Bangladesh will allow India to establish a coastal surveillance radar system along its coastline that according to an expert might impact the country’s existing relations with China.
Available media reports in Dhaka on Saturday said that India would set up as many as 20 units of radar system aiming to increase surveillance on Bangladesh’s maritime domain and keep an eye on the shared Indo-Bangla coast.
The agreement on the coastal surveillance radar system was among the seven instruments signed between Bangladesh and India in New Delhi on the day during the talks between visiting Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.
India, which has been implementing a project worth Tk 600 crore rupee to strengthen its maritime security system in the Indian Ocean since 2015, has already set up radar stations in Mauritius, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
Former Brigadier General M Sakhawat Hossain while commenting on the pact for establishing the radar system in the country’s territory said that ‘Bangladesh is not Sri Lanka or the Maldives’. ‘Bangladesh has very good relations with China,’ he said.
He also wondered how China would react.
India has been expressing concern over China’s infrastructure projects linked to its One Belt One Road initiative as it has passed through Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to challenge India’s regional influence.
India imports over 70 per cent of its oil through the Indian Ocean region from the Gulf region while it conducts 40 per cent of its trade with littoral states along the Indian Ocean Rim.
Former Army chief M Harun-ar-Rashid said that much of the proposed surveillance system depended on the terms and references formulated for the agreement.
Maybe it can be used to check intruders or for intelligence purposes, he said, adding that nothing was made public specifically yet about the pact.
Answering a question about what benefit the country will get from such an agreement he said that this would be known when the pact will be detailed.
The purchase of two Chinese submarines by Bangladesh in 2013 has been criticised by Indian media as ‘an act of provocation for India’.
Indian security experts also expressed concern over the construction of a submarine base being built by the Bangladesh navy with Chinese technical assistance.
Also almost 90 per cent of Bangladesh’s military hardware is sourced from China.
To reduce the Chinese influence on Bangladesh India has offered a US $500 million loan for buying military equipment from that country under suppliers’ credit system as per a memorandum of understanding signed in 2017.
But the Bangladesh Army is yet to utilise the loan.
In August, Indian external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar requested Bangladesh to use the line of credit to purchase military equipment.
He made the request in a meeting with his Bangladesh counterpart AK Abdul Momen in Dhaka.
In September Indian navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh at a high-profile gathering in Dhaka urged Bangladesh to further enhance cooperation in the field of information sharing, production of equipment and shipbuilding.
On that occasion he reminded Bangladesh that ‘for the Indian navy this region is the heart of maritime engagement.’