We need to have an understanding of the geo-political, socio-economic, and national security challenges that Bangladesh faces
Defense strategy is a dynamic policy to secure national interest and sovereignty of a nation.
It is common knowledge that regional conflicts and the alliances among nations are continually shifting, enhancing the need for reliable partners to realise the necessity of time.
Strategic defense thinking seeks to understand specific needs of Bangladesh and appreciate the historical background of Bangladeshi origin, and any given conflict scenario facing the decision-makers at the highest level of Bangladeshi government.
Therefore, to fully understand Bangladeshi strategic defense activities, we need to have a detailed understanding of the relevant geo-political, socio-economic, and national security challenges that Bangladesh faces today as a nation-state, or as part of a regional conflict, if ever imposed upon Bangladesh.
The invasion or attacks are defined by disruption and intrusion against Bangladeshi interest by any means of physical, logical, and economic attack, or as part of a cyberspace attack in cyber warfare.
In this article, I am going to present a better version of Bangladeshi strategic defense, national security, and possible threat scenarios and alliances to mitigate the threat scenarios.
Let’s start with the defense doctrine of Bangladesh. As of now, the Bangladeshi defense doctrine is nothing more than a shopping list of Forces Goal 2030.
I am sure about the Forces Goal 2030 — the shopping list does not protect national security nor deter enemies to infiltrate into land, sea, and airspace.
Bangladesh has experienced intrusion by enemy aircraft repeatedly without retribution, other than a few different correspondence memos sent by the Bangladeshi government.
So, what does a strategic defense look like for Bangladesh?
Well, Bangladeshi strategic defense should instigate a military planning or doctrine, a set of rules, the policy of the national defense, combat activities and security alliance with a nation which stands by Bangladesh for deterrence and repelling offences against Bangladeshi land, airspace, cyberspace, and the exclusive economic zone of Bay of Bengal.
Hypothetical combat scenario and exercise
Regarding hypothetical combat scale, the Bangladeshi state should consider multiple war scenarios which may last days or even years. The military planner should create threat scenarios to drill combat capability to match the defense strategy set out by the parliament of Bangladesh and authorised by the commander-in-chief.
The major deterrence factor is the offensive capability of a military, not the defensive ability of the military. Bangladesh military should conduct a series of hypothetical combat scenarios to prepare for any future threat to land, air, sea, and cyberspace.
Political and strategic alliance
A financially constrained nation like Bangladesh should always find an ally that has an interest in the Bangladeshi exclusive economic zone for resources or the navigations of merchant and military ships in the Asia Pacific region. As I said earlier, a nation-state like the US will always have an interest in Bangladeshi exclusive economic zones, regardless of the party in power in Washington, DC.
The Bangladeshi government failed to attract foreign attention regarding direct investment and a willingness to participate in allied conversation which would have benefitted Bangladesh the most. This narrow economic vision and non-political alliance cost Bangladesh dearly in the recent Rohingya crisis.
Bangladesh should have a better economic partnership with China and military alliance with the West. For example, Australia has successfully maintained both an economic relationship with China and a strategic relationship with the West.
Bangladesh relied on China, India, and Russia, nations which only considered Bangladesh a borrower, not an ally. The Chinese view of Bangladesh has never been of an ally to stand beside; instead, it was of a good borrower.
Bangladesh should be more interested in allying with the West for political, economic, and military assistance rather than narrow visions of the line of credit
Since the Japanese involvement in offshore container terminals, the Chinese may have a plan B in order to have another offshore access point to the Bay of Bengal. The Arakan state provided the perfect launch pad for an offshore container terminal and connection to the deep sea port.
If Bangladesh remains silent on political and military alliance, it will cost dearly in the future. So they should find a trustworthy ally in the West.
Bangladesh’s decision to always give defense tenders to China or Russia has only caused severe constraints in military hardware acquisition. The military hardware procurement is also tagged with the UN peacekeeping mission, which is detrimental to the acquisition of strategic assets, because money has been spent on procurement on minor UN missions rather than strategic assets.
European defense contractors and suppliers have always proven reliable for Southeast Asia and Middle Eastern countries. Bangladesh should have followed due protocol and opened the tender for European bidders.
The self-imposed limitations of the armed forces leadership also barred Bangladesh from co-operating with European partners. Since this weakness is public knowledge, China and Russia have exploited the opportunity to the fullest.
Bangladesh military has also been deprived of the strategic acquisition of military hardware to support a defense doctrine. Bangladesh has to explore the opportunity from European and American suppliers, so that Russian and Chinese suppliers compete for an opportunity in Bangladesh.
Open bidding will encourage a level playing field for all suppliers and will benefit Bangladesh the most.
The Bangladesh military faces many challenges right now. The most important challenge is that the government does not provide legislative support to the military to prepare and show the strength of combat readiness.
To resolve the current defense strategy constraint, Bangladesh should consider the following strategies to prepare for future threats:
- Legislation mandating restructure of Bangladesh military to modernise the organisation and operations in Bangladeshi land, airspace, sea, and cyberspace
- Legislation mandating investment in the domestic defense industry, setting up of a foreign defense manufacturer, and allowing export of domestic military hardware
- Legislation mandating alliance with a foreign nation-state to protect national security and to gain strategic military assets
- Legislation to establish a defense and security intelligence agency to collaborate among intelligence agencies home and abroad
- Legislation to establish cyber warfare capability with the military and in the intelligence agency
- Creation of a major defense agency to develop defense doctrine, advise government, organise the military, and implement the new strategic plan
- Join regional-security organisations, APAC and ASEAN, to promote economic and strategic alliance
- Utilise the current supportive political environment in the US and EU
- Advising defense agency work in cohesion with several countries to streamline military procurement processes
- Avoid one-stop shop policy to eliminate dependencies on military supply chain
- Develop littoral area combat capabilities to deter the intrusion by enemy ships
- Detect land and aerial threat and prevent intrusion using strategic assets
The Bangladeshi economy is in better shape than it used to be decades ago. Bangladesh’s geographic location is also attractive.
Bangladesh should be more interested in allying with the West for political, economic, and military assistance rather than narrow visions of the line of credit which benefits the creditor over the debtor.
Raihan Al-Beruni is a contractor and analyst for a global defense and security supplier based in Australia.