India, Bangladesh to step up counter-terror, defence cooperation

Seeking to resolve unsettled issues between India and Bangladesh, the two neighbours are expected to focus on stepping up defence and security cooperation during the visit of Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque to New Delhi next week.

The foreign secretary-level talks will review the implementation of key agreements between India and Bangladesh during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic visit to Dhaka in August last year that saw the two countries sign a landmark land boundary agreement. “This will be an opportunity for us to really expand our multi-sectoral cooperation with Bangladesh in all those sectors,” said Vikas Swarup, the spokesperson of India’s external affairs ministry ahead of the talks.  “The government of India will give priority to resolving all unsettled issues between the two neighbouring countries,” said India’s High Commissioner in Dhaka Harsh Vardhan Shringla.

Intensifying counter-terror and security cooperation will be high on the agenda. In the wake of recent terror attacks in Pathankot and reports of the presence of Islamic State militants in Bangladesh, the two countries are expected to have discussions on deepening security cooperation.

The Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) have agreed to beef up security in the borders. They have agreed to construct at least 10 new border outposts (BOPs) on the India-Bangladesh border to check militancy, crime and trafficking. “The BGB officials informed us on the construction of new BOPs facing Tripura and Mizoram,” BSF’s Tripura frontier Deputy Inspector General and chief spokesman D.S. Bhati said recently. The proposed BOPs in the mountainous Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) will help contain terrorism in the north-eastern states since most camps of Indian insurgent groups, including Tripura militants, are located in south-east Bangladesh’s CHT,” Mr Bhati said.

India and Bangladesh have had regular exchanges of visits between top leaderships of the armed forces.  The two sides have also participated in joint exercises against terrorism. There has been an increase in army-to-army staff talks to increase cooperation between the two armies. This has led to an improved understanding between the two countries and change in perceptions.

India and Bangladesh will also focus on expanding trade and investment. Trade between the two countries would gain further momentum when the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) will be implemented. 

Mr Haque is also expected to meet India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during his New Delhi visit. Focusing on the current state of bilateral relations between the two countries, Mr Swarup said, “The Land Boundary Agreement has been successfully implemented now. Now the time has come for us to broad-base the relationship, take it into a whole host of new areas.”

(Sridhar Ramaswamy contributed inputs for this article)

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