Defence cooperation: Bangladesh boosts arms purchases from Turkey
Bangladesh has significantly increased its arms purchases from Turkey over the past five years, fostering a closer defence partnership with the Eurasian nation.
There are 15 types of modern weaponry, including the Bayraktar TB2 drone, among the procurements during the period.
Diplomatic sources from both Dhaka and Ankara have confirmed the information, saying that bilateral defence cooperation and arms trade have reached an unprecedented feat throughout the last several years since 2018, and the trend may continue in the coming days.
Recognising the strong defence cooperation, Turkey has expressed its interest in strategic cooperation and has already offered Bangladesh a draft comprehensive framework agreement.
A number of senior diplomats, seeking anonymity, told Prothom Alo that there will be a meaningful transition to a strategic partnership if the proposed defence cooperation framework is signed. It will solidify defence ties between Bangladesh and Turkey.
Bangladesh now maintains formal strategic partnerships with India, China, and Japan, although that with India is considered more than strategic ties.
The Turkish leadership is now considering Bangladesh with special importance. We hope the relationship will soon graduate to a strategic partnership.Bangladesh ambassador to Turkey M Amanul Haque
A diplomatic source from Turkey has said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina attended a meeting of Bangladesh envoys stationed in the Middle East during her visit to Qatar in May this year. Speaking on the occasion, she laid emphasis on the strategic transition of bilateral relations with Turkey, considering the balanced position of Bangladesh amidst the changing dynamics of the Arab world and the Middle East.
Later, the prime minister sent a congratulatory message to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and expressed optimism about a brighter future for bilateral ties.
“Under your robust leadership, the existing bilateral relations will not only reach a new height but also head towards a strategic partnership,” she wrote in her congratulatory message to the Turkish president.
Bangladesh signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Turkey's state-run arms manufacturer Rocketsun in June 2021. Rocketsun is known for producing arms in compliance with NATO standards.
In this regard, the Bangladesh ambassador to Turkey, M Amanul Haque, told Prothom Alo that bilateral cooperation continued to increase on different crucial grounds, including trade, investment, defence, disaster management, and the Rohingya crisis. The Turkish leadership is now considering Bangladesh with special importance. “We hope the relationship will soon graduate to a strategic partnership.”
Emphasis on Defence
The Bayraktar TB2 drone has proved its effectiveness in modern warfare, particularly in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Last year, the Bangladesh Armed Forces signed an agreement with Turkish manufacturer Baykar Technology to procure the advanced drone.
Former Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu first brought the issue of drone procurement to limelight. During an official trip to Bangladesh in December 2020, he formally told the media about his country’s interest in selling arms to Bangladesh, following a meeting with his Bangladesh counterpart AK Abdul Momen.
In further development, Bangladesh signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Turkey's state-run arms manufacturer Rocketsun in June 2021. Rocketsun is known for producing arms in compliance with NATO standards.
Purchases in the Last Five Years
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Bangladesh has procured a diverse range of defence equipment from Turkey in the last five years, including Cobra armored personnel carriers, short-range missiles, mine protected vehicles, armored vehicles, and multi-dimensional rocket defence systems.
An agreement has already been signed to sell automatic guided artillery shells to Bangladesh. Besides, Turkey is interested in selling military helicopters and tanks.
The Eurasian country provided technological support to the Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory (BMTF) to manufacture shells and proposed to hand over technologies to manufacture patrol boats for the Bangladesh Navy and Coast Guard.
The arms produced in Turkey are of good quality and affordable in price. It manufactures firearms like drones and missiles using their technologies, and may benefit Bangladesh through technology transfers.Brig Gen (retd) Shakhawat Hossain
In 2018, Bangladesh procured a significant amount of weaponry from Turkey, including ground surveillance radar, different types of armored vehicles, and a portable jammer. The procurements of the following years include offshore crane, armored vehicle, ambulance, missile launching system, Oerlikon Skyguard radar system, and other arms.
In addition to arms purchases, at least 3,000 defence officers have received specialised training in Turkey as part of defence cooperation. This year, seven teams of the Special Security Force, Bangladesh Police, and Ansar received specialised training in Turkey between March and December.
Brig Gen (Retd) M Sakhawat Hossain, a security analyst and senior fellow at the South Asia Institute of Policy and Governance at North South University, said Turkey is a good alternative if the authorities want to diversify their arms collection to implement the Bangladesh Armed Forces Goal 2030.
He further said the arms produced in Turkey are of good quality and affordable in price. It manufactures firearms like drones and missiles using their technologies, and may benefit Bangladesh through technology transfers.