The Bangladesh Army for the first time had a break from formulating its training around India as a threat. Its officers recently undertook war games, which did not assume its border with India as the warfront.
Surrounded on three sides, India looms over the mindscape of Bangladesh. Not surprising, therefore, that when Bangladesh military trains, the enemy it keeps in mind is uncannily similar to India.
A war game, a table-top exercise, is an indispensable tool to train senior military officers to evolve and ratify tactics and warfare doctrines. The enemy is not named in a war game. But based on the location of international border and force levels, it’s very clear who the opponent is. With India trying to forge closer defence ties with Bangladesh Army, modifying the war game to make it less India-specific was an important objective.
“If all your doctrines and war postures are aimed at India, it does create a psychological barrier on how the neighbour is viewed,” said a senior government official. Bangladesh military plans for defensive manoeuvre, where the troops fall back to the next line of defence and keep on delaying an invading army.It was naturally a sensitive subject, which requires a change in mindset. During a bilateral visit in 2012, the Indian Army chief had broached the subject to his Bangladeshi counterpart. “We had requested them to mark international boundary for war games inside their borders and change the force levels so that they don’t coincide with that of India’s,” he said.
All the military training institutions in Bangladesh were set up soon after the Independence by officers who had trained with Pakistan Army. “The way the staff college has been conceptualised and structured was obviously influenced by their training,” said the official.
After two years, Defence Services Command and staff college that select officers to be better equipped for higher leadership role, made the changes — the first time since the inception of Bangladesh’s Armed Forces.
The last war game for the training season began on January 23, 2014,and ended in about a week. It is learnt that the ‘enemy’ in the war game did not correspond with Bangladesh’s international boundary (IB) with India. “They delineated the IB inside their territory, though the force levels remained the same,” said the official.
The new Bangladeshi Army Chief, Iqbal Karim Bhuiyan, is one of the first of the next generation leaders to have no “organic links” with Pakistan Army.
The current period is widely seen as the most opportune moment for India to improve ties with an amenable Sheikh Hasina government and the Bangladesh Army. “Frankly, this is a golden period for us,” said another senior official.