Dhaka to talk frigate purchase with BeijingShakhawat Hossain
The government has formed a committee to negotiate with a Chinese team on purchase of two frigates to enhance Bangladesh’s naval strength in the resourceful Bay of Bengal, officials said.
Commodore Khandokar Tawfiquzzaman of Bangladesh Navy is heading the 10-member local negotiating committee and commander Kazi Mehdi Masud will act as its member- secretary.
Other members of the committee are: captain M Ziauddin Alamgir, captain M Jahangir Alam and commander SM Riazul Rasdid of the navy, commander Sayeed Mahmud Hasan of the armed forced division and one member each from the ministries of finance, defence and law and senior finance controller of the navy.
Officials said the Chinese delegation of PLA navy is scheduled to visit Bangladesh in the current month and will stay here until the middle of June.
The delegation will also include officials of Bometec, a leading Chinese electric company, and Poly Tech, a subsidiary of China Poly Group Corporation manufacturing defence equipment.
Both the sides will work out details of the state-to-state frigate purchase agreement the groundwork of which was laid during the visit of prime minister Sheikh Hasina to China in March 2010.
Beijing had offered two of its old 053H2 frigates at a very lower rate on conditions that Dhaka would bear refurbishment and defence equipment costs for the off-the-shelf ships.
Officials said the armed forced division had planned to utilise budgetary allocations of Tk 6.55 billion to be given for 2012-13 to 2016-17 fiscals for the purchase of the proposed frigates.
China had built the frigates in early 1990s which are capable of carrying eight anti-ship missiles.
At present, Bangladesh Navy has six frigates – BNS Bangabandhu, formerly known as BNS Khalid bin Walid of South Korea, BNS Osman of China and BNS Umar Farooq, BNS Abu Bakar and BNS Ali Haider of the UK.
But half of the frigates will be decommissioned in near future or are in the process of decommissioning.
Officials said commissioning of the 053H2-type frigates would help the navy to bolster coastal patrol in the bay, the dimension of which had changed a lot in the last one decade amid growing interest of India, China and the US in the area.
Bangladesh and its neighbour Myanmar were on the edge of a war in the bay in 2009 over oil and gas exploration by the latter in the disputed areas.
Both the countries had engaged in legal battle over the disputed areas in an international court that gave verdict a couple of a month ago. Besides, Bangladesh is still running a legal battle against another neighbour, India, over maritime boundary in the same international court.
Officials said Myanmar also plans to acquire two old frigates from China. The type- 53H1frigates, built in the 1980s, can carry four anti-ship missiles, they said.
Associated Press reported from New Delhi on February 9, 2012 that India had decided to buy 126 multi-role fighter jets from France, taken delivery of a nuclear-powered submarine from Russia and prepared for its first aircraft carrier in recent weeks to increase its strength in the Bay of Bengal as well as the Indian Ocean.
The US struck a deal called the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement with Sri Lanka in 2007. ACSA, a military cooperation deal, aims at enhancing the rapid deployment capability of the US forces far away from their bases.
Officials said Dhaka is under pressure from Washington to sign a similar military cooperation deal.
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