Locklear Encourages Closer U.S.-Bangladesh Military Ties
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2012 Praising Bangladesh as a global model in both peacekeeping and disaster management, Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told Bangladeshi leaders and reporters yesterday he welcomes more opportunities for the United States and Bangladesh to work together to support their mutual security interests.
Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, is escorted by Bangladeshi military personnel during a troop-review ceremony in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Oct. 10, 2012. Military-to-military relations between the United States and Bangladesh underlined Locklear's visit to Bangladesh. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Carl N. Hudson
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Locklear visited Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital city, where he met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Army Chief Gen. Iqbal Karim Bhuiyan and Navy Chief Vice Adm. Zahir Uddin Ahmed.
The United States, Bangladesh and other regional neighbors all stand to benefit from a strong U.S.-Bangladeshi military-to-military relationship, Locklear told reporters following the meetings.
“As I look across this part of the world, having a prosperous, secure and safe Bangladesh is a cornerstone to the future security of this part of the world,” he said.
Locklear recognized strides Bangladesh -- the world’s seventh-most-populated country -- has made as it learns to prosper in a challenging geographic environment.
With a long history of devastating natural disasters, Bangladesh has made tremendous strides in managing their effects, the admiral said. “I think it is a model for others to follow,” he said, expressing hope that the United States and Bangladesh can “learn from each other and strengthen our cooperation in some of these key areas.”
In addition, Bangladesh has become “the world standard for peacekeeping operations,” Locklear said. “And there is a lot that other nations can learn from what your forces do globally in support of U.N.-sanctioned peacekeeping operations,” he added.
Bangladesh also recently built and launched its first ship, “quite an accomplishment” toward building a maritime force, he said.
Locklear congratulated both Bangladesh and Burma for taking their dispute over territorial seas, exclusive economic zones and continental shelves in the Bay of Bengal to the international law of the sea tribunal. The tribunal handed down its judgment in March.
Calling this “an excellent model” for other nations around the world, Locklear said the tribunals offer a way to deal with contested maritime areas in the South China Sea, East China Sea and elsewhere around the world.
Asked by a reporter, Locklear said any support from the United States to help Bangladesh defend its waters as defined by the tribunal would be at the request of the Bangladeshi government.
“And we will help in ways that would improve their capacity to be able to monitor what is going on in their maritime areas and to respond when their maritime interests are at stake,” he said.
Assigning “a very good grade” to the military-to-military relationship between the United States and Bangladesh, Locklear said he would like to build on it to become stronger partners in ensuring a positive security environment.
He cited the biannual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, or CARAT, exercise series, in which the two militaries train together to increase interoperability. This year’s exercise included the navies of the United States and Bangladesh, as well as Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and, for the first time, Timor Leste.
In another measure under discussion, but not yet concrete, the United States could transfer a retired U.S. Coast Guard cutter to the Bangladeshi navy.
Locklear and the Bangladeshi military leaders discussed these and other issues, agreeing to annual general-officer-level meetings to assess progress and chart the way forward for the military-to-military relationship.
While hoping to lock in key events such as exercises and senior-level visits as part of a five-year plan, Locklear said, he hopes to foster “a pretty free-flowing, living relationship like you would expect from any other partner.”
The United States has no problem with Bangladesh advancing relationships with other regional nations, particularly China, Locklear said in answer to a reporter’s question.
“In the end, we should have a security environment where everyone participates … in their own interest, but also in the collective interest of everyone else,” he said.
He emphasized that the U.S. rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region is not designed to “contain” China, as some have argued. “It is a strategy of looking at how do we ensure peace and prosperity and enhance a security environment for the decades, for the years to come in this part of the world where the United States, like China, like Bangladesh, like India have shared interests,” he explained.
“There are too many problems facing the world today for everyone to line up and take sides,” Locklear said. “We have to be able to be productive together and to create an environment that is better for our children and for their grandchildren. We have to be positioned with our military and our capabilities across all our nations, to be able to deal with massive humanitarian disasters that we know will come again. We have to ensure that the maritime, the cyber, the global commons are secure and safe, so that everyone can have access to them and so economies can grow.
“So the expectation would be that if Bangladesh chooses to have multiple relationships, it would be healthy for the security environment,” Locklear said.