Dhaka not in any hurry, says foreign minister
India seems to be eager to sell defence equipment to Bangladesh under an Indian $500 million line of credit, while Bangladesh appears to be less enthusiastic due to various reasons, including geopolitical aspects.
The Indian High Commission in Bangladesh organized a seminar on defence equipment (SIDE 2020) on Wednesday at a hotel in the capital that reflects the eagerness on part of Delhi to sell weapons to Dhaka.
Representatives from twelve different Indian firms participated in the event, according to an Indian High Commission press release.
Earlier, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had urged Bangladesh to utilise the Indian line of credit for defence purchase. A memorandum of understanding (MoU), a non-binding deal, between the two countries was signed during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in April, 2017.
Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla also talked about defence cooperation recently during a meeting with Bangladesh High Commissioner in Delhi Muhammad Imran.
Contacted, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told Dhaka Tribune that Dhaka will only buy arms from India when it will feel necessary.
Industries Minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun was present as chief guest at the seminar, said the release.
Indian High Commissioner Riva Ganguly Das said that Dhaka and Delhi have close cooperation in many diverse areas and therefore are natural partners to pursue further cooperation in the field of defence technologies.
Speaking on the occasion, Industries Minister Humayun said that Bangladesh's security forces have earned a name for themselves as disciplined and professional, and the seminar provided an opportunity for defence manufacturers from India in developing fruitful partnerships with them.
“Yes, they (India) have been asking us to buy arms from them utilising the line of defence credit. But, we are not in any hurry. We will buy when time is right for us,” Foreign Minister Momen told this correspondent.
“They (India) say to us that since they are giving to us what the problem is for us to take. But, at the end the money will come from the people. We have to think about that,” he said.
“Some people are unhappy about this. But, it’s okay. We will take a decision keeping our interest in mind,” he added.
Two officials told Dhaka Tribune that the Armed Forces Division deals with defence purchase from any countries in consultations with the relevant ministries and a decision will be taken based on the needs of the country’s military.
As regards to purchasing arms from India, the government has undertaken a go slow policy considering different aspects, including geopolitical ones, they said, adding that Dhaka is intent on taking its time to come to a decision.
It is not mandatory to buy arms from India under the MoU rather it is an option to buy arms if Bangladesh military feels the necessity, said the officials.
They also reminded that the defence purchase does not always necessarily involve tanks or guns but it could be military software like radars.
The Indian High Commission in Dhaka did not return request for comments.