DHAKA (Agencies): Bangladesh is set to become the second country to benefit from Japan’s defense aid program, securing naval patrol boats to counterbalance China’s expanding influence in the region. The move signals a strategic shift as Bangladesh looks to diversify its sources of military equipment and reduce dependence on China.

The $3.82 million deal, finalized on November 15, marks a significant step in Japan’s efforts to strengthen the capabilities of regional partners in the face of China’s growing military presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Japan’s new defense aid program, initiated in April, is part of its National Security Strategy and aims to complement economic development assistance with security support.

The Philippines was the first recipient of Japan’s defense aid, receiving a $3.99 million grant earlier this month for maritime surveillance radars to enhance coastal security. This move drew criticism from Chinese defense commentators.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry provided limited details about the naval patrol boats, stating that they are intended to enhance the Bangladesh Navy’s “monitoring, surveillance, and disaster relief capabilities” in the Bay of Bengal. The ministry emphasized the strategic importance of the Bay of Bengal as a crucial sea lane for Japan.

This development reflects the broader concerns of the US-led Western alliance regarding China’s naval activities in the IOR. China’s increasing presence, including the expansion of the Ream Naval Base in Cambodia, has raised alarms, prompting regional partners to seek support from other nations to bolster their maritime capabilities.

Japan’s assistance to Bangladesh aligns with its commitment to regional security and stability, as it seeks to counterbalance China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

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