Bangladeshi troops engaged in the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions face a dearth of equipment, though their work abroad earns the country around Tk 1,200 crore a year.
The crisis is acute in 19 contingents across Liberia, Sudan, Ivory Coast and Congo. At present, Bangladesh has 8,083 soldiers stationed in 11 missions in 10 countries, says a report of the army.
Titled 'Problems confronting the army ', the report submitted to the parliamentary standing committee on the defence ministry last month calls for immediate steps to solve the problems.
It says the peacekeepers from Bangladesh do not have enough armoured personnel carriers (APC), water treatment plants, bulldozers, generators, rollers and freezers--all necessary to carry out their duties properly.
For instance, it adds, the troops need at least four water treatment plants for the UN mission in Liberia, but all four plants there remain out of use.
The field regiment artillery deployed in Sudan needs 17 APCs, but they have to make do with 12, as five APCs are out of order.
The report says arms, heavy vehicles and other military gears should be purchased so the troops in the UN missions are considered well-equipped and dynamic.
According to it, around six percent of the funds allocated for the army in fiscal years 2004-08 was spent on defence purchase. During the period, the purchasemeant for use in UN peacekeeping missions cost around 8.46 percent of the funds.
Apart from the inadequacy of equipment, the report cites the army's limitations in sending troops within a short period of time. “If a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) is formed, it can be sent to UN peacekeeping missions at short notice, as well. And that will elevate the force's image abroad.”
It also suggests stepping up diplomatic efforts to ensure increased number of Bangladeshi staff officers in UN headquarters and troops in missions.
Since the country began participating in peacekeeping missions in 1988, it has contributed over 73,176 soldiers in 41 UN missions in 30 countries.
The report said the troops earned Tk 7,445 crore over the last seven fiscal years.
Their performance has been lauded worldwide.
Observers say despite political instability and economic pressures, Bangladesh never shied away from fulfilling its global responsibilities.
Its readiness to contribute large, varied and sizeable troops will only add to its commitment to peacekeeping, they noted.