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BNP leaders fear

Defence pact with India to make BD a tributary state

By Special Correspondent
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Expressing anxiety, the leaders of main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party [BNP] have said that the country would lose independence and sovereignty, if the government takes any 'defence policy' in line with Indian military strategy.
The Bangladesh government, neither the Foreign Ministry nor the Defence Ministry, has made any clear statement over the issue till the date.
Meanwhile, senior joint secretary general of BNP Ruhul Kabir Khan Rizvi     said on Tuesday: "As an independent country, Bangladesh has its own armed forces comprising the army, navy and air force. Despite of it, if Bangladesh hands over its security matters to India, the country will become a Tributary State."
"There will be no independence, if Bangladesh adopts Indian prescribed defence policy. In such way, Sikkim has now become a part of India. Besides, Bhutan though is not an Indian part; it has already become a Tributary State of India," the BNP leader also said.
The sharp reaction of BNP leader came at a time when Indian media has been reporting about possible signing of a "defence pact" between Dhaka and Delhi during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's planned visit in the first quarter of next month.
The Indian media recently reported: "With the Teesta water-sharing pact off the radar for signing, India and Bangladesh are in discussion to ink a comprehensive defence pact during the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India in April."
Though the discussions on the contours are still going on, what India is eying is a comprehensive defence pact that encompasses training, sale of military hardware and military to military cooperation. India is also willing to commit up to 500 million USD in line of credit for military cooperation with Dhaka.
If comes through, this would be India's highest ever credit line for defence cooperation. For years, India was not keen on giving line of credit for defence hardware purchases, but that policy is changing slowly but steadily.
For India what lends urgency to wrap up a comprehensive pact is Dhaka's growing proximity with China on defence matters. Hasina is slated to visit both Delhi and Ajmer. Sources said the "discussions for a defence pact is progressing and yet to reach a final shape.
In November last year, Bangladesh purchased two submarines from China, much to the discomfiture of India. And China remains Bangladesh's biggest supplier of military hardware. During the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Dhaka last year two countries signed pacts amounting to US$ 25 billion in investments in Bangladesh, The Hindustan Times said.
Against this backdrop, BNP standing committee member Dr Moyeen Khan expressed severe discontent over the issue and demanded clear answer from the government.
"Hope, the government will answer to this question to the 16 crore people of the country. We know, there are friends at three sides of our border. Then why a defence deal with the friends?  Why this kind of defence pact with India? Is India forcing us to sign the pact?" Dr Moyeen said posing a question.   
Earlier on November 30 last year, Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar made a two-day visit to Bangladesh to deepen military relations between the two countries.  Diplomatic sources said that Parrikar's Dhaka visit had focused India's growing efforts-backed by Washington-to bring Bangladesh into its orbit, undercutting China's influence as geo-political tensions sharpen especially in Asia region.
Notably, Parrikar was the first Indian Defence Minister who visited Bangladesh after independence. It was learnt that Parrikar had discussed with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina about finalisation of "a new defence cooperation framework".
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has finally agreed to visit India in April but her government is reportedly reluctant to sign an agreement on defence for which India is pushing, the diplomatic sources said.
Rather, Dhaka is showing interest to sign a Memorandum of Understanding [MOU] that would have no time-frame despite Delhi's pressure for a comprehensive 25-year agreement on defence cooperation.
It is mentionable that the 'India-Bangladesh Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Peace' was a 25-year treaty that was signed on March 19, 1972 forging close bilateral relations between India and the newly established state of Bangladesh.
It was also known as the Indira-Mujib Treaty, as the signatories of the treaty were then then Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi and the then Prime Minister of Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

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