Many countries keen to sell weapons to Bangladesh
A number of countries that produce military equipment are keen to sell their products and services to Bangladesh and widen the defence cooperation with it.
The countries, which have sought to install mechanisms or to make the existing instruments operational for providing military supplies to Bangladesh, include the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Italy, Turkey, Belarus and India, among others.
Most of the countries want to export fighter aircraft, both manned and unmanned, short- and medium-range missiles, tanks, cannons and battleships, according to local and foreign diplomatic sources.
There are proposals made to Bangladesh for selling to it fighter planes, including Rafale of France, F-16 of the USA and Eurofighter Typhoon, a fighter jet jointly produced by the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.
‘Discussions are on [with different countries]. Delegations are coming while our people, too, are going abroad to explore new sources for the modernisation of the Bangladesh Armed Forces in line with the Forces Goal 2030,’ foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen, who led the Bangladesh delegation in the recent strategic dialogue with the UK, told New Age on September 15 at his office.
The United Kingdom was the latest country to propose defence supplies to Bangladesh in the fourth strategic dialogue between the two countries in London on September 9.
A defence dialogue has also been planned for later this year in order to create opportunities for broader discussions on bilateral defence and military issues, including deployments, defence supplies and procurement, according to a joint communique on the strategic dialogue released simultaneously from Dhaka and London on September 13.
The UK wants ‘a structured discussion’ on defence issues, said Momen in relation to scopes for the defence dialogue mentioned in the communique.
Countries are getting interested to sell their defence products in view of the increasing purchasing capacity of Bangladesh, he told New Age earlier.
Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies president ANM Muniruzzaman said, ‘Defence purchases by Bangladesh have increased recently while the country is keen to diversify its sources of weapons to raise the capabilities of its armed forces.’
Many countries are keen to increase trade to reduce trade gaps with Bangladesh and selling expensive defence equipment is a good way for them, he said.
Bangladesh procures almost all of its medium-sized and heavy war equipment from foreign countries, said Muniruzzaman, a retired major general of the Bangladesh Army, adding that once China was a major source of conventional weapons and Russia of fighter planes.
There was a move to buy defence equipment from Pakistan, too, in the past, but Pakistan is no more on the list, he said.
According to Muniruzzaman, it is important for Bangladesh to drastically increase the capacity of its armed forces for securing its borders, both land and maritime, and the airspace in line with the Forces Goal 2030.
Holding defence dialogues with the militaries of powerful countries is important for Bangladesh as security issues are becoming multidimensional with the inclusion of containing terrorism as well as violent extremism in the agenda, he added.
French defence minister Florence Parly and Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu expressed their intents to sell military equipment to Bangladesh during their visits to the country in March 2020 and December 2020 respectively.
France proposed selling Rafale, a twin-jet fighter aircraft, and unmanned combat air vehicles, among other military hardware.
Turkey expressed its intent to engage with Bangladesh in joint production and technology transfer in the areas of defence and other science-based sectors.
Italy, too, expressed its wish to sell to Bangladesh fighter jets, jointly produced with the UK, Germany and Spain, and frigates in February 2020.
The United States expressed its desire to export various military hardware, including Apache helicopters, to Bangladesh, according to US diplomats in Dhaka.
The US authorities are in negotiations with their Bangladesh counterparts on signing Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement and General Security of Military Information Agreement to facilitate transfer of advanced defence materials to Bangladesh.
The US expressed the need for signing the agreements as the two countries are considering taking the already established defence cooperation to a higher level.
India signed a memorandum of understanding with Bangladesh in 2017 opening a $500 million line of credit for it to buy defence goods from India.
India, during the visit of prime minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh in March 2021, requested it for an early operationalisation of the defence credit, according to the joint statement released on March 27.
China and Russia have been the largest defence hardware suppliers for Bangladesh for several decades.
The Forces Goal 2030, which was launched in 2009 and was revised in 2017, is a military modernisation programme of the Bangladesh Armed Forces.
The programme has been designed to boost the capabilities of the three forces of Bangladesh — the army, the navy and the air force.
With $4.6 billion spent on its armed forces in 2020, Bangladesh ranked 11th in military spending among the top 15 nations in the Asia and Oceania region in the year, according to an announcement of the Sweden-based Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in March 2021.
China, spending $262 billion in 2020, was on the top of the list, followed by India that spent $72.9 billion, Japan $49.1 billion, South Korea $45.7 billion, Australia $27.5 billion, Taiwan $12.2 billion, Singapore $10.9 billion, Pakistan $10.4 billion, Indonesia $9.4 billion, Thailand $7.3 billion, Malaysia $3.8 billion and Myanmar $2.4 billion, according to the SIPRI ranking.
Bangladesh was the 45th country in the Global Firepower Index 2020, a ranking in terms of the total available active military human resources of a country, while Myanmar is in the 38th position, Malaysia 44th and Philippines 48th.
Bangladesh commanded a foreign exchange reserve of $48 billion until August 2021, according to Bangladesh Bank data.