The eighth edition of Exercise ‘Sampriti’ (meaning love and attachment), part of the India Bangladesh defence cooperation programme, Sampriti-2019, is being conducted from March 2 to 15, 2019, at the Bongobondhu (title of respect for Bangladesh’s founding leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman) Cantonment in Tangail, Bangladesh, after an impressive opening ceremony on March 3. The participating contingents stood side by side and gave a ceremonial salute to the national flags of both the countries to the strains of their national anthems, “Jana Gana Mana” and “Amar Shonar Bangla”.
The Bangladesh contingent was represented by the 36 East Bengal Battalion, while Indian side was represented by 9th Battalion, Rajputana Rifles. Major General Mizanur Rahman Shamim, General Officer Commanding, 19 Infantry Division of Bangladesh Army welcomed the Indian contingent and in his inaugural remarks highlighted the common shared beliefs of democracy, freedom, equality and justice that are precious to both the nations.
The aim of the exercise, much like the current state of bilateral relations between India and Bangladesh, is to increase mutual cooperation, bonhomie and camaraderie between the two armies, through interoperability and joint tactical exercises. A company group from the Bangladesh Army and an equal number from Indian Army are taking part in the two-week long exercise that will see them hone their tactical and technical skills in countering insurgency, counter terrorism and aid to civil authorities for disaster management in an UN peace keeping scenario, involving a combined deployment at a battalion level.
In this eighth edition of the exercise, which was instituted in 2009 as a platoon level exercise and graduated to company level exercise from 2015 onwards, both sides will jointly train, plan and execute a series of well-developed tactical drills for neutralisation of likely threats that may be encountered during simulated UN peace keeping operations. The experts from both sides will also hold discussions to share each other’s experiences in varied topics for mutual benefits.
In addition to understanding each other during tactical level operations, emphasis will also be laid for greater cultural understanding, to strengthen military trust and cooperation between the two nations.
Ever since the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League’s massive electoral victory in end 2008, Bangladesh has been a major target of terrorism generated by Pakistan.
In November 2018, yet again, the Bangladesh government launched a massive crackdown on terrorist groups, allegedly backed by ISI, ahead of the parliamentary election in Bangladesh held on December 30.
During the period of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), preceding the Awami League’s current term, the Pakistan Army’s intelligence wing, the ISI, had a major presence in Bangladesh. It was actively involved in stoking terror in India’s north-eastern (NE) region, by supporting and arming NE insurgent groups after converting them from insurgents to terrorists. The first of the NE terrorist outfits to establish contact with ISI and arrange for it to establish contact with other NE groups was the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). ISI also used ULFA to induct and settle Bangladeshis to the extent of altering the demography of at least 11 districts of Assam.
On resumption of the Awami League’s rule, Sheikh Hasina personally gave a boost to repair and rebuild relations with India. Many NE terrorist groups which enjoyed sanctuary in Bangladesh during BNP rule had to hightail it out in a hurry, moving to Myanmar and even China. Some terrorists of ULFA and other NE terrorist groups earlier ensconced in Bangladesh and captured/arrested by its government were handed over to India.
Since then, both India and Bangladesh have been cooperating in various fields and particularly significantly in defence and security, which includes exchanging security related intelligence, holding joint exercises and training of Bangladesh armed forces personnel in Indian armed forces institutions.
(The author is a former Defence Ministry and Indian Army spokesperson. He can be contacted on email@example.com)