China’s defense minister Chang Wanquan and Bangladeshi chief of army staff Abu Belal Muhammad Shafiul Huq pledged to deepen their military cooperation during a meeting in Beijing on Thursday. The deputy chief of general staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Wang Jianping also attended the meeting. Praising the 40-year long bilateral ties between the two countries, Chang called on the two militaries to implement the agreements reached by leaders of the two countries, reports Xinhua news agency.

China, Bangladesh Vow To Strengthen Defense Ties

China largest supplier of arms to Bangladesh

China is the largest supplier of military equipment to Bangladesh. Over the last five years, Dhaka has purchased 16 fighter jets, 44 tanks, two corvettes, five maritime patrol vessels, and missiles, reports The Diplomat citing the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Chang said the PLA was willing to work with Bangladeshi army to bolster strategic communication and pragmatic cooperation.

Abu Belal Muhammad Shafiul Huq said his army was willing to enhance cooperation with the PLA in personnel training and peacekeeping. China and Bangladesh are among the top ten contributors of troops to UN peacekeeping missions. In 2013, Bangladesh signed a deal to buy two Ming-class submarines from China for $203 million. The submarines are expected to be delivered by 2020.

China has economic and military interests in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is also an important part of Beijing’s ambitious “One Belt, One Road” initiative. Chinese President Xi Jinping has proposed to build Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar corridor. Beijing has played a key role in the development of Chittagong port in Bangladesh, which experts think is part of China’s efforts to contain India.

The Chinese are also building ports in Sri Lanka and Pakistan to encircle India, which is moving closer to Japan and the US, as part of the “string of pearls” strategy. Beijing is selling two submarines to Dhaka, which necessitates building a submarines base in Bangladesh. It may allow Beijing to dock its submarines there. However, Bangladesh signed a deal with India earlier this year to let Indian vessels use Chittagong port build by China, signalling that the port is not part of Beijing’s “string of pearls” strategy.