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B'desh procures defence hardware worth USD 2 bln in recent yrs

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A patrol boat of the Bangladesh Navy. A Navy photo

DHAKA (PTI): Bangladesh has procured defence hardware worth Taka 15,000 crore (USD 2 billion) in the past four-and-half years as part of its initiatives to modernise its armed forces, according to a media report.

The mass circulation Prothom Alo newspaper quoting an unidentified "source" in the defence ministry said on Saturday that the highest Tk 4,975.5 crore was spent for navy followed by Tk 5,407 for army and Tk 4,722 for air force.

The Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) officials said they were not in a position to comment on the report immediately when approached by PTI.

But the Alo newspaper said the ISPR earlier declined to divulge details about the defence purchases as the issue was related to "national security".

It said under the procurement during the Awami League government, navy got 16 ships, two maritime helicopters and missiles; the army 2600 armoured vehicles, 44 third generation tanks and 15 APCs; the air force received short range air defence systems and 16 fourth generation fighter planes.

It said the procurements were made under several defence agreements with different countries but most of those were never revealed to public with one such being a defence pact between Bangladesh and Belarus in July this year when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited the country.

Hasina, however, on many occasions said her government procured huge volume of hardware for the defence forces to face natural disasters alongside the external attacks.

But the Berlin-based Transparency International in January this year said Bangladesh was exposed to risks of corruption in defence sectors as the issues of national security were never discussed in parliament.

"No information related to defence purchases is disclosed to the people, there are lacks of transparency in this regard," it said.

Bangladesh, however, this year made public its biggest ever single defence deal with Russia under which Moscow is to provide weapons worth USD 1 billion under a loan agreement.

"We will also give training to the highly qualified military staffs," Russian President Vladimir Putin said at that time while Hasina visited Moscow.

Bangladesh is to procure jets, helicopters, armoured vehicles, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers and radar equipment under a package in line with the deal.

But several defence analysts said the procurements were unlikely to help Bangladesh design its defence mechanisms including disaster management systems due to lack of a precise defence policy.

The Dhaka-Moscow defence deal also appeared to be a diplomatic shift as Russia is not a traditional source of weapon, unlike China while the western countries are the source of its relatively sophisticated defence hardware.

But the army defended the procurements saying the United Nations had suggested Bangladesh to procure modern weapons for its blue helmet missions in troubled regions.

Bangladesh is the highest troops sending country to UN peacekeeping missions mostly in Africa.

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