‘Arms purchase to help peace mission role’

Dhaka – The US$ 1 billion deal on arms purchase against state credit from the Russian Federation was to ensure, among other things, the participation of the country’s armed forces in the United Nations peacekeeping missions, said military spokesmen on Monday.
Besides, the implementation of the “Forces Goal 2030” to modernise and improve the capacity of the armed forces, the pressure from the UN to send more troops and equipments in the peacekeeping missions was a key factor driving the massive deal on procurement of arms from Russia, said Lt Gen Abu Belal M Shafiul Haque, Principal Staff Officer (PS0) of the Armed Forces Division.
“We’re prioritising the issue that our equipments are very outdated compared to the current demands of the UN,” he said while responding to queries at a press briefing at the Falcon Hall of the Air Force Officers’ Mess in the city.
The PSO noted that the UN Under-Secretary General for the Department of Field Support Ameerah Haq during her recent visit to Bangladesh has also pointed out some operational changes in the UN peacekeeping missions that is going to take place very soon, and will require modern equipments.
The UN peacekeeping troops are nowadays confronting guerilla forces equipped with modern arms, he said, adding that on the contrary, the troops sent by the country are using decade-old arms.
“Notably, Bangladesh Army is required to have a standby Mechanised Brigade under the Standby Arrangement System of the UN peacekeeping mission. The factor was also considered during the planning of the loan (state export credit from Russia),” Gen Shafiul said.
Assistant Air Chief Air Vice Marshal Abu Esrar said several helicopters of Bangladesh Air Force are currently being deployed in Congo and Ivory Coast, but the UN has been creating pressure as to why the helicopters are not deployed in other regions.
Earlier, reading out a written statement, PSO Shafiul said the recent arms purchase agreement on state credit was also made in light of a previous agreement on military cooperation with Russia, signed in 1999.
He said opinions of different ministries involved were also taken into account before finalizing the deal. “Whatever is purchased under this agreement, signing of separate contracts for each and every separate purchase, with the mentioning of number, value and other details, will be required.”
The interest rate of the state to Russian state loan is 4.5 percent, the PSO said, noting that the country paid higher interest rates in similar contracts made with other countries in the past.
The loan will be used to buy the military hardware from 2013 to 2017, while the payment will be made in 20 installments over a period of 10 years starting from April 15, 2018, he informed.
Asked why the agreement was not discussed in the cabinet meeting or in a parliamentary session, Gen Shafiul said: “The procurement was made in a transparent way in line with the procedures in effect in Bangladesh.”
Master General of Ordinance Maj Gen Abdul Matin supplemented the PSO by saying that confidentiality of some information was maintained on security grounds as arms procurement between countries is a sensitive issue.
The agreement involved the sharing of some confidential information from both sides, he said.
Bangladesh Army will procure anti-tank missile, armored personal carrier, pontoon bridge, while Bangladesh Air Force will procure combat trainer air craft, military helicopter and other military hardware under the state export loan from Russia, said officials in the briefing.
The loan will be paid using the budgetary allocation for military expenditure, they added.
(Source: United News of Bangladesh)

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