On March 8, a special convoy of Bangladesh Army picked up a group of who's who in Bangladeshi media from the AHQ Officer's Mess at Dhaka Cantonment. Among the three buses transporting senior journalists, heads of news, bureau chiefs of international news agencies were a guest of even higher profile.
Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, media adviser to the prime minister, was also travelling alongside the journalists and members of the media. The destination was Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support Training (BIPSOT) in Rajendrapur Cantonment, where the media was invited for a tour and a briefing on the multinational training exercise called “Exercise Shanti Doot 4.”
As the name suggests, this is not the first training exercise held at BIPSOT. It was preceded by three others in 2002, 2008 and 2012. Conducted in cooperation with the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) as the co-sponsor under the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) program, the aim of the event this year, as was in the previous years, is to build capacity of the armed forces of troops contributing countries in the United Nations peace operations.
Termed “Multi-national Peacekeeping Event (MPE),” this training is conducted by the USPACOM every year in various countries of the Asia-Pacific region. During the exercise, Field Training Events (FTE), Staff Training Events (STE) and Critical Enabler Capability Enhancement (2CE) were held at BIPSOT.
At BIPSOT, Iqbal Sobhan and the members of the press were welcomed by the Commandant of the facility Lt Gen Md Enayet Ullah, along with Brig Gen Md Tofayel Ahmed and other high ranking officers. A press briefing was held where Col Akhter Shahid presented the history and activities of BIPSOT.
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Participants of ‘Excercise Shanti Doot 4’ along with visitors at BIPSOT in Gazipur Courtesy[/caption]
This year's exercise started on February 26 and ended on March 12. A total of 24 countries participated, among which 12 including Bangladesh participated in the FTE. This makes it one of the largest peacekeeping training events of 2018. Under STE, a day-long Strategic Level Seminar titled “Changing Role of UN Peacekeeping Operations – Challenges and Opportunities” was held in February as a part of the program.
"Bangladesh's role as one of the top troops contributors to the UN's peacekeeping missions has been well known, but the top-class training that BIPSOT has been facilitating remained almost unknown," said Lt Gen Enayet Ullah.
In the Field Training Events or FTE, a total of 12 platoons from 11 countries participated. Each platoon consisted of 39 people, including two trainers and one platoon guide. The FTE was conducted through what is called the “lane training activities.” The journalists were taken on a tour through these “lanes,” which are basically checkpoints set up on long roads leading to buildings or mock-up villages in the cantonment situated within the Rajendrapur forest.
During the FTE, soldiers carried out activities like searching villages after getting attacked by insurgent groups, checkpoint procedures such as handling hostile locals demanding to see the person in charge and responding to a number of different situational incidents. As the army's vehicles took the prime minister's media adviser and journalists to these “lanes,” a combined platoon comprising Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Indonesian and Rwandan forces demonstrated cordoning off a village. At another lane, the troops at the checkpoints showed how they respond to armed protesters trying to enter the protected area, demonstrated by a British platoon.
Talking about the nature of the training, Col Akhter Shahid said this training is very different to how soldiers are trained. There is no enemy as such, which is necessarily a mindset inculcated in all armed force. “Therefore, the training is more psychological than physical," said Col Shahid.
With UN's aim of employing “robust peacekeeping,” the missions now operate with the prime mandate of “protection of the civilian” or POC. "You have to unlearn a lot of what is drilled into you as a soldier in terms of how to engage," Col Shahid said.
After the tour and a buffet lunch at the BIPSOT building, Commandant Lt Gen Md Enayet Ullah presented the guests with gift bags and crests. The commandant requested the press to highlight the fact that Bangladesh Army has been able to develop BIPSOT as a facility with international standards that the nation can be proud of.
Founded in 1999 under an initiative by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the centre was named Peacekeeping Operations Training Centre and later changed to its current name in 2002. The institution has been able to gain accolades internationally and has trained over 15,000 personnel in peacekeeping since its inception.
Despite that, BIPSOT has been virtually unknown in the public domain. "Even I did not know how vast these training programs have been," PM’s Media Adviser Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury said. With the promise to maintain its high standards, BIPSOT hopes to make the acceptance and reputation of Bangladesh armed forces even better to the international community.