Dhaka under pressure to sign US military co-op dealShakhawat Hossain
Dhaka is under pressure from Washington to sign a military cooperation deal aimed at enhancing the rapid deployment capability of the US forces far away from their bases, officials said on Wednesday.
The proposed deal called the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement was first put forward by the United States to Bangladesh’s Armed Forces Division in 2006.
But there has been no significant development in the following years as Dhaka showed less interest in the deal.
The US embassy in Dhaka has intensified its diplomatic efforts since 2011 to make the Armed Forces Division agree to sign the proposed deal.
According to a US news release issued on April 24, the United States is aware of a plan of Bangladesh on military modernisation.
The US assistant secretary for Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Andrew J Shapiro, at Carnegie Endowment Roundtable discussion in Washington on April 24 said, ‘The modernisation efforts provide an opportunity for us to expand our security cooperation, especially through our Excess Defence Articles programme, which makes US equipment that is surplus to our requirements available to our partners.’
Shapiro, who led an 11-member US delegation to a dialogue in Dhaka on April 19, also discussed the potential for US security cooperation with India and Bangladesh.
The recent visit by the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, in the capital expedited the US efforts.
A team of US military officials is scheduled to visit the capital in the next week to discuss with the local military officials the proposed deal, the officials said.
The officials said the US military officials would be in Dhaka in May 14-18 for detailed discussion on the proposed deal.
The Armed Forces Division, meanwhile on May 7, held an inter-ministerial meeting before the official talks on the proposed Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement.
The Armed Forced Division is expected to hold another meeting in a couple of the days for further discussion on the proposed deal, draft of which has already been sent to the division.
Sri Lanka was the 90th country to sign the ACSA with the United States in 2007.
According to WikiLeaks, the US Embassy in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo wrote in a message that the US Pacific Command had sought to enter into the deal with Sri Lanka since 2002.
Sri Lanka, positioned astride major sea lanes and at the doorstep to India, can play a significant role in military readiness as political and military efforts shift focus on Asia in the new millennium, it said.
‘The signing will expand DoD’s capacity and capability to conduct global operations by adding another logistical option in South Asia, which ultimately reduces cost and provides flexibility to US forces moving through the region,’ it added.
Dhaka and Washington on May 5 signed a joint declaration on a ‘partnership dialogue’ to hold annual consultations to give strategic direction to bilateral relations.
The joint declaration is a first major deal between Bangladesh and the United States that had for long discussed the signing of a deal on trade and investment-related issues, but failed.
Local trade experts held a number discussions with US trade experts on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement between 2001 and 2010 at home and abroad, but failed to reach a consensus.
Both the sides are now discussing the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement, an old document with a new name, to further bilateral relations.
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