By Mizan Rahman
China was the biggest supplier of arms to Bangladesh from 2009 to 2013, with the country accounting for 82% of the total arms imported by Bangladesh during the period.
“China was also a major supplier in the region, accounting for 54% of total Pakistani arms imports,” according to a press release issued by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
The Swedish think-tank reported that China exported arms to 35 countries and of those, Bangladesh was the second biggest importer. It also reported that Bangladesh last year agreed on procurement of its first two submarines from China.
Former major general and security analyst Abdur Rashid said that China had been the major arms supplier to Bangladesh for a long time. “Most of the arms are used by the armed forces while some aircraft were also purchased from China,” he added.
Asked why Bangladesh purchased mostly from China, Rashid pointed out two key reasons: lucrative financial arrangements and lower cost of arms.
“Bangladesh doesn’t have adequate budget to procure arms from the wider global market,” he said.
Bangladesh can buy arms from China on credit and in some cases, the loans are soft loans, the former army official added. “In 2013, Bangladesh and Russia inked a $1bn defence purchase agreement with an interest rate of 4.5%.”
In a press conference in Dhaka yesterday, Chinese ambassador in Dhaka, Li Jun, said procurement of Chinese submarines by Bangladesh would help bring stability in the region.
China is helping Bangladesh to strengthen its national defence mechanism in accordance with Bangladesh’s defence strategy and this kind of co-operation would make its own contribution to ensure stability in the region, he
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh navy would get two submarines by 2015 and the process of construction of a submarine base was underway. On that day, two new frigates – Abu Bakar and Ali Haider – procured from China were commissioned.
According to IHS Jane’s, Bangladesh was the second biggest importer of Chinese arms, spending over $350mn in 2012.
SIPRI data shows Bangladesh procured anti-ship missiles, tanks, fighter aircrafts and other arms from China between 2008 and 2012.