DHAKA, by way of a memorandum of understanding signed during the prime minister’s visit to India, has agreed to allow New Delhi to install a radar system for coastal surveillance along Bangladesh’s coastline. Although any details on the system, its installation or its intended purposes are yet to be at hand, New Delhi would, as New Age reported on Sunday, install 20 units of the radar system to heighten its surveillance on Bangladesh’s maritime domain and keep a watch on the shared Bangladesh-India coast. The event viewed in the context of India already having been implementing a project involving Rs 6 billion to step up its maritime security in the Indian Ocean since 2015 and having already set up radar stations in Mauritius, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and the Maldives can well be construed in that the move of India at hand is meant to enhance its influence on the region. The memorandum of understanding with New Delhi that Dhaka agreed on could very well question the national security of Bangladesh because of the nature of the installation that India appears to intend it to be.
Besides, India’s installing a radar system, of which little has so far been known, along Bangladesh’s coastline could leave an impact of grave consequence on other countries in the region that, in turn, might harm bilateral relations of Bangladesh with its other neighbours, near and distant. India is reported to have already expressed concern about China’s infrastructure projects related to the Belt and Road Initiative that passes through Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Indian media are reported to have earlier criticised Bangladesh’s buying two submarines from China in 2013, terming it ‘an act of provocation for India.’ India has earlier offered a $500 million loan to buy military equipment from India on supplier’s credit, keeping to a memorandum of understanding signed in 2017, which is reported not to have been used yet, while almost a ninth of Bangladesh’s military hardware is reported to have been sourced from China. Security experts in Bangladesh have, therefore, rightly voiced their concern about the event although the terms of reference worked out for the agreement are yet to be made public. Another issue that remains is how Bangladesh’s signing agreements tilted towards India benefits Bangladesh. When Bangladesh has signed an agreement on India’s withdrawal of the water of the transborder River Feni, for India to supply to Sabroom in Tripura — which, in fact, has happened since 2011 by way of a goodwill gesture of Bangladesh — the signing of the agreement on the sharing of the water of the River Teesta, which has been agreed on by both the sides in 2010, has still not happened. New Delhi earlier explained the delay by saying that ‘only a few things’ need to be done, but they could not be done as yet.
While Dhaka, under the circumstances, should weigh the merits and demerits of the whole of the agreement on India’s radar system installation plan and its impact on Bangladesh’s national security and regional politics before proceeding further, Dhaka would do best in not proceeding with the agreement in the best of interest.
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