Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina talks to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a joint press briefing at the Kremlin, Moscow, yesterday. Photo: PID
Dhaka and Moscow yesterday signed a $1 billion deal under which Bangladesh would procure military equipment and arms from Russia.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Russian President Vladimir Putin witnessed the signing ceremony held at the Kremlin in Moscow.
This is the second trip by a Bangladesh prime minister to the Russian Federation. In March 1972, Hasina's father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman visited the country, then Soviet Union, at the invitation of Brezhnev.
"Our countries intend to expand military and technological cooperation," news agencies quoted Putin as telling Sheikh Hasina during the Kremlin ceremony.
"Russia will extend Bangladesh a credit of $1 billion, which will be spent on the purchase on Russian weapons and military technology," said the leader of the world's second-largest weapons exporter.
The arms purchase agreement includes orders for armoured vehicles and infantry weapons, air defence systems and Mi-17 transport helicopters, a source close to Russia's state arms export agency told the Vedomosti business daily.
The source said the purchase did not include any tank orders because Bangladesh had earlier obtained those from China.
Bangladesh has recently been expanding its defence capabilities, building a new air base close to neighbouring Myanmar and adding frigates to its navy, AFP reports.
The two countries also signed two other agreements and six memoranda of understanding (MoU) on cooperation in different fields like agriculture, public health, medical science, education, counterterrorism, culture, law, justice and parliamentary affairs.
A part of the agreements saw Russia assign $500 million to finance the construction of Bangladesh's first nuclear power plant to be built at Rooppur.
"The 2,000-MW nuclear power plant in Bangladesh, with Russian technical and financial support, is a shinning example of our deeper engagement," Hasina said at a joint press briefing.
Referring to the agreements and MoU, she said, "I believe, they would place our relationship on a firm footing and help in taking practical initiatives in the future."
The preparatory work on the nuclear power plant would now allow us to make arrangements for the establishments of the plant, Hasina said.
The friendship between Bangladesh and Russia would reach to a new height, the PM said, adding, "A new door of prospect has opened by this visit."
Sheikh Hasina, who left for Russia on Monday, said she talked to President Putin in an atmosphere of great warmth.
â€œOur discussion was between two friends. I assured him of Bangladesh's friendship and cooperation in mutually beneficial areas. We realise that the result-oriented economic cooperation should be on the basis of our engagement with Russia in the WTO.
â€œWe requested for duty-free quota-free access for Bangladeshi exports to the Russian Federation and in the Customs Union. It would open up doors for our private sector to explore new potentials for collaboration,â€ she added.
Hasina recalled the help and assistance provided by the then Soviet Union during and after the Liberation War.
In recognition, last year Dhaka bestowed Bangladesh Liberation War honour and Friends of Liberation War honour to many of those who were involved, she noted.
The PM, who is on a three-day trip, said she invited the Russian president to visit Bangladesh and he accepted it.
Addressing the press, Russian President Putin said they had constructive talks and hoped that the bilateral relations of the two countries would reach a new height.
The economic relations between the two countries, he said, had grown 23 percent and now it stood at more than $700 million. "We are placing emphasis to reach one billion dollars."
The Russian president mentioned his country is interested to increase cooperation in other energy sectors. In this connection, he mentioned of gas sector, reports BSS.
During a previous meeting in November 2010 in St Petersburg, Hasina and Putin agreed to take additional steps to bring the bilateral relations to a new level, according to a statement posted on the official website of Kremlin.
â€œOur countries are implementing various major joint projects, including in the energy sector,â€ Putin said, adding that Russian state nuclear corporation was getting ready to build the Rooppur nuclear power station, the first NPP in Bangladesh.
â€œIn fact, Russia will not only supply the latest technology, which is natural, just as we do in our own country and in other countries, but we will also provide financial support at the initial stage of construction.
â€œIt will be a loan for $500 million, and you have just witnessed the signing of the relevant agreement,â€ added the president.
Talking on cooperation in other energy sectors, he noted, 20 percent of all electricity generation capacity in Bangladesh was built with the assistance of Russian experts.
Putin said his country is expanding ties in the oil and gas sector.
Russian energy giant Gazprom has signed a contract with the Petrobangla for drilling ten gas wells, he mentioned. â€œThis project will increase gas production in Bangladesh to 56 million cubic metres of gas per day.â€
Space is another promising area of cooperation, he told journalists, adding that during the talks they discussed the possibility of providing assistance to Bangladesh in launching telecommunications satellites.
The two countries are united in their efforts on tiger conservation, he said. â€œLet me remind you that Madam Prime Minister took an active part in the preparation and holding of the St Petersburg International Forum on Tiger Conservation in 2010.â€
The two leaders have agreed to hold the Days of Culture of Russia and Bangladesh in 2014-2015.