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Dhaka Tribune

More countries seek defence deals with Bangladesh

  • 'Securing maritime space is area of concern'
  • Most of purchases made from Turkey
  • 19 defence MoUs with 10 countries since 1971
Update : 18 Apr 2024, 09:31 PM

Global as well as regional powers are seeking more defense engagements with Bangladesh now than before.

Data shows that 27 defence-related Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) remained pending with 10 countries, including India, China, Russia, and the US.

However, Bangladesh has signed only 19 defence MoUs with 10 countries since its birth in 1971.

“This gives an idea that global and regional powers want to have some sort of defence cooperation with Bangladesh,” Research Fellow of the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) ASM Tarek Hassan Semul said on Thursday while addressing a seminar on defence diplomacy in Bangladesh.

The BIISS organized the seminar with Chief of Army Staff of Bangladesh Army General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed as the chief guest.

Tarek Hassan Semul said that since independence, Bangladesh has signed five MoUs with India and three with Turkey. Besides, there are two each with France, Qatar, and Russia, and one each with China, Japan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom.

Besides, 27 MoUs remained pending with 10 countries. Of them, six are with India, five with Russia, three each with the United States, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, two each with the United Kingdom and China, and one each with Australia, France, and Japan, he said.

Besides, he said that since 2010, military and security dialogue and multilateral exercises have been expanded.

The multilateral training exercise includes Indo-Pacific Endeavour with Australia, Shantir Ogroshena and Sampriti with India, Shimanto Prohori, Shomudro Torongo, Ex Thunder Fist, Bangladesh-US-UK Special Forces joint exercise with the UK, exercise balance Buffalo, Cope South Cooperation, Exercise Tiger Circ, Tiger Lightning training exercise, second joint combined exchange training, disaster response exercise, and Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training with the US.

He said Bangladesh has also diversified its source of defence purchases since 2018.

All the purchases were needed for enhancing defence capabilities, and many of them are pertinent to the UN peacekeeping mission, he said.

Most of the purchases were made from Turkiye. The items include Otokar Kobra II infantry mobility vehicles (IMVs) and mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles, Otokar Kobra I light armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs), RN-94 armoured ambulances, TRG-300 Tiger MLRS, TRG-230 surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs), Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs, the Oerlikon Skyguard radar system, ground surveillance radars, and a portable jammer.

China was the second-largest source after Turkey. Bangladesh bought light tanks, the Surface to Air Missile (SAM) System, frigates, and various types of Chinese missiles and accessories from China.

Besides, Bangladesh bought Air Defence Radar System from France, Primary Trainer aircraft from Germany, Fixed Wing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) from Italy, Automatic Grenade Launcher (AGL) from Singapore, Semi-Automatic Grenade Launcher (SAGL) from South Africa, Fixed Wing Medium Utility Aircraft from Spain, and MK-5 aircraft from the UK.

The BIISS researcher said Bangladesh has managed to develop interest among major regional and global partners with its ‘friendship to all, malice towards none’ policy, but concerns remain.

Those concerns include how to strike a balance between all the major powers, how much strategic autonomy we can get out of this polarisation worldwide, and the fact that there is always the possibility of regional conflict and militarization ongoing in the Indo-Pacific region.

Besides, he said, securing maritime space is also an area of concern since we have oil and gas reserves in the sea and we want to harness the blue economy.

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