The accident occurred when they were going to attend a wedding ceremony in Amtali Municipal Town on a microbus while crossing the connecting bridge of Chawra Union and Haldia Union of the upazila around 2:30 pm this afternoon as the bridge collapsed into the Subandhi river, leaving at least 20 people injured, officer-in-charge (OC) of Amtali Police Station Kazi Tofazzal Hossain Tapu said.

Later, fire service and police personnel rescued the injured and took them to Amtali Upazila Health Complex where on-duty doctor declared nine of them dead, he said.

Golam Sarwar Tuku, MP of Barguna-1 constituency and Deputy Commissioner Rafiqul Islam visited the spot.

The bodies will be handed over to theirs family members after legal process, The OC added.


(Source: BSS)



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Inside Bangladesh

Farewell darbar held for outgoing army chief

Publish: 02:12 AM, 23 Jun, 2024


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The outgoing Chief of Army Staff General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed received farewell ‘darbar’ here today.

He also exchanged views with the military officers, junior commissioned officers (JCOs) and other army personnel of different ranks, according to an ISPR press release.

Army personnel from all cantonments participated in the darbar through Video teleconferencing (VTC), the release added.

In his farewell address, the Army Chief expressed his special gratitude to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, saying that the Bangladesh Army has stood with its head high before the world today as a modern and smart force due to the sincere efforts of the premier.

He also expressed his sincere gratitude to all concerned for their full cooperation during discharging duties.


(Source: BSS)



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Inside Bangladesh

Over 17 lakh people marooned in Sylhet, Sunamganj floods

Publish: 02:07 AM, 23 Jun, 2024


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A devastating floods in Sylhet and Sunamganj inundated much of two northeastern districts leaving over 17 lakh people stranded and damaging standing crops and infrastructures.

 
Residents and officials of local administrations told BSS that 17,57,222 people have been marooned in Sylhet and Sunamganj districts as this year's second spell of flood submerged vast swaths of the two district creating huge suffering of the people.
 
Among the total people, who are marooned by flood water, 7.92 lakh people are in Sunamganj and 9.64 lakh people are in Sylhet, they added.
 
Officials of Sylhet district administration said the first spell of flood affected thousands of people in 13 upazilas and municipalities of Sytlhet district in late May and the flash flood prolonged first week of the current months leaving a large number of people marooned.
 
The authorities have set up 6,392 shelter centres after the second round of flood hit Sylhet and Sunamganj districts. As flood water started receding, people are going to home from shelter centres.
 
The Sunamganj district administration sources said flood water submerged 11 upazilas and Sunamgaj municipality.

Mayor of Sylhet City Corporation Anwaruzzaman Choudhury said, "Volunteer teams of city corporation are working to extend assistances for flood-hit people. We have arranged adequate amount of food at shelter centres."

A devastating flood, triggered by heavy rainfall and onrush water from hilly regions, have affected 20 lakh people in Sylhet and Sunamganj districts, according to a statement of UNICEF issued today.

 The statement, signed by Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative to Bangladesh, read among 20 lakh flood affected people in two northeastern regions - Sylhet and Sunamganj - 7.72 lakh are children.
 
The UNICEF called for emergency assistances for flood-hit children as they (children) are the venerable segment of the population in case of any natural disaster.

Sheldon Yett said, "When flood waters are in rising trend, unsecured condition has created for children. They face different problems including drowning, malnutrition and various water-borne diseases."

The UNICEF in cooperation with of Bangladesh government and other organization working at field level have distributed safe drinking water among one lakh flood-hit people in Sylhet and Sunamganj to reduce their suffering.

Alongside distribution of drinking water, the UNICEF also distributed over 10 litre capacity 3000 water pots for the people in food-hit regions.

According to the UNICEF statement, 810 primary schools in Sylhet Division have been submerged by flood water while 500 primary schools are used as shelter centre for flood-affected people. As many as 140 community clinics have been damaged by flood waters in the Sylhet region, it added.
 
 Water levels at 59 river stations monitored by Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC) have marked rise while 48 stations recorded fall.

Among the 110 monitored river stations, two have been registered steady and water levels at seven river stations are flowing above the danger level, a bulletin issued by the FFWC said here today.

The Teesta River is flowing at 15cm above danger level at Kaunia station while the Surma at Kanaighat, the Kushiyara at Amalsad, at Sherpur-Sylhet and at Markuli, the Old Surma at Derai and the Someshwari at Kalmakanda are flowing 35cm, 15cm, 18cm, 39cm, 23cm and 34cm are flowing respectively.

The Ganges-Padma rivers are in rising trend, which may continue in the next 72 hours, the bulletin said, adding that the major rivers in the North-eastern region of the country are in falling trend which may continue in the next 72 hours.

Overall improvement of the flood situation in various low-lying areas under districts of the North-eastern part of the country may continue in the next 72 hours.

According to the information from meteorological organisations, low to medium rainfall in next 24 hours and medium to heavy rainfall in the next 48 to 72 hours is expected in the Northern and adjoining upstream parts of the country.

As a result, the water level of Dudhkumar, Teesta and Dharla rivers in those regions may fall in the next 24 hours which may rise in particular time in the next 48 to 72 hours.



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Inside Bangladesh

Indian technical team to visit Dhaka soon to talk conservation of Teesta river: Modi

Publish: 01:59 AM, 23 Jun, 2024


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Sending a technical team by India to Bangladesh soon for a mega project to conserve and manage Teesta river, moving ahead to start negotiations on a comprehensive trade pact and boosting defence ties were among major outcomes of talks between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Saturday.

 The decision to send an Indian technical team to hold talks on the conservation of the Teesta river within Bangladesh assumes significance as China was keenly eyeing the estimated USD one billion project notwithstanding reservations by New Delhi.

Sheikh Hasina is expected to travel to China next month.

 In reflection of growing intensity in their ties, India and Bangladesh also firmed up a "futuristic vision" to further facilitate transformative cooperation in their engagement.

 Separately, the two sides signed 10 agreements providing for bolstering ties in a range of critical areas such as digital domain, maritime sphere, blue economy, railways, space, green technology, health and medicine.

 A major focus of the talks between the two prime ministers was to explore ways to shore up India-Bangladesh cooperation in digital and energy connectivity even as both sides resolved to work towards peaceful management of borders between the two countries.
 
Sheikh Hasina arrived here on Friday, becoming the first foreign leader to make a bilateral incoming visit to India after Modi became prime minister for the third straight term.
 
 In his remarks to the media after the talks, Modi said both sides agreed to start negotiations on a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA).

 "To take our economic relations to new heights, both sides have agreed to start negotiations on CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement)," he said.

 Modi said an Indian technical team will soon visit Dhaka for talks on the conservation and management of Teesta river.

"Fifty-four shared rivers connect India and Bangladesh. We have been cooperating on flood management, early warning, drinking water projects. We have decided to start negotiations at the technical level for the renewal of the 1996 Ganga Water Treaty," he said.

"On the conservation and management of the Teesta river in Bangladesh, a technical team will soon visit Bangladesh for talks," he said.

 At a media briefing, Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said the management of shared water resources is a crucial and sensitive matter. "Naturally, given our close and friendly ties with Bangladesh, cross-boundary river issues -- and Teesta is one of them -- become important," he said.

"It's less about water-sharing per se, it's more about the management of the water flows within Teesta river," he added.

 In his remarks, Modi described people-to-people contacts as the foundation of ties between the two nations and said India will launch an e-medical visa facility for people from Bangladesh coming to India for medical treatment.

 India has also decided to open a new assistant high commission in Rangpur.

 "Today, we have prepared a futuristic vision for cooperation in new areas. The youth of both countries will benefit from the consensus reached on cooperation in many areas such as green partnership, digital partnership, blue economy and space," Modi said.

 "We have kept in our focus -- connectivity, commerce and collaboration. In the last ten years, we have restored the connectivity that existed before 1965. Now we will emphasise more on digital and energy connectivity," he said.

 Both sides also firmed up a joint document titled the "India-Bangladesh shared vision for the future: Enhanced connectivity, commerce and collaboration for shared prosperity" to expand ties and to align India's "Viksit Bharat 2047' goal with "Smart Bangladesh 2041" vision.

 In the talks, Modi and Hasina also resolved to strengthen bilateral defence cooperation including in areas of defence production and modernisation of Bangladeshi armed forces and agreed to enhance engagement on countering terrorism and radicalisation.

 "We had extensive discussions on further strengthening defence cooperation, from defence production to modernisation of armed forces," Modi said.

 "We have decided to strengthen our engagement on counter-terrorism, de-radicalisation and peaceful management of borders." "We share a common vision for the Indian Ocean region. We welcome Bangladesh's decision to join the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative," he said.

 The issue of Rohingya as well as the situation in Myanmar and boosting regional cooperation under the framework of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) grouping also figured in the talks.

 In his remarks, Modi said Bangladesh is India's largest development partner and New Delhi attaches highest priority to its relations with that country. "Bangladesh is situated at the confluence of our Neighbourhood First policy, Act East policy, Vision SAGAR and Indo-Pacific vision." India has been cooperating with the countries of the Indian Ocean region under the broader policy framework of SAGAR or Security and Growth for all in the Region.

 Following the Modi-Hasina talks, the two sides announced a slew of new measures to boost connectivity and trade.

 It was announced that a passenger train between Kolkata and Rajshahi will commence service soon. A goods train on Bangladesh Railways from Gede-Darshana to Haldibari-Chilahati cross-border interchange point will also begin a trial run next month.

A new bus service between Kolkata and Chittagong will also be rolled out. India will provide a grant for building an inland container depot at Sirajganj in Bangladesh.

 In his media statement, Modi also listed various initiatives rolled out in the last one year to expand ties.

"In the last one year, together we have completed many important projects for public welfare. The sixth cross-border rail link between India and Bangladesh between Akhaura-Agartala has become operational," he said.

 "The cargo facility for the north-eastern states of India has been started through Khulna-Mongla Port. Mongla Port has been connected by rail for the first time. Both units of the 1320 MW Maitree thermal power plant have started generating electricity," he noted.

 Modi said trade in Indian Rupees has commenced between the two countries. "The world's longest river cruise on the Ganga River between India and Bangladesh has been successfully completed. The first cross-border friendship pipeline between India and Bangladesh has been completed," he said.

 "Export of electricity from Nepal to Bangladesh, through the Indian grid, has become the first example of sub-regional cooperation in the energy sector," he said.

 The Indian prime minister said the implementation of such major initiatives in so many areas, in a single year, reflects the "speed and scale of our relations."

In the media briefing, Kwatra said the Rohingya issue was discussed.

 "This is an issue that India and Bangladesh have discussed periodically at different levels of interaction... Humanitarian assistance to Rohingyas is something which we have offered in the past. We continue to work with Bangladesh closely on it," he said.

 "There are several aspects of the Rohingyas' challenge that Bangladesh faces. Some of it also impinges on us. So those challenges also get discussed," he said.


(Source: BSS)



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Inside Bangladesh

Dhaka, Delhi agree about shared vision for sustainable future: PM

Publish: 01:57 AM, 23 Jun, 2024


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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today said Dhaka and New Delhi agreed about a shared vision for digital and green partnership to ensure a sustainable future for both the nations.

"Both countries endorsed the 'Vision Statement' to guide us toward a peaceful and prosperous future. We agreed to have a shared vision for 'Digital Partnership' and 'Green Partnership for a Sustainable Future," she said.
 
The Bangladesh premier came up with the remarks in a joint statement before the media after a tete-e-tete and bilateral meeting with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi followed by signing of several instruments at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi.

The entire gamut of binary relationship that includes sharing of water from common rivers, security and trade has prominently come for discussion during the bilateral meeting of two neighbouring countries, she said.

Describing India as Bangladesh's major neighbour, trusted friend, and regional partner, Sheikh Hasina said: "Bangladesh greatly values our relations with India, which were born during our War of Liberation in 1971."

She also said Bangladesh-India relations are ever-growing at a fast pace.

"Today, our two sides had very productive meetings where we discussed politics and security, trade and connectivity, the sharing of water from common rivers, power and energy, and regional and multilateral cooperation, among other issues of mutual interest," she added.

The premier said, "We agreed to collaborate with each other for the betterment of our people and countries".

As Dhaka and Delhi have started new journeys, she said, "We charted the future course of action to ensure a smart Bangladesh by following Vision 2041 and Viksit Bharat by 2047."

Sheikh Hasina said they concluded MoUs, renewed several of them, and made announcements for future collaboration.

In recent years, she said both sides have sustained high-level engagements, including at the highest level.

The Indian president and its prime minister visited Bangladesh in 2021 to attend the celebration of the Birth Centenary of Bangladesh's Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the 50-year celebration of Bangladesh's independence, and the establishment of the two countries' diplomatic ties, she said

The Bangladesh premier said she paid her last bilateral visit to India in September 2022 and later attended the G20 Summit held under the Presidency of India in September 2023 in New Delhi as the leader of 'Guest Country'-Bangladesh, the only country from South Asia.

"I am now visiting New Delhi for an unprecedented second time in the same month, June 2024," she said.

Earlier on June 9, Sheikh Hasina attended with other world leaders the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his new cabinet.

"These are testaments to our two countries' close engagement," the premier said.

Mentioning her today's meeting with Narendra Modi, she said they discussed the ways and means of collaborative engagement between the two countries.

She also said she will also have meeting with the Vice President and the President of India later this (Saturday) afternoon.

"I believe all these meetings would give us more insights into enhancing our two countries' cooperation," she added.

Sheikh Hasina said this is her first bilateral visit to any country after Bangladesh's 12th Parliamentary Elections and the formation of new government in January, 2024.

"I thank the Government of India for extending warm hospitality to me and my delegation," she said.

The prime minister also recalled with gratitude the contribution of the government and the people of India to Bangladesh's independence.

"I pay deep homage to the brave fallen heroes of India who sacrificed their lives during our War of Liberation in 1971," she said.

Sheikh Hasina, as well, thanked her Indian counterpart for inviting her to visit India and re-invited Narendra Modi to visit Bangladesh at his earliest convenience.


(Source: BSS)



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