Bangladesh and Turkey are moving forward with a raft of defence hardware deals that will transform Turkey in to one of the top military equipment suppliers of Bangladesh for the next few decades.
Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr Abdul Momen was sent to Turkey as a special envoy of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to inaugurate the newly built Bangladesh Embassy complex in Turkey on 14 September.
Turkey is also set to complete its new embassy complex in Bangladesh very soon.
Normally embassies are not inaugurated by such high officials however the presence of both nation’s foreign ministers signifies the importance placed in the bilateral relations currently.
Among all the critical aspects discussed Defence was the second most important item on the agenda of the Foreign Ministers.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina supported the leadership of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when coup plotters tried to oust him. In return Turkey backed Bangladesh strongly during the Rohingya influx crisis.
The Turkish President is scheduled to visit Bangladesh later this year to further cement the strong bilateral relations.
The two countries established official diplomatic relations in 1974 and thereafter in 1981 Bangladesh and Turkey signed a military agreement on technical assistance, training and equipment.
At that time the Bangladesh government also invited Turkey to establish an airbase in Bangladesh.
The growing ties between the two Muslim-majority nations are rooted in history with Bangladeshi Muslims tracing back their linage to the Turkic General Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khalji, who conquered Bengal and Bihar and is credited with spreading Islam in the region.
Defence cooperation and trade
Now according to Bangladesh defence officials the Bangladesh Armed Forces are interested in purchasing Turkish military equipment because it maintains NATO standards making it easy to induct and train with and moreover it is cost effective.
Last year the Bangladesh Army awarded a major contract to Roketsan for TRG-300 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (also known as the TRG-300 Tiger Missile).
Currently the Bangladesh Army is interested to purchase the T129 ATAK helicopter, Kaplan MT light tank, Otokar Cobra II Light Assault Vehicle (Ambulance variant), 120 mm mortar (towed and self-propelled mortar variants), Dearsan-designed Large Petrol Craft (LPC), Dearsan Submarine Search and Rescue Vessel, artillery ammunition line and DMR radio communications sets according to the Bangladesh Defence Attaché in Turkey.
Turkish social media reported Bangladesh agreed to purchase several new equipment from Turkish defence companies including the Kaya II MRAP from Otokar, Khan GMLRS (Type A), SMASH 30mm remote weapons turret and ATMACA anti-ship missiles for Bangladesh Navy warships.
Moreover the Bangladesh Army is also purchasing Hisar-O MRSAM to provide effective air defence against aircraft, UAVs and standoff missiles.
The Bangladesh Air Force will purchase Hurkus primary training aircraft as well from the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI).
Other smaller equipment such as unmanned aerial vehicles, electronic warfare equipment, surveillance equipment and customised simulators are also being purchased.
So far the Bangladesh Army operates hundreds of Otokar-built armoured personnel carriers, various logistical trucks, EOD robots, other EOD equipment, radio communications equipment and simulators from Turkey.
Other armed services of Bangladesh as well as the paramilitary forces use some Turkish-origin weapons and equipment also.