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BD boosting its military might

Purchase deals with Russia, China and Belarus signed

By STAFF REPORTER
05th-Feb-2014       
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Bangladesh ordered 24 fighter jets worth $800 million from Russia in the fourth quarter of 2013, part of an effort to modernize the Bangladesh Air Force and increase preparedness for possible violent spillovers from neighboring Myanmar, reported Monitor Global outlook.      
Bangladesh is steadily increasing its arms purchases, signing deals to spend more than $1 billion in military hardware last year, security analysts tell Monitor Global Outlook.
Bangladesh's effort to modernize the military means good business for Russia and other regional arms manufacturers, and raises the risk of government corruption, a key concern for foreign donors.
"There has been a sharp spike in defense purchases in Bangladesh," says retired Major General ANM Muniruzzaman, President of the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies. The opaque nature of the government's defense deals and a lack of clear and transparent procedures for weapons procurement could lead to corruption scandals, he noted.
Sheikh Hasina's Awami League government ordered 24 fighter jets worth $800 million from Russia during the final quarter of 2013, a Russian newspaper reported last week. The order is part of a broader $1 billion defense deal Bangladesh signed with Moscow last January. Under the arrangement, Bangladesh will buy the jets with a Russian loan to be paid back over 10 years at a 4.5 percent interest rate. Bangladesh has also signed several defense deals with Belarus and China to procure submarines, self-propelled artillery guns, missiles, frigates, helicopters, and anti-tank missiles.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's military expenditure database, Bangladesh's military spending has risen consistently over the past five years, up to $1.5 billion in 2012 from $1 billion in 2008.
Part of the reason for the buying spree, experts tell MGO, is a security concern about possible violent spillovers from neighboring Myanmar. A military junta gave way to a quasi-civilian government in Myanmar three years ago, but the country's military still plays a major role in politics, and battles with various ethnic groups on its borders continue.
According to local reports, Myanmar set up four army camps on January 11, only 300 yards from the border with Bangladesh, in violation of a 1980 Bangladesh-Myanmar border agreement.
In 2008, Myanmar deployed two warships inside Bangladesh's maritime territory to guard its four other ships exploring oil and gas in the area, also violating international rules. "The kind of military structure that Myanmar has is one that can resort to very unpredictable behavior," says Mohammad Shahiduzzaman, a security analyst and a Professor of International Relations, Dhaka University.
The Myanmar military's attacks on the Muslim Rohingya minority had forced 200,000 to 500,000 refugees to cross the border into Bangladesh since early1990s according to unofficial estimates. Government sources put the number of Rohingya refugees at 30,000, staying in the Kutupalong and Nayapara camps in Cox's Bazar of Bangladesh.
The Myanmar army recently warned Bangladesh's Border Guard that it had set up military camps and hidden land mines around the border to prevent attacks from the Bangladesh-based Rohingya Solidarity Organization.

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