Several high-level officials are expected to visit Dhaka and New Delhi in the coming weeks to prepare the groundwork for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's proposed trip to India in December.
"We already have set a mechanism both in security and defense fields, but the upcoming visit will help enhance further cooperation to enable the forces of the two countries to fight against terrorism and violent extremism in the region,” a diplomatic source told The Daily Star yesterday.
During Hasina's visit at the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Modi would also convey India's message to stand by her government on security or any other issues for the interest of India and Bangladesh, the source in New Delhi said.
New Delhi also wants Hasina's government to take effective measures to ensure full safety and security of religious minorities in Bangladesh.
Hasina might fly to India on December 3, and talks between Hasina and Modi would take place on that day.
Hasina's visit to India has been considered highly important in the context of Chinese President Xi Jinping's October 14-15 visit to Bangladesh when the two countries inked at least 27 deals involving about $25 billion.
The source in New Delhi yesterday said Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is expected to pay an official visit to Bangladesh this month.
"Defence minister's visit is on the cards, but there is no official confirmation of the date yet,” said an Indian diplomat in Dhaka, adding, “It is due and both sides are trying to figure it out.”
Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan visited Bangladesh on May 28-30. Chang, who led a 39-member delegation, met President Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and senior defence officials, including the chiefs of army, navy and the air force.
Prior to the visit of Manohar, Bangladesh and India will hold a fortnight-long joint military exercise starting from November 5 at Shaheed Salahuddin Cantonment in Ghatail of Tangail.
This is a part of the ongoing Bangladesh-India defence cooperation, according to an Indian defence ministry statement.
It added, “The exercise is an important bilateral defence cooperation endeavour between India and Bangladesh and will be the sixth edition of the exercise which is hosted alternately by both countries.”
When asked, a government official in Dhaka said the exercise will practise counter-terrorism and disaster management operations.
China still remains Bangladesh's main supplier of military hardware, its largest trading partner and continues to make large investments in the country.
During the visit of the Chinese president, the two countries also elevated their ties from a “closer comprehensive partnership of cooperation” to a “strategic partnership of cooperation.”
On May 12, 2014, Bangladesh and China signed four agreements on military cooperation, aimed at improving professionalism and other capacities of the Bangladesh armed forces officials.
Bangladesh is also purchasing a submarine from China for strengthening its operational capabilities to protect Bangladesh's maritime territory and resources.
This will be Hasina's second official visit to India since January 2010.
Diplomatic sources said they were working on fixing a date when she would fly to India.
Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque will make a two-day visit to Delhi from November 9 for high-level consultations to prepare the ground for Sheikh Hasina's visit to India.
Shahidul will meet Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar to finalise the details of various programmes of Hasina. The duration of her stay in India is yet to be finalised, sources told The Daily Star.
Teesta river water-sharing, counter-terrorism, defence cooperation, trade and the future of the eight-nation grouping Saarc are among the issues that are expected to dominate the talks between Hasina and Modi, they said.
Hasina's visit may coincide with Modi's planned international conference in New Delhi where countries and experts could share their experiences as to how to guard against radicalisation of youths which has become a major problem in South Asia, said the sources.
Hasina's detailed presentation of her government's steps to combat radicalisation of youths had her Indian counterpart Modi “highly impressed” during their meeting in Goa on October 16 on the sidelines of BRICS-BIMSTEC Leader's Outreach Summit.
Hasina is understood to have expressed her desire to visit the dargah in Ajmer, which is revered equally by Hindus and Muslims, and the Bangladesh Bhavan in Viswabharati University in Santiniketan, West Bengal, during her visit, the sources said.
Officials said there may be another round of visits from Indian foreign secretary or national security adviser, and Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali of Bangladesh before Hasina visits India.