New Delhi (Sputnik): Wary of China's maritime influence in its backyard, India has offered transfer of technology to Bangladesh for building warships. As per a recent agreement, India's state-owned Garden Reach Ship Builders (GRSE) will provide all the necessary help to Khulna Shipyard Limited (KSY) of Bangladesh.
"KSY, an independent commercial enterprise under the Ministry of Defence, Government of Bangladesh, and operated by the Bangladesh Navy, had earlier expressed keenness to develop its skills and know-how for design and construction of ships at its facility at Khulna and other subsidiary locations under them," Subhash Bhamre, Minister of State for Defense informed the Parliament on Wednesday.
China is Bangladesh's strategic partner and its biggest supplier of arms. Official data suggest that in the last eight years, Bangladesh imported defense equipment worth $1.8 billion from China.
Last year, India and Bangladesh had signed a series of agreements and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to India in April 2017. This comprised defense cooperation through joint ventures, cooperation in space technology, technical assistance, exchange of experiences, and development of sea infrastructure.
In May 2018, the two countries also signed a framework agreement for the utilization of the $500 million line of credit extended by New Delhi during Sheikh Hasina's visit in April 2017 for purchasing of military hardware.
"Almost 90 percent of Bangladesh's arms are sourced from China, and the fear that it can be held hostage is real in light of the warm relationship shared by Myanmar and China. Reducing dependence on China for the supply of arms is obviously the desirable thing to do, and there is thinking in Bangladesh that it needs to diversify its defense partnership to maintain its strategic autonomy. India, with whom Bangladesh has both cultural and linguistic affinity, can be a natural ally," Joyeeta Bhattacharjee, a Senior Fellow with Observer Research Foundation writes in her analysis about India-Bangladesh defense co-operation.
Bangladesh's conscious efforts for diversification became evident last month when India's naval chief Admiral Sunil Lanba as invited to inaugurate the first-ever coordinated patrol (CORPAT) from Chittagong port, the place where two Chinese-made submarines were commissioned last year, an event India watched anxiously.
Nearly 400,000 Rohingya Muslims from western Myanmar have crossed into Bangladesh in the last one year fleeing a Myanmar government offensive against insurgents that the United Nations has branded a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing." Bangladesh has accused Myanmar of dishonoring a deal to take back the refugees who have become a major burden and security concern for the host country. Moreover, Bangladesh has also warned Myanmar of "unwarranted consequences over repeated violation of airspace.