Delhi, Dhaka to boost maritime ties

Plan on to retrace historic voyage of Mukti Jodha

Updated - September 23, 2019 12:04 pm IST

Published - September 23, 2019 03:15 am IST - NEW DELHI

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

India will join Bangladesh to commemorate 100 years of ‘Bangabandhu’, the founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, in 2020, and an International Fleet Review in 2021 to mark 50 years of the Liberation of Bangladesh, official sources said. Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh is on a visit to Dhaka where these issues would be discussed along with other maritime and security issues.

“Both sides are working on a proposal for a joint boat expedition with veterans from both sides to retrace the voyage of the Mukti Jodha from Khulna to Hoshangabad during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971,” defence and diplomatic sources told The Hindu . The modalities are being worked out. Earlier the proposal was to conduct it in December 2018 but was put off due to elections in India.

In 1971, before the Liberation War, Mukti Bahini with training and assistance from India had launched attacks on Pakistan Navy vessels along Mongla, Chittagong and other areas in then East Pakistan.

Admiral Singh will be in Bangladesh till September 24 and the visit is intended to enhance the bilateral maritime relations, the Navy said in a statement.

Top among the discussions would be the proposal to bring Bangladesh into India’s coastal radar chain network which several countries in the region have already joined.

The issue of coastal radar chain network in Bangladesh will be discussed to fast-track it, defence and diplomatic sources confirmed. A Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL) team went there recently and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed and if all goes well, it could be signed in the next high-level bilateral visit, sources added.

As part of its foreign cooperation initiatives, the Navy already imparts extensive training to Bangladesh at all levels and also provides assistance in hydrography among others. As Dhaka looks to expand its domestic ship building industry, India has offered assistance in ship design.

The Chittagong Dry Dock Limited is looking to build six frigates for which India has offered to build some under the $500-million Line of Credit to boost ‘Make in India’ efforts and also assist in building some locally. “They recently sent a team to look at our facilities,” a defence official said.

This year the two Navies will hold their second coordinated patrol and then the first bilateral naval exercise, a Navy source said. In regional cooperation, Bangladesh is the Vice Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and will take over as the Chair in 2021. While cooperation has expanded with high-level visits and engagements, issue of fishermen and Dhaka’s expanding defence cooperation with China remain areas of concern for India.

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