The Bangladesh Armed Forces sent a procurement list to India to utilise the $500 million defence Line of Credit (LoC) credit package offered by New Delhi as a request to Dhaka on an unsolicited basis.
The package is intended to supply Indian-made military hardware to the Bangladesh Armed Forces for the first time as India hopes to penetrate the defence market of Bangladesh.
This significant development is an attempt by New Delhi to compete with China by showing itself as a strategic partner of Bangladesh. Unlike, China though India is not regarded as a strategic partner of Bangladesh and has several outstanding territorial and water resource-sharing disputes with Bangladesh.
India has a vast defence industrial capability, though much less sophisticated than China, Turkey, or Europe in measure. However, they are interested to find export success in Bangladesh, which is expanding its military capabilities in line with the ‘Forces Goal 2030’ modernsiation blueprint. Indian defence companies hope to bring validity to their defence products by selling them to larger military forces such as Bangladesh instead of being known for exporting to smaller countries such as Nepal or Sri Lanka.
Procurement list sent by the Bangladesh Armed Forces:
- 5 x BLT-72 Armoured Bridge Layer Tanks 5 – $10 m
- 7 x Portable Steel Bailey Bridges – $2.2 m
- 11 x Tata MPV MRAP – $2.2 m
- Mahindra XUV500 Hard Top 4×4 GS Car – $2.35 m
- Armoured Engineer Reconnaissance Vehicle (AERV)
- Bulletproof Helmets
- Fleet oil tanker
- Logistics ship
- Ocean tug boat
- Floating dock
Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory
- Automobile assembling plant unit by Shapoorji Pallonji and Company Private Limited
Bangladesh Ordnance Factory
- Ammunition plant
- Explosives plant
- Raw materials
On the other hand the Indian government has offered to sell mortars, artillery guns, rockets, missiles, combat electronics, engineering equipment, support vehicles, helicopters, and ships.
In May 2018, the Khulna Shipyard signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Garden Reach Ship Builders of Kolkata for technical cooperation in designing and constructing warships. No further developments
Questions have been raised about the quality of Indian-made defence equipment. Given India’s history with neighbouring countries, analysts opine it would be unwise to procure any military hardware or technologies from India as it would create several new security challenges for Bangladesh in the future including reliance on India for spare parts. It would also involve Indian defence personnel accessing Bangladesh’s military bases, which is undesirable from a security point of view.
Analysts understand the procurement to be a politically expedient decision to appease New Delhi instead of actually serving to enhance Bangladesh’s overall defence preparedness. This comes as India has an established track record of supplying Myanmar with submarines, naval electronics and weapons, aircraft, tanks, and artillery systems.
In recent times India gifted the Bangladesh Army a regiment of refurbished 120mm rifled mortars from its own holdings. Again this was an unsolicited transfer of arms that won’t be useful to meet the Bangladesh Army’s requirements.
However, some other analysts in Bangladesh believe there is no concern for alarm as Dhaka has tried to minimise India’s influence without directly antagonising the large neighbour. Since the defence LoC was offered by India, the Bangladesh government tried to avoid purchasing any major equipment from Indian manufacturers. The Army had procured some 218 Tata Hexa SUVs that are being used as GS cars, rather than for combat purposes.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh’s armed forces continue to purchase the vast majority of their military equipment from China, Turkey, Europe, and the US.