Bangladesh: $1b Arms Deal with Russia
All rules followed. Army tells press, insists highest level of transparency ensured
Top military officials yesterday claimed that the just concluded defence purchase deal with Russia on state credit of $1 billion was done by following all existing rules and procedures of the country as well as maintaining the highest level of transparency.
“The equipment to be purchased are highly essential for enhancing capability of the armed forces. The interest rate of the loan is 4.5 percent and will be paid in 20 instalments in next 15 years,” said Principal Staff Officer (PSO) of the Armed Forces Division Lt Gen Abu Belal Md Shafiul Haq.
Addressing a rare press conference at the Air Force's Falcon Auditorium, he said military equipment like tank destroyer missile, armoured personnel carrier, mechanised pontoon bridge for the army and combat trainer aircraft and military helicopter will be purchased under the loan agreement signed on January 15 during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to Russia.
Abu Belal, however, declined to mention the volume and size of the equipment, saying, “We need to maintain some secrecy and confidentiality because these are part of every defence purchase agreement.”
The PSO said conditions of the agreement are highly flexible and Bangladesh side negotiated the deal for over a couple of years and succeeded in bringing down the interest rate from 9 percent to 4.5 percent, which is comparatively very low. The deal did not come overnight and it is part of prolong discussions and negotiations.
“There are instances that the defence purchases were done on less than 4.5 percent and above 4.5 percent interest rates in previous years,” he said. The loan money will be paid from the annual defence budget and also from the reimbursement money being paid for UN peacekeeping missions.
Belal said a joint committee comprising officials of the finance, defence, foreign and commerce ministries and other government bodies concerned were fully involved in finalising the agreement, interest rate and other procedures.
“The deal is a government-to-government [one] and there is no via media or agent, so there is no chance of raising any question regarding the transparency and accountability of the purchase,” he told a questioner.
Under the agreement, he said “We can add or deduct any weapon and equipment with the consent of both the countries. The agreement requires signing of a separate contract on every purchase and there will be clearly mentioned name of equipment, volume and other facts and figures.
“We will purchase the arms and equipment within 2017 and first instalment will be paid on April 15, 2018, so the payment will be completed by 2028.”
Asked about the necessity of such a huge purchase, Belal said, “Our each and every purchase is essential for increasing capability of the armed forces and also for using those in UN Peacekeeping missions.”
When asked why navy equipment are not included in the deal, he said the equipment to be purchased from Russia, especially for the air force, will also be used for guarding our maritime boundary.
Moreover, he said a huge purchase was done for enhanching capability of the navy in the last four years, including several warships and necessary equipment from UK, China and a frigate is being collected from US.
He mentioned that the defence purchase from Russia is not at all new as Bangladesh received 8 Mig-21 fighter aircraft from Russia in 1972. After that, Bangladesh purchased MI-8 helicopter, MIG-29 fighter and MI-171 helicopter to strengthen the air force.
“The new defence purchase deal is done under the 1999 defence cooperation agreement between the two countries,” he said. “We are not buying only from Russia, rather, we have been purchasing from different friendly countries."
In this context, Belal said Bangladesh recently purchased 4th generation tank MBT 2000, fighter aircraft and warships from China, and some other purchases are still in process.
Assistant Air Chief Air Vice Marshal Abu Esrar, who also spoke at the press briefing, later told The Daily Star that Bangladesh ordered purchase of 16 F-7BGI war aircraft from China, and four of them already arrived and another four will come in March. The remaining eight will also come in phases.
Master General of Ordnance Major Gen Abdul Matin said at the briefing nowadays Bangladesh is not only purchasing defence equipment from abroad, it is also producing huge arms and ammunition to meet its demands.
He mentioned that Bangladesh is manufacturing 12,000 rifles annually, grenade, cannon shell and ammunition. “Our ammunition factory has the capacity to produce 60 million pieces of ammunition per year," he added.
Source: Bangladesh Agencies News - 22 January 2013
Photo: The Bangladesh Air Force has F-7BGI Fighter Aircraft. New F-7BGI of Bangladesh AF - sixteen examples will be delivered as a stop-gap until new generation fighters (JF-17?) appear. These are arguably the most advanced F-7s ever built (J-7G2 airframe, glass cockpit, HOTAS, GPS guided PGMs, improved KLJ-6F radar with 85+km range and 2 target simultaneous tracking, WP-14C Kunlun III engine with 82 kN thrust) (Photo by files)