The Indian Army and Bangladesh Army began a military exercise on Monday. Known as Sampriti-IX, the exercise is expected to run for nearly two weeks, concluding on February 16. This year’s iteration is the ninth of the Sampriti series of exercises between the two South Asian neighbors.
Sampriti-IX began at Umroi in the northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya. The exercise will involve an Indian Army company and more than 160 Bangladesh Army personnel, including 31 officers. According to the Indian Army, the exercise will be focused primarily on counter-terrorism operations. Both sides will work to operate in mountainous and jungle terrain scenarios.
The exercise will be divided into command post exercise and field training exercise components. The two will be conducted at the same time. One of the objectives of this year’s exercise is increasing interoperability between the two armies in joint operations. The exercise will also include a joint tactical component.
“Both armies would familiarize each other in various tactical drills and procedures,” an Indian Army statement noted. “Soldiers from both the armies will then graduate to joint tactical operations like Cordon and Search, Raid and House Clearance Drills,” the statement added.
Military and defense cooperation between India and Bangladesh has grown in recent years. After coming into office in 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi articulated a “neighborhood first” foreign policy approach, which prioritize New Delhi’s ties with its immediate neighbors.
Historic ties between India and Bangladesh go back to the latter’s founding in 1971. The Indian Army played a role in supporting Bangladesh independence fighters who were at the time seeking to liberate what was East Pakistan; with Indian assistance, Bangladesh became an independent country.
India has sought to cultivate close security ties with the Bangladesh government amid concerns about insurgent groups in its northeast, some of whom operate along the border between the two countries.
The two countries share a long, porous border that runs for more than 4,000 kilometers. A second Indian Army statement said that the latest Sampriti exercise would build “military trust” between the two countries.
The latest iteration of the Sampriti series of military exercises comes after bilateral ties between Dhaka and New Delhi deteriorated after India’s adoption of a new citizenship law that critics have said favored non-Muslim minorities from Bangladesh (and other neighboring countries of India).
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said that the law—and India’s implementation of a separate National Register of Citizens in the northeastern state of Assam—are “internal mattes” of India, but multiple high-level visits by Bangladeshi officials to India were called off after India’s parliament adopted the law, known as the Citizenship Amendment Act.