Strengthening bilateral ties
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar met Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday and discussed measures to strengthen military and security ties between the two countries. Parrikar is the first Indian defence minister to visit Bangladesh in 45 years. According to the Press Trust of India, the focus of Parrikar’s trip was to strengthen a defence cooperation agreement that is likely to be signed when Hasina visits India next month. The most recent phase of bonhomie between Dhaka and New Delhi began after the controversial 2014 general elections in Bangladesh, which the Awami League won by a landslide. Opposition parties had boycotted the elections amidst allegations of excessive government interference in the poll process. The voter turnout was an abysmal 22 percent. Western governments had called for an immediate reelection. India, however, stood tall with the Awami League government and its leader Sheikh Hasina. New Delhi played a significant role in garnering international acceptance for the 2014 verdict. Without New Delhi’s support, one might have seen the Opposition BNP in office, which maintains close ties to extremist elements. Experts, however, contend that New Delhi’s support for the Awami League government is not a surprise. In its previous term, the Sheikh Hasina government played a significant role in several dismantling the United Liberation Front of Asom, a militant group that aims to establish a sovereign Assam. Within the international community, Bangladesh has proven to be India’s greatest supporter in its recent conflagration with Pakistan. Besides boycotting the SAARC summit, Bangladesh became the only country to support the surgical strikes explicitly. Experts contend that Bangladesh is now India’s closest ally in South Asia, ahead of Nepal. In consonance with this narrative, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also lauded his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina for coming up with a comprehensive plan to crackdown on militancy and has said that it could be a model for other countries. Given the threat posed by banned terror outfits like the Jamaat-Ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) to the security of both nations, New Delhi has extended assistance to Dhaka regarding intelligence and equipment.