Bangladesh Eyes China Arms
Image Credit: US Navy

Bangladesh Eyes China Arms


China has again underlined its strategic influence in what India might once have considered its own backyard, with the announcement of the latest in a string of arms sales to Bangladesh.

Dhaka is procuring 44 Chinese MBT-2000s main battle tanks, Bangladeshi media have reported, for around $162 million. This represents a significant purchase for a country with a 2011 defence budget of $1.6 billion, and it’s the first time that Bangladesh has obtained newly assembled MBTs. The army currently has an inventory of around 200 older Chinese tanks, which have been upgraded with Beijing’s assistance to keep them in service. One of China’s other key regional allies, Pakistan, also operates the MBT-2000.

China isn’t the sole supplier of military equipment to Dhaka, which has also sourced military technology (most of it second hand) from Italy, Russia, South Korea, the UK and the United States in recent years, while announcing the purchase of two new army helicopters from French firm Eurocopter alongside the MBT purchase. But Beijing has established itself as Bangladesh’s go-to ally when it comes to military procurement, and stands to be the main beneficiary as Bangladesh attempts to refurbish its army, navy and air force in spite of budgetary constraints. China has supplied armoured personnel carriers, fighter aircraft and frigates to Bangladesh within the last couple of years.

Dhaka’s limited defence funds mean that arms sales have more strategic than economic value from China’s perspective. Beijing is already bankrolling the construction of a deep-water port at Sonadia, near Cox’s Bazar, where the Bangladeshi government is also constructing an advanced air base to help it protect its offshore interests in the Bay of Bengal. China is working on similar commercial port projects in Burma, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, in what has been widely interpreted as a robust strategic challenge to Indian influence in the South Asian region.

Bangladesh’s growing dependence on Chinese weapon systems could also see the country become the first export customer after Pakistan for the Chinese-built FC-1/JF-17 and FC-20/J-10 fighter aircraft, both of which were built by China with foreign sales in mind. Beijing will be lobbying hard for Dhaka to agree to procure the jets – perhaps even offering loans to make the procurement happen – in order to give its export models some early traction.

The second-hand submarine that Bangladesh is seeking in order to further safeguard its offshore assets is also likely to be sourced from China. Despite an interest in contributing more fully to international peace-keeping missions, the protection of those offshore energy resources in the face of competition from India and Burma is Bangladesh’s prime motivation. Close ties with China will also benefit the country in its local rivalry with Burma, another Chinese ally but one that Beijing regards as more problematic than the Bangladeshis. The protection of its sometimes restive border with Burma – which also operates Chinese tanks, though not the new MBT-2000 – will be one of the main contingencies for Bangladesh’s newly procured armour. 

Mohammad Khaled
December 16, 2012 at 19:01

Dude Bangladesh will buy new submarine 1 nuclear and 2 diesel powered from Germany turkey and north Korea. Second thing is Bangladesh have more than 2000 amphibious tank from Russia they even made warships on their own so don’t trust this blog and go to Wikipedia for accurate information about Bangladesh armed forces.

nasse imran chowdhury
December 13, 2012 at 22:03

pakistan is also procuding this mbt under the name of al-khalid….and its engines are being supplied by ukrain….pak has a deal with ukrain and by 2015 pak will produce the enigne locally….bangladesh is doing a great job by acquiring this mbt,as it is cheap and technically very sound…………..go ahead BD………love…………….

Major Asif Reza
September 13, 2011 at 13:43

Bangladesh Military has obtained green signal from govt on modernaization in the form of a 20 yr plan.

July 31, 2011 at 09:49

Bangladesh currently has 800 tanks.700 MBT ( type 59, type 69) and 100 light tanks.type 59 is heavily upgraded to type 59 ii and type 69 to type 69 mk ii G which is basically a generation three tank.Bangladesh is not buying second hand submarines. They will buy German/Turkey new submarines.

July 5, 2011 at 11:33

I totally support the idea of The_Observer. SADRAM may land into some non-state actors fighting the US Army. It might have been developed only for export purpose or merely to BOOST the morale of the Chinese Army; it FEELS better when you have upper egde over your enemy (!?).

July 1, 2011 at 11:56

In the short-term that there will not be a war between China and the USA. In the unlikely event that there is one, I’d doubt if the latter will be landing tanks on the Chinese coast to do battle preferring a more remote controlled computer game approach. Also China has no intention of invading nor the capability of invading the US mainland. Thus the scenario of Chinese anti-tank rockets v. American tanks is an unlikely one except via proxies doing battle.

John Chan
June 30, 2011 at 22:59

Pentagon has made a serious mistake, China has developed SADARM tank killer which will make M1 tanks steel coffins for the crews. For the safety of the US tank crews, USA must continue to develop a totally new MBT to counteract the threat of those Chinese SADARM tank killers.

June 30, 2011 at 20:35

The US will not be producing new MBT, future upgrades bringing the M1A1/A2 to A3/4 level will be undertaken. A more capable weapon can be developed for half the cost of developing a new MBT. Sometimes having no money is a good thing. The DOD will have a hard time trying to convince Panetta of the need for a totally new MBT, instead of M1A4.

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