The Government of Bangladesh, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Defence Cooperation with France to strengthen the armed forces of Bangladesh.
The MoU was signed in presence of French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, 9th of November during the state visit by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to France.
France’s President discussed geopolitical and security issues in the Indo-Pacific region with Bangladesh’s Prime Minister. “France and Bangladesh shared the same vision for a free, open, peaceful, secure, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, based on international law and with shared prosperity for all,” said a statement on Tuesday from Macron’s office.
Top officials of several French defence companies including Airbus, Dassault Aviation, and Thales have met with Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, who also holds the portfolio for Defence.
The French companies are interested to sell Rafale multi-role combat aircraft, Airbus passenger aircraft, radar systems and combat electronics to the Bangladesh armed forces.
France has sold electronic warfare systems, air traffic control systems, a communications satellite, military vehicles, and combat engineering equipment to the Bangladesh armed forces.
Besides France, countries such as Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom also made significant offers of selling arms and enhancing defence cooperation with Bangladesh in order to fulfill the South Asian nation’s Forces Goal 2030 modernisation and expansion blueprint.
It has been learned these Western European countries are seeking to sell combat aircraft, helicopters, submarines, air defence systems, frigates, and minehunters to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is diversifying its sources of military hardware from a traditional over reliance on Chinese armaments to an inventory that is more in tune with those of NATO-member countries for geopolitical and logistical reasons.
Italy has offered to sell air defence systems, helicopters, minehunters, and Eurofighter Typhoon multi-role combat aircraft through Leonardo and Fincantieri. In February 2020, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina paid an official visit to Rome at the invitation of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. At that time Italy was keen to sign a defense agreement with Bangladesh, however, it did not materialise possibly as Bangladesh wanted to evaluate the offer further.
But the Mediterranean country has successfully established a strong footprint in Bangladesh’s defence sector through the sales of air defence radar systems, sound ranging equipment, communications equipment, military trucks, artillery systems, anti-ship missiles, torpedoes, helicopters, and offshore patrol vessels. It has also sought to sell submarines, frigates, jet trainers, and patrol vessels.
Germany too hasn’t missed a beat, with the sale of advanced maritime patrol aircraft and primary trainers. The country would benefit from the sale of Eurofighter Typhoon to the Bangladesh Air Force and might be a potential source for submarines in the future for the Bangladesh Navy.
Spain on the other hand made relatively modest sales to the Bangladesh Navy, mostly in relation to the combat data link and IFF system. They are now seeking to sell air defence radar systems to the Bangladesh military.
The Netherlands, which has a long history of cooperation with Bangladeshi shipyards through the Damen Group is interested in cooperating with the Bangladesh Navy for warship design and material package supply. Royal HaskoningDHV has signed several agreements with Bangladeshi ports and Chittagong Dry Dock Ltd (CDDL) to design relevant projects with the respective companies.
Prior to visiting France, the Bangladesh Prime Minister visited the United Kingdom and met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The British PM offered warships and Eurofighter Typhoon to the Bangladesh armed forces once again. During this meeting, it was decided Bangladesh would obtain three refurbished and two newly built warships with transfer of technology from the UK. Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister later disclosed the defence acquisitions at a press conference without specifying the type of warships. The Bangladesh Defence Analyst, later on, confirmed the Foreign Minister was referring to Type 23 guided-missile frigates, minehunters, and offshore patrol vessels.
It is believed the Chittagong Dry Dock Ltd (CDDL) will be upgraded by a British company through a G2G agreement. The agreement will assure existing facilities at the shipyard are upgraded and that a new dockyard is built on the premises. The shipyard will also establish dedicated design and testing facilities with the assistance of a foreign partner.
It is understood the CDDL will build six offshore patrol vessels in total with two built simultaneously. The upgrades and expansion of the facilities will allow CDDL to build both OPVs and frigates at the same time.
Bangladesh, now having a nominal GDP exceeding $409 billion has become a focus of Western powers seeking to boost their strategic interests by increasing cooperation with non-traditional partners.