Dhaka cautious over military co-operation with Washington

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Dhaka will proceed with caution when it comes to moving forward with any bilateral military co-operation with Washington in order to avoid untoward situation later despite the fact that the United States has these agreements with several countries across Asia.

The US has proposed two agreements with Bangladesh- Acquisition and Cross-Service Agreement (ACSA) and General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA)- and has already provided the drafts.

The government, however, is still considering the agreements and people familiar with the matter are of the view that the US will have the upper hand in terms of benefits.

“Any agreement related to defence co-operation is extremely sensitive. A lot of factors need to be considered,” said a government official wishing to remain anonymous.

“Prior to evaluating benefits and losses, reliability and trust on a political level are extremely important,” he added.

Another official also wishing to remain anonymous said, “India took more than 10 years to sign this kind of agreements.”

He added that the US has defence agreement with Pakistan and ACSA agreement with Sri Lanka.

“We are also considering what co-operation steps US took after the bombings in Colombo last April,” he said.

In 2013, Dhaka signed a $ 1 billion military equipment agreement with Moscow during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s bilateral visit there.

The official is of the view that prior to inking defence-related agreements with the most powerful country in the world, strong ground of trust must be established. “Arms are being purchased from Russia at high prices but there is a scope of reliability there. Ties between the political leadership are important to establish those grounds.”

The ACSA agreement provisions for the parties to provide logistic support to one another; for example, a US warship carrying relief items for another country can collect fuel or other ration from Bangladesh under the agreement.

“This looks like a very harmless agreement on the face but benefits and losses and Bangladesh’s need for such an agreement also needs to be considered,” a government employee said.

He added given that US has a wider net of military activities they will reap more benefits while Bangladesh will have limited scope to profits from it.

Responding to queries on the GSOMIA agreement, another government official said that since it’s a standard contract, Bangladesh doesn’t have much scope of negotiations.

This agreement stipulates that Bangladesh can’t reveal any information on the procurement of defense equipment from US to any other country.

“Bangladesh can’t procure any expensive arms from US without entering the GSOMIA agreement,” the official said and added that it has to be done under the conditions put forward by US.

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