Bangladesh Army Chief Set to Visit Myanmar

By Muktadir Rashid   6 November 2019

DHAKA—Bangladesh army chief General Aziz Ahmed will visit Myanmar for a week next month to boost military-to-military cooperation between the neighboring countries.

A 10-member delegation including spouses will visit Myanmar on Dec. 8-13 at the invitation of the Myanmar army chief, a highly placed source told The Irrawaddy.

“We want smooth relations with our counterparts in neighboring countries,” the Bangladeshi official said, adding, “Top officials from army headquarters, Chattogram [Chittagong] and Cox’s Bazar will be [traveling] with the army chief.” Cox’s Bazar is home to refugee camps housing upwards of 700,000 Rohingya who fled Myanmar in the wake of security clearance operations against Rohingya militants by the Myanmar military in 2017.

Bangladesh Inter-Services public relations director Lieutenant Colonel Abdullah Ibn Zaid, however, said he was yet to be informed about the visit.

Gen. Aziz tried to improve bilateral relations following a series of border clashes in 2014 during his tenure as director general of the Border Guards Bangladesh force. He visited Naypyitaw in June of that year to meet officials from the Myanmar Border Guard Police.

Gen. Aziz is currently visiting China on a five-day official visit, which included a meeting Wednesday with the Chinese defense minister. He has already met the People’s Liberation Army ground force commander, leaders of the Olympic committee and other senior officials, and is expected to return on to Bangladesh on Nov. 9.

Security analysts have described his maiden visit to China as very significant. It follows trips to the US and other militarily important countries including India, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Indonesia.

“It is significant because Bangladesh has for a number of years carefully balanced its relations between India and China. This trip also comes against the backdrop of the Rohingya crisis. China has a vital role to play in deciding whether and when the Rohingyas will return to Myanmar. Also, with Bangladesh recently deciding to purchase military equipment from the US, this trip takes on a new dimension. Bangladesh has traditionally relied heavily on Chinese military weapons,” security analyst Mubin S Khan told The Irrawaddy.

Dhaka-based daily New Age reported on Oct. 18, 2019 that US authorities were negotiating the signing of an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) and a General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) to facilitate the transfer of advanced defense systems to Bangladesh.

The US reportedly feels the need to sign the two agreements as the two countries are considering taking their already established defense cooperation to an advanced level.

US authorities appear to be responding to the Bangladesh Forces Goal 2030, under which the country “is going to modernize its military” by procuring sophisticated military hardware, including missile systems and attack helicopters, the newspaper said.

On Jan. 31, US Ambassador to Dhaka Earl Miller disclosed after a meeting with Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen that the US had proposed that Bangladesh buy defense hardware from the country.

More than 730,000 Rohingya have entered Bangladesh since the Myanmar military launched security operations against the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on Aug. 25, 2017.