Dhaka, Oct 17 (UNB) – Bangladesh and the United States are in discussion to conclude two “foundational defence agreements” to take the “robust and important” military cooperation between the two countries to the next level, say US government officials.
The two proposed agreements are General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) but the US side declined to comment on the current status of the discussion.
Bangladesh has expressed interest to purchase advanced and sophisticated military hardware from the USA to “modernise” its operations that apparently leads to the discussion on concluding these “certain foundational” defence agreements.
The US thinks these two agreements are “essential” to enabling a closer defence relationship expanding opportunities for defence trade, information sharing and military-to-military cooperation between the two countries.
Asked whether Bangladesh has already agreed to conclude these two proposed agreements, a US official wishing to remain unnamed said, “We’re hopeful that we can conclude. We’re still in discussion.”
Over the past four decades, Bangladesh and China have maintained close military ties reaching defence relations between the two countries 'unprecedented heights' said a diplomatic source.
China is not only a reliable and affordable source of weapons and equipment for Bangladesh armed forces, but also provides military training and technology, according to Chinese Embassy in Dhaka.
Asked about the perception about the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) and US are doing everything to contain China, the US official said IPS is not about containing or countering China but they are trying to respond to requests from their partners. “We’re trying to do everything we can do in helping our partners.”
Officials said the US over the last year provided $3.3 million to send 233 members of the Bangladesh military to attend various military professionalisation courses within the US and the wider Indo-Pacific region.
Another US official said they really value the relationship that they have with Bangladesh military and it appears that Bangladesh is “interested” in modernising their military.
“We desire to support the Bangladesh military forces goal 2030, as Bangladesh seeks to modernise its military equipment,” said the US government official adding that they greatly value the contribution of Bangladesh military officers who attend US military courses.
Over the last year, the US provided $5.3 million to cover the total cost of procurement and delivery of Five 38’ Metal Shark Boats to support the maritime security objectives of the Bangladesh Navy.
The US official said the GSOMIA is a “foundational” government to government bilateral agreement that enables greater collaboration and sharing of classified military information in the form of intelligence.
It is a reciprocal legally-binding agreement that ensures governments understand and commit to protect classified military information at an “equivalent level” of security.
Responding to a question, the US official said the GSOMIA does not obligate governments to share classified information or materials but it only ensures equivalent protection of the information shared by partner governments.
The US government has GSOMIA with 76 partner countries across the world, including some in South Asia.
According to the US government officials, ACSA is all about “simplifying military logistical support” between countries.
He said the purpose of the ACSA is to allow the US and partner nation forces to procure and pay for supply and services that covers food, water, fueling, transportation, patrolling and training. The US has ACSA over 100 countries that include India and Sri Lanka.
Though the US is keen to have these deals done, one of the US government officials, termed some proposed deals “really very boring”.
The US government official said ACSA also improves US’ ability to respond to any potential humanitarian or natural disaster involving Bangladesh and facilitate the transfer of fuel from the US military to Bangladesh Navy ships operating the outside of normal areas.
For example, if a US Navy ship requires 55 thousand gallons of fuel in the Bay of Bengal, it can ask Bangladesh to provide it on payment or in exchange of similar logistic support, the US official explained.
Suppose a Bangladeshi Navy ship near Lebanon requires refuelling and if there is a US facility nearby, Bangladesh can ask the US to refuel their ship in return, they added.
Responding to another question, the US official said there are many things that get negotiated between partner countries - good price and values.