The government is expecting that a memorandum of understanding on establishing a framework for defence cooperation with Saudi Arabia would be signed during a visit of a high profile Saudi dignitary to Dhaka at the earliest.
The memorandum was scheduled to be signed during prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s recent visit to Riyadh.
The signing was suddenly postponed on October 17 at the request of the Saudi government as its defence ministry was ‘not ready for signing’ the instrument, Bangladesh officials said.
The meeting of Saudi defence minister Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, also the powerful crown prince of the kingdom, with Hasina was also held on the day amid last minute adjustments of his schedule, they said.
Replying to a query, a senior official said that both King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammad accepted invitations extended by the Bangladesh prime minister.
‘We are expecting a visit after the general election here,’ a senior official said, adding that both sides would work out a schedule for the visit.
Foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali, who accompanied the prime minister in the visit, disclosed at a press conference in Dhaka on October 15 about the signing of the memorandum. A senior Armed Forces Division official also accompanied her in the visit for signing the document.
Bangladesh authorities were expecting to create avenues with the signing of the instrument for procuring defence articles from Saudi Arabia in future, supplying uniform for Saudi armed forces and extending technical cooperation to the Saudi armed forces on various aspects, including mine sweeping and training.
Unless formed under a UN mandate as well as to protect the cities of the two holy mosques, Makkah and Madinah, Bangladesh ‘is highly unlikely to provide soldiers’ for war for the reserve forces of the Saudi-led Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition and the Arab-Islamic Military Coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United States, officials said.
Bangladesh would also not send troops under command of any Pakistan army officer, another official said, adding that Pakistan’s former army chief Raheel Sharif was the commander-in-chief of Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina holds the portfolio of the defence ministry.
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