“India is watching Chinese Defence Minister’s Dhaka visit closely.” A May 24 report with this title in the most influential news website of Bangladesh,“bdnews24”says : As a return visit to the last year’s visit to China by Bangladesh’s Chief of Army Staff, General Belal, Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan, who is also a State Councillor, will pay a visit to Bangladesh at the end of this month. “We are trying to figure out how much deeper relations between Dhaka and Beijing will go,” said an official at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi who was not willing to be named.
Although there is no official announcement yet about the visit, Bangladesh’s “Daily Star” newspaper, quoting diplomatic sources, said that Chinese Defence Minister is likely to be in Dhaka on a three-day visit from May 28. The report says this would be the first visit of any Chinese Defence Minister to Bangladesh in the last eight years. With him there will be a high-level 15-member delegation. During the visit, apart from meeting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Chang Wanquan is likely to hold meetings with the chiefs of the three services to discuss future defence cooperation.
The article on the website of “bdnews24” says relations between Bangladesh and China have been stable in recent years; China is now Bangladesh’s largest supplier of military equipment. Since 2010, Beijing has supplied Dhaka with five maritime patrol vessels, two corvettes, 44 tanks, and 16 fighter jets, as well as surface-to-air and anti-ship missiles, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. In 2013, Bangladesh has ordered a “Ming”-class submarine from China, which is expected to join the Bangladeshi fleet by the end of 2016. Apart from the cooperation in military hardware, the two countries have developed a robust training and military exchange programme. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army sends nearly as many delegations to Bangladesh each year as does India.
Why would India be so sensitive about the military cooperation between China and Bangladesh? Sun Shihai, director of the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies, told Global Times reporter on 25th during an interview that there are at least these few reasons : First, after Indian Prime Minister Modi’s assuming office, he clearly advocates a “priority for neighbouring countries” policy, so the diplomatic actions of the neighbors are more closely followed; second, the military relationship itself is more sensitive than the economic, cultural and other relations; third, India’s mentality of South Asia being its “backyard” is still very deep; fourth, compared to India, China is much stronger, which makes India lacking in self-confidence, while presently China and India are still lacking in strategic mutual trust.
“Dhaka may have gained benefits from the triangular relationship of courting both China and India,” says “bdnews24” website. In the past two years, Bangladesh has seen long-standing maritime and land border issues with India resolved in Dhaka’s favour, perhaps because New Delhi is eager to make sure its neighbour doesn’t tilt too far in China’s direction, according to an analysis in the Japanese magazine ‘Diplomat”.