By Kamran Reza Chowdhury Mar 20, 2023 Benar News
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday inaugurated Bangladesh’s first submarine base near Kutubdia island, Cox’s Bazar, via a video conference from the capital.
The U.S. $1.21 billion (127 billion taka) base serves as home port for two refurbished Chinese submarines purchased in 2016 to enhance Bangladesh’s naval capacity, after the demarcation of its maritime boundary with India and Myanmar.
“We do not want war with anyone. But we must be prepared to give a befitting response if anyone attacks us,” Hasina said in an online message to naval officials gathered at the new base, BNS Sheikh Hasina, in Pekua, about 322 km. (200 miles) southeast of Dhaka.
“I believe, by building the base, BNS Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh Navy’s capacity to protect its maritime boundary is further enhanced,” she said, according to a transcript of her remarks.
The prime minister said that since she assumed power again in 2009, her government had added 31 warships including four frigates, six corvettes, four large patrol craft and five diesel-powered craft.
In November 2016, Bangladesh paid the Chinese government $205 million (21.5 billion taka) for the submarines, named Nabojatra (New Journey) and Joyjatra (Victory March). Hasina commissioned them on March 12, 2017.
That same day, she laid the foundation stone for the base in Pekua near the Kutubdia channel in the Bay of Bengal. During its construction, the submarines were housed at a naval base in Chittagong.
At the time they were commissioned, Bangladesh’s military communications unit described the submarines as conventional diesel-electric powered craft, 76 meters long and 7.6 meters wide. It said the submarines could reach a maximum speed of 17 nautical miles per hour.
The statement said they were fitted with torpedoes and mines and would be capable of attacking enemy ships and submarines.
“The Chinese will help us build the base and impart training to our personnel to operate the submarines and base. The Chinese submarines will not come here. The base is for our submarines,” Faruk Khan, chairman of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, told BenarNews in 2019.
Retired Maj. Gen. Abdur Rashid, a defense analyst, said the base would enhance the capacity of the Bangladesh Navy to protect the vast sea region.
“Given the growing importance of the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh must enhance the capacity of its navy to protect its sovereignty and thwart all security challenges and non-traditional security threats,” Rashid told BenarNews.
“Bangladesh procures weapons and military hardware from China as the United States and other countries usually do not sell those to us,” he said.
“The launching of the submarine base will definitely enhance our maritime power,” he added.