Bangladesh and the USA held a security dialogue in Washington on Wednesday where both countries discussed signing two specialised defence agreements and giving Bangladesh special benefit to purchase high-tech military weapons from the US, confirmed a diplomatic source.
In the eighth US-Bangladesh security dialogue, other than the defence agreement, issues like lifting US sanctions on RAB (Rapid Action Battalion), Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS), United Nations peacekeeping missions, military training, naval security, counter-terrorism, civilian security and the Rohingya crisis were also discussed.
The Bangladesh delegation was led by foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen and the US delegation was headed by the US undersecretary for arms control and international security Bonnie Denise Jenkins. Bangladesh Armed Forces Principal Staff officer (PSO) Lieutenant General Waker-uz Zaman was part of the Bangladesh delegation. In between the day-long security dialogue, Masud Bin Momen and Wakar-uz-Zaman had a separate meeting with the US undersecretary at noon.
Discussion on defense pact
On Thursday, diplomatic sources said that discussions were held on two specialised defence agreements –GSOMIA (General Security of Military Information Agreement) and ACSA (Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement) in order to purchase high-tech military weapons. The US had provided a new draft on GSOMIA during the partnership dialogue held in Dhaka on 20 March.
Bangladesh foreign ministry in a press release on Thursday said that the talks on GSOMIA and ACSA in the security dialogue in Washington were positive.
Bangladesh foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen spoke with the Bangladeshi journalists after the security dialogue in Washington. When asked if there is a set time-frame to finalise GSOMIA and sign it, the foreign secretary said, they will try to finalise it before the ninth security dialogue. They will also get another chance to hold discussions on it in 2023.
According to the information acquired from various security-related websites, there are two parties in the GSOMIA defence agreement. On one side there is the US government and the US military weapons manufacturer. On the other party, there is the government and military weapons related specialised organisation of the signing country. GSOMIA is an agreement to share secret information between the countries. This one of the key agreements out of the four military pacts India has signed with the USA. India signed this agreement with the US in 2002. Signing this agreement is a prerequisite for every country before purchasing high-tech military weapons from the US.
Diplomatic sources have said that, Bangladesh is interested in buying military weapons from the US, but steep prices are making it difficult. There are also some technical issues.
Foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen brought up the barriers to Bangladesh buying US military weapons with the US undersecretary on political affairs Victoria Nuland during the partnership dialogue on 20 March. Nuland had assured that necessary steps would be taken to get rid of these barriers. Accordingly, the US has proposed special facilities to Bangladesh.
A press release issued by the foreign ministry on Thursday said that the US has expressed interest to modernise Bangladesh’s armed forced during the defense dialogue.
But Bangladeshi officials have declined from disclosing the details of the US proposal. They have hinted that it could be an opportunity to make the payment in installments or some other special financial benefit.
Lifting sanctions on RAB
Bangladesh and the US have agreed to continue internal talks on lifting US sanctions on RAB. The two parties came to this conclusion upon Bangladesh’s request.
Bangladesh expressed deep concern over the US sanctions during the defence dialogue. Bangladesh requested the US to consider lifting the sanctions. The Bangladeshi delegation also pointed out RAB’s role in counterterrorism, curbing extremism and reducing criminal activities at the border.
Foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen told the reporters, Bangladesh’s position was made clear to the US. But we will have to go through a legal process to lift the sanction, he said, adding that there is no way to lift the sanction with an executive order.
The foreign ministry’s press release said that both parties held positive discussions on the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the US. Bangladesh has expressed its support to ensure inclusive socio-economic development in the Indo-Pacific region.
Masud Bin Momen told reporters, the US put forth its policy on IPS. Now we will see if their proposal includes the things we need to ensure the prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region. Bangladesh will also very soon bring forward its own Indo-Pacific vision.
In the discussion, the US highly praised Bangladesh’s role in the Rohingya crisis. The US has assured that it will provide Bangladesh with continued support to solve this crisis.
Bangladesh thanked Washington for officially acknowledging the genocide of Rohingya. Bangladesh has also called the US to take the next step to solve the Rohingya crisis.