Navy in need of logistics
Bangladesh Navy yesterday said it is facing difficulties in safeguarding the country's economic interest and exercising maritime control within the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf due to lack of modern equipment, manpower and fund.
In a report, placed before the parliamentary standing committee on defence ministry, the navy also sought prudent directives of the parliamentary committee for overcoming their limitations so that the force is able to fulfil the nation's expectation, sources said.
"Bangladesh Navy today made a presentation before the committee highlighting their problems and possible solutions. The force is facing a dearth of equipment, modern ships and manpower in discharging its duties," M Idris Ali told reporters after the meeting at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban.
The navy made a set of recommendations that include formulating the defence policy and national maritime policy, taking measures for increased participation of navy personnel in the UN peacekeeping mission, ensuring representation of competent navy personnel in important policymaking bodies.
Idris said all members of the parliamentary body agreed that the navy should be strengthened in the national interest.
Idris, also former defence secretary, said almost all of the navy ships are very old. Two of the four frigates of the navy are over 50 years old, he added.
"We will discuss whether the old frigates can be upgraded," the committee chief said. He said the past BNP-Jamaat-led alliance government decommissioned the modern frigate Bangabandhu due to their "narrow-minded" politics.
The last caretaker government, however, had re-commissioned the frigate, which is now one of two crucial ships for the navy, he said.
Without elaborating, the committee chief said there was a suggestion for purchasing new frigate. "We will be clear about the needs of the navy only when the defence policy is finalised," Idris Ali said.
Bangladesh Navy was established in 1972 to keep secure Bangladesh's territorial waters, safeguard Bangladesh's economic interest and exercise maritime control within the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf and to protect Bangladesh shipping lines and its merchant fleets.
A committee member quoting the navy's report said the process of modernisation of the navy is also in trouble due to shortage of fund.
On budgetary allocation, the navy in its report said it was allocated 16.10 percent of the total fund for defence forces in 2008-09 fiscal year. The army got 67.92 percent and the air force got 15.98 percent, a meeting source said quoting the navy's report.
The committee chief said they would discuss the navy's report in another meeting.
On holding discussion on the draft defence policy, the committee chief said they could not begin the discussion yesterday due to time constraint.
"We will sit again in the next two weeks and discuss the draft defence policy. It is a very serious matter and we will try to seek public opinion on the policy," Idris Ali, also ruling Awami League lawmaker, said. He said public debate might be held on the policy.
On demarcation of maritime boundary, the parliamentary body asked the government to initiate necessary steps by resolving disputes with the neighbouring countries--India and Myanmar.
Bangladesh will face difficulties in collecting resources if the maritime boundary is not demarcated, he said.
Idris Ali said Bangabandhu's government in 1974 had opened discussion with the two neighbouring countries to resolve disputes over maritime boundaries. After 1975, successive governments failed to give due importance to continued dialogue, he said.
To beef up the navy's activities to conduct survey in the sea, the parliamentary body asked the government to set up a hydrographic unit under the defence ministry, he said.
He said in absence of the unit, the navy is facing difficulties in discharging its duties.