India and Bangladesh will begin a fortnight of counterterrorism exercises today in Tangail, Bangladesh.
In a show of strengthened bilateral military relations, this is the eighth consecutive year of cooperative exercises. Dubbed SAMPRITI, these exercises are part of India’s and Bangladesh’s memorandum of understanding, which promotes long-term military cooperation and guarantees that neither side will use military intelligence against the other.
This warming of relations recognises terrorism as a transnational issue. Indeed, Dhaka faced a terror attack by an offshoot of ISIL affiliate Jamaat Ul-Mijahideen Bangladesh in 2016, resulting in 22 deaths. Just this week, two Jamaat Ul-Mijahideen Bangladesh members armed with explosives were arrested in Murshidabad, India.
India wants to extend military cooperation with a comprehensive agreement that includes joint operations and pooled military resources against shared threats. However, with Bangladesh’s signing of a deal to purchase K-8W jets from China, Dhaka remains dependent on China for military equipment.
Expect India to use SAMPRITI-8 to propagate the signing of defence pacts that strengthen its military relationship with Bangladesh. In the medium-term, India will probably focus on counterterrorism. But, in the long-term, New Delhi will likely try to leverage a strengthening military relationship with Bangladesh to counter China’s influence.
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Saira is an analyst in the Current Developments team, where she focuses her research on the Middle East and North Africa region.