New Delhi, 15 November 2016
China equips Bangladesh Navy with two Submarines as part of its strategic game plan to combat influence of India in resource rich Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh Navy chief Admiral Nizamuddin Ahmed received the two submarines during a ceremony held at Liao Nan Shipyard in Dalian city of China’s Liaoning province. The type 035-G ming class diesel-electric submarines will be named ‘BNS Nabajatra’ and ‘BNS Joyjatra’ when both join Bangladesh Navy next year. It is not confirmed if Bangladesh really paid US$ 200 million for the two submarines or said to have paid China as an eyewash tactics.
According to military experts, the primary weaponry on submarine will be Yu-3 torpedo, and French sonar DUUX-5 and its Chinese-built version. These diesel-electric submarines displace 2110 tons and have a surfaced endurance of 8000 nm allowing them to stay at sea for about 60 days. They are manned by a crew of 57 personnel and carry 18 torpedoes with an option for carrying 32 mines also.
Bangladesh Navy plans to gradually develop undersea capabilities to enhance its sea denial posture around Bangladeshi shores. Bangladesh has had strained relationship with India during Begum Khalida Zia regime. At the instigation of China, Bangladesh is striving to maintain “deterrent posture” in Indian Ocean as an insurance against any adversarial relations in the future.
Deployment of these submarines in the vicinity of sensitive establishments of India and Myanmar cannot be ruled out considering their proximity to Bangladesh bases. These bases are just about 500 nautical miles from sensitive Indian coastal establishments in the Bay of Bengal and are well within the range of these submarines. With the deployment, Chinese would wield an edge in the realm of naval warfare in Indian Ocean as training of the Bangladesh crew is being provided by PLA Navy. The Chinese sailors are likely to remain on board these submarines for quite sometimes while they set up the shore infrastructure like repair yards, training facilities and operational support establishments for smooth conduct of submarine operations.
Off late Bangladesh and China are cozying up with each other militarily. The Bangladesh Army use Chinese tanks, its navy sails in Chinese frigates and missile boats and the Bangladesh Air Force flies Chinese fighter jets. Since 2002 both countries have “Defence Cooperation Agreement” for military training and defence production. Bangladesh bought large calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft and missile and related equipment from China. In 2008, Bangladesh set up an anti-ship missile launch pad near the Chittagong Port with the help of China. Bangladesh performed its first missile test in May 2008 with active participation of Chinese experts. It successfully test-fired Chinese modified anti-ship missile C-802A with a strike range of 120 km from the Chinese Ying Ji frigate BNS Osman near Kutubdia Island in the Bay of Bengal. China has already encircled India through its string of pearls program in Indian Ocean.
Bangladesh is a strategic asset for China as it facilitates its entry into Indian Ocean via Kunming-Chittagong road link through Myanmar. China strives to build the Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor which will conceptually pass through India’s Bihar and Kolkata. Bangladesh already supports China’s One Belt One Road Maritime Silk Road Initiative.
Bangladesh as of now shares cordial relations with India. But unfounded fear of India is being instilled in Bangladesh by China. The long standing maritime dispute was resolved when India accepted the International Tribunal for the Laws of The Sea (ITLOS) verdict by handing over the 19,467 sq. km of the 25,602 sq. km sea area of the Bay of Bengal. However, China has not accepted the same courts verdict in South China Sea in a dispute with Philippines. Chinese with a strategic vision cash on the little difference between India and Bangladesh. But it is a moot question if India still can overcome Chinese influence on Bangladesh by setting up operational and shore support infrastructure, undertaking repairs and helping in submarine operations and joint training and exercises.