PM defends arms purchaseDiplomatic Correspondent
The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, on Wednesday defended the purchase of military weapons worth $1 billion from Russia for strengthening the armed forces and making them capable of safeguarding the nation’s independence and sovereignty.
‘It is futile to become a king without swords and shields,’ she said in a rebuttal to critics who questioned the efficacy of arms purchase from Russia spending a huge amount of money.
The prime minister, who visited Russia in January 14–16 and signed a number of deals with Moscow including the financing of the Rooppur nuclear power plant and the purchase of military equipments, was addressing a press conference with editors and senior journalists on the outcome of her visit.
Apart from modernising the armed forces, Hasina said that the government considered safeguarding 1,11,631 sq km of areas in the Bay of Bengal Bangladesh has won in the maritime boundary case against Myanmar.
She hoped that Bangladesh would also win the maritime case against India, verdict of which will be given in 2014.
The prime minister said that Bangladesh needed military equipment as the country is engaged in UN peacekeeping. Bangladesh bought military equipment such as armoured personnel carriers from Russia when peacekeepers were sent on peacekeeping mission and the United Nations later reimbursed the expenditure.
The prime minister said that arms purchase was not a new subject as Bangladesh used to buy military hardware from many countries including China, Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and Italy.
She said that the government had recently procured more military equipment including 44 tanks, training plane and missiles under state credit from China but none raised any questions about the purchase.
Hasina recounted the immense contribution of the erstwhile Soviet Union to the country’s independence.
Asked if the re-establishment of closer of ties with Russia was a policy shift of the government stepping into Indo-Russian axis, the prime minister said that there had not been any policy shift as ‘our police is friendship to all and malice to none.’
‘Russia is our tested friend… Should we make friends with those who helped us during the independence war or those who opposed the war? Why is this mentality?’ she said.
The prime minister said, ‘We do not belong to any axis. Bangladesh is my axis and whatever we do we do for the interest of people.’
Taking a swipe at critics for strengthening the armed forces, Hasina said, ‘Why are you opposing the development of the people when
you want to go to power riding on their back?’
She said that the Armed Forces Division had bought arms from where they got good prices. ‘There is no change in our policy. The policy has been changed after 1975. We have forgot that we are a nation of victors.’
Hasina said that the military equipment were bought at .45 per cent interest which will would need to be paid from 2018.
She said that the BNP-led government had bought military equipment from China without any grace period.
Asked if the arms deal was approved by the cabinet, she said that this was not endorsed by the cabinet. A committee of officials from the defence and finance ministries, the ERD and the cabinet division was set up for the scrutiny of the deal.
‘Not everything about defence is made public. Some is kept secret everywhere,’ she added.
Asked if there could be a case filed against her as the MiG-29 case filed by the previous government, Hasina said as as she was s in politics, she could face the case. ‘But I am clear to my conscience and not worried.’
She said that MiG-29 jets were bought for the cheapest price. ‘What do they who filed the case want? Do not they want a modern and strong army to safeguard the independence,’ she said, referring to the critics.
The prime minister said that the ‘country’s defence policy was formulated in 1974 and against its backdrop, “Forces Goal 2030” was prepared to reconstitute and modernise the armed forces.’
Asked about BNP leader Moudud Ahmed’s allegation of commission being received in the Russian arms purchase deal, Hasina said that there was no commission system in state-to-state deals.
Terming Moudud a somersault politician, she said that Moudud knew better how to get kickbacks, how to occupy a house by managing the power of attorney from a deceased and how to conceal his wealth by keeping money in 20 bank accounts.
Asked if the purchase of arms was tagged as a condition to the Rooppur nuclear power plant project, she said that there was no condition and the two are separate agreements.
The prime minister said that two agreements were inked on the establishment of the nuclear power plant. Under of the agreements, Moscow will provide $500 million to finance the preparatory work of the plant, the interest of which is minimum.
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Date:Thursday, 24th January, 2013
Date:Thursday, 24th January, 2013