Tuesday, May 21st 2024

US-Bangladesh talks: Dhaka looking into enhancing security capacity



Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen left for Washington for secretary level talks on Wednesday

 Sheikh Shahariar Zaman(Dhaka Tribune)

April 4, 2022 1:52 PM

Bangladesh is seeking to buy advanced military equipment as part of its “Forces Goal 2030” to enhance its security capacity and modernize the military.

The United States seems to be the top choice for suppliers and a meeting at the secretarial level between the two countries is set to be held on Wednesday.

On one hand, the US is the best supplier of military equipment but any defence deal with the country requires the signing of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with various clauses, not to mention the steep prices of the weapons and equipment themselves.

On the other hand, Russia supplies advanced equipment for cheaper but given the circumstances, there remain reservations of sanctions from the US, if Dhaka enters into a defence deal with Moscow.

Wednesday’s talks between Bangladesh and the US will comprise of four sessions that will address several issues including countering terrorism and civil security cooperation, regional cooperation, peacekeeping and most importantly security cooperation between the countries.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen left for Washington on Sunday. He will hold dialogues with US State Department’s Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, Bonny Dennis Jenkins. 

This is the first secretarial level meeting between the two countries.

“The talks on April 6 (Wednesday) will be the eighth with the US. Previously all meetings were held at the director-general level,” Secretary Masud Bin Momen said.

“It’s a good sign that the US has this time sought the participation of the foreign secretary and principal staff officer of the Armed Forces Division,” he added. 

Security cooperation key focus

The dialogue will address a number of topics but the key focus will be the security cooperation between US and Bangladesh. It will include discussions on “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)”, “Forces Goal2030”, “GSOMIA” and maritime security and . 

CAATSA allows the US to impose sanctions on any country that enters into large scale transactions, especially defence agreements, with Iran, North Korea, and Russia. This has hampered the procurement of high-quality multi-role combat aircraft “Sukoi” and other weapons from Russia. However, Myanmar is still sourcing high-quality weapons from Russia.

“Several issues, including the Rohingya crisis, Covid cooperation, counter terror and combatting extremism, will be discussed during the security cooperation dialogue,” Secretary Momen said. 

The session will also discuss how to improve patrol and training techniques, coast guard cooperation, security and peace in the Indo-Pacific region and other related topics. 

Recently, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland handed over the draft for the GSOMIA during her Dhaka visit. 

According to Secretary Momen, Bangladesh was still vetting the US draft. 

“It’s a long process,” he said, adding that multiple other steps are remaining until a decision could be reached. 

‘RAB Sanctions a big challenge’

The US and Bangladesh have reached a consensus on many issues but there still remains some issues where the countries differ and that will be a challenge, says the foreign secretary. 

One of the biggest challenges, according to Momen, is the sanctions on the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). 

“When the topic of quelling terrorism comes up, we have to tell them that the sanctions on RAB is not helping,” he said. 

Responding to queries on the Ukraine situation, he said: “We will talk according to our policies.”

“In a world of polarization, we have to find a way to maintain good relations with everyone,” he added. 

The foreign secretary said that the US might have reservations about the Indo-Pacific and Bangladesh will discuss it with the stakeholders.

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