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Dhaka Tribune

Defence dialogue: Where do US-Bangladesh military ties stand?

  • Dialogue to feature senior officers, civilians from both sides
  • For 50yrs, two countries have partnered on different security issues
  • Dhaka recently ruled out chance of signing GSOMIA, ACSA
Update : 23 Aug 2023, 10:48 AM

Senior officers and civilians from the Bangladeshi and the US defence establishments will hold a two-day meeting in Dhaka, beginning Wednesday, to take stock of bilateral defence ties and plans for the future.

“The United States and Bangladesh share a vision to ensure the Indo-Pacific region is free, open, peaceful, and secure.  In pursuit of these mutual objectives, the Bangladesh Armed Forces Division and Indo-Pacific Command will meet on August 23 and 24 to conduct the Bilateral Defense Dialogue in Dhaka,” US embassy spokesperson Bryan Schiller told Dhaka Tribune Tuesday.

“This dialogue will feature senior officers and civilians from the US and Bangladeshi militaries. They will discuss military education, defence articles, and upcoming military exercises, including next year’s Disaster Response Exercise & Exchange,” he said.

“The dialogue is part of a comprehensive relationship between our defence establishments, which features cooperation on a myriad of defence topics.”

The defence dialogue between the two countries got underway with a joint declaration at the 1st BD-US Security Dialogue in 2012. This will be the 10th episode.

Director of strategic planning and policy of the US Indo-Pacific Command Brig Gen Thomas J James will lead the US side while Director General at the Bangladesh Armed Forces Division Brig Gen Husain Muhammad Masihur Rahman will lead the Bangladesh side.

For 50 years, the United States and Bangladesh have partnered on a wide range of security issues, including: border security, maritime security, counterterrorism, peacekeeping, defence trade, and defence institution building.

The US engages Bangladesh through several bilateral and multilateral fora, including the US-Bangladesh Partnership Dialogue, the US-Bangladesh Security Dialogue, and the ASEAN Regional Forum.

Since 2015, the US has provided $66.9 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and $7.29 million in International Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance to Bangladesh, according to the US embassy website.

The FMF assistance includes $10 million in bilateral programming, and $56.9 million in Bay of Bengal Initiative Regional FMF.

The Department of State’s Bay of Bengal Initiative, through support provided via FMF, seeks to enhance the capacity of civilian and military actors to detect illicit activity within their borders and in the region, build networks and habits of cooperation to enable countries to share information, develop their capacity to respond promptly to illicit activity, and support our partners in enabling a rules-based order in the Indian Ocean Region.

These funds have provided patrol boats for the Bangladesh Army; additional patrol vessels for the Navy and Coast Guard; mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles for international peacekeeping and border security missions; electronic and mechanical upgrades to the fast patrol boats and former U.S. Coast Guard cutters currently operated by the Bangladesh Navy; technical and professional training for Bangladesh military and Coast Guard personnel; and joint military and coast guard training and exchanges to build coordination capacity for disaster response and maritime security operations.

The US government has $130.59 million in active government-to-government sales cases with Bangladesh under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system.

Bangladesh also received two former US Coast Guard Hamilton Class cutters via EDA in 2013 and 2015, which now serve as the two largest vessels in the Bangladesh Navy.

Additionally, Bangladesh received 50 EDA MRAP vehicles in 2019 to support its peacekeepers in Mali.

In FY2019, the United States also authorized the permanent export of over $6 million in defence articles to Bangladesh via the Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) process.

The top categories of DCS to Bangladesh include aircraft and related articles; materials and miscellaneous articles; and fire control, laser, imaging, and guidance equipment.

Since 2005, the United States has contributed nearly $44 million to support training, equipment and facilities upgrade to enhance Bangladesh’s peacekeeping capabilities.

However, the US has been pursuing an objective of reaching a General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) with Bangladesh.

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen recently ruled out any chance of signing such agreements before the general elections.

“I do not think we have the luxury of signing such types of agreements before the election,” he had said.

Washington wants to sign the two defence agreements as Bangladesh has shown interest in buying advanced equipment from the US as part of its goal to modernize its military by 2030.

GSOMIA is a reciprocal legally binding agreement that ensures that governments understand and commit to protecting classified military information.

ACSA allows the US and the armed forces of its partner nations to procure and pay for common types of supplies and services. It could cover everything from food, water, clothing, transportation, training, petroleum, ammunition and maintenance to medical services.

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