Bangladesh turns to Russia for submarines

KOLKATA (TIP): When it became known to India that Bangladesh is on the hunt for two submarines for its navy, there was some consternation. More so when it came to be known that Bangladesh is negotiating with China for the Ming-class submarines. Something that India can do without at the moment is a spurt in military ties between China and Bangladesh. The level of anxiety has come down somewhat in recent times after information was received that Bangladesh is planning to procure the submarines from Russia.

“From reliable sources, we have come to know that Bangladesh is making efforts to move away from the Chinacentric approach where it comes to defence procurement. Nearly half of Bangladesh’s military hardware is sourced from either China or Pakistan. This provided an excuse for Chinese and Pakistani military presence along India’s east coast. Russia is different. India enjoys good relations with Russia and also uses military hardware built there. Better ties between Russia and Bangladesh are encouraging. We don’t believe that Russia will not do anything to harm India’s interests,” a highly placed source in Delhi said. For years now, India has been attempting to keep the ‘dragon’s presence’ away from Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries.

In certain cases, India has even offered products and services at rates that would be convenient for these countries. By the end of this year, India hopes to deliver the ‘Barracuda’, a Naval Offshore Patrol Vessel for the Mauritian Navy. The ‘Barracuda’, being fitted-out at Kolkata’s Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) will be India’s first such export. “This is more of a diplomatic move rather than a financial deal. One can also call this a confidence building measure. Once Mauritius is satisfied with the NOPV, India may get more orders from this region. This is good diplomacy,” the source added.

According to sources in Dhaka, Bangladesh proposes to purchase two diesel-electric submarines from Russia. Plans are also afoot to procure aircraft for the navy. Bangladesh already uses Russian hardware in the form of Mig-29 fighters and military helicopters. In 2013, Russia allegedly offered a $1.5 billion loan to Bangladesh that would be used to purchase military hardware. The Bangladesh government wants the submarines to join its navy by 2019. Bangaldesh air force’s fleet of eight MiG-29s is due for upgradation. So is its fleet of Russian made Mi-17 helicopters. HAL has maintenance facilities in India for both aircraft as they are used by the IAF as well. India has offered to upgrade and maintain the Mig-29s and helicopters at HAL facilities to bolster ties with Bangladesh.

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