India's radars in Bangladesh to monitor Bay of Bengal

Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI

India is set to get more eyes to keep watch on Bay of Bengal region as it inked a pact with Bangladesh to install a network of 20 radar systems along the coastline of the neighbouring country.

The new network of Coastal Surveillance Radar Systems in Bangladesh will help India not only to detect any seaborne terrorist attack along its eastern coastline, but also to keep watch on its maritime neighbourhood, where the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has been frequently deploying its warships over the past few years.

India signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for setting up the Coastal Surveillance Radar System in Bangladesh after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterpart from the neighbouring country, Sheikh Hasina, had a meeting in New Delhi on Saturday. India is building similar coastal surveillance networks in other Indian Ocean nations, like Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Seychelles and Maldives.

The meeting between Modi and Hasina was followed by signing of six other pacts, including one on Standard Operating Procedure for India to use of Chittagong and Mongla ports of Bangladesh, for movement of goods to and from eastern and northeastern regions of India.

The two leaders also discussed several other proposed connectivity projects, not only the ones between India and Bangladesh but also the ones involving the other nations like Nepal and Bhutan. They agreed to make efforts to expeditiously implement the proposed Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement, which was signed on June 15, 2015, but has not yet been put into force as the National Council of Bhutan blocked its ratification. Modi and Hasina on Saturday agreed to work towards a bilateral India-Bangladesh Motor Vehicles Agreement, if no headway could be made to implement the four-nation pact soon.

“India accords priority to its ties with Bangladesh. The increasing cooperation between India and Bangladesh is a shining example of neighbourly relations for the entire world,” Modi said after his meeting with Hasina.

They agreed to expedite work towards drawing upon a US $ 500 million Line of Credit extended by India to Bangladesh to augment the defence capabilities of the neighbouring country. The implementation arrangements for the credit line was finalized in April 2019.

Hasina noted that Bangladesh and India had witnessed remarkable progress in cooperation in a large number of areas over the past 10 years. “These include newer areas of cooperation for mutual benefit such as satellite systems, renewable energy, blue economy and maritime affairs, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, outer space technology, internet bandwidth sharing and cybersecurity,” said Bangladesh Prime Minister.

Modi and Hasina launched a project to import LPG from Bangladesh for distribution in Tripura and rest of northeastern India, inaugurated a hostel – Vivekananda Bhaban – at Ramakrishna Mission in Dhaka and unveiled a skill development institute at Khulna in Bangladesh.

New Delhi first proposed the MoU with Dhaka for installing the coastal surveillance radar system in Bangladesh in 2015. Dhaka, however, was a bit cautious about accepting New Delhi's proposal, as it was worried about the possibility of its implication on its relations with Beijing.

The professed objective of the radar systems India would set up in Bangladesh is to help the neighbouring country safeguard its sovereignty in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Sources, however, told the DH that the network would also prove to be a strategic asset for India and help Indian Navy to detect and respond to any threat to its national security and sovereignty.

The spy planes of the Indian Navy last month tracked seven Chinese PLAN warships operating in and around the Indian Ocean region.

A Type O39A Yuan class submarine of the Chinese PLAN was detected in the Indian Ocean last year. This was the first time a Chinese PLA Navy submarine was detected in the Indian Ocean after the June-August 2017 military stand-off between India and China in Doklam Plateau in western Bhutan. The PLA Navy had 14 warships and as many as seven submarines in the Indian Ocean during the 72-day-long stand-off.

The PLA Navy started deploying warships in the Indian Ocean in 2013, professedly to support anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.

New Delhi has also been worried over the “String of Pearls” strategic assets China is building around India in the Indian Ocean region.

Hasina arrived in New Delhi on Thursday for her first visit to New Delhi after leading her Awami League party to yet another landslide victory in the December 2018 national elections in Bangladesh and thus winning her fourth (third straight) term in office of the Prime Minister in Dhaka.

Her meeting with Modi on Saturday was the second after he too led the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to a landslide victory in April-May parliamentary elections in India and secured a second five-year term in office. They had a brief meeting on the sideline of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 27 last.

 

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