By Bangladesh newspaper The Daily Star
DHAKA, Bangladesh, Dec 19, 2004 — Bangladesh is going to send troops to the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan in the next two months, sources at the Armed Forces Division said.
The Armed Forces Division has taken initiatives to buy sophisticated equipment required for the participation in the light of an ever-increasing demand for Dhaka’s contribution to the peacekeeping operations worldwide.
The division plans to send 1,542 troops to Sudan under the UN peacekeeping mission. Of them, 30 officials from the navy and the rest from the army will be sent to the Sudan mission where Bangladesh army commands the forces and has a senior army officer there, sources said.
The Armed Forces Division is going to purchase 60 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) at a cost of over 60 crore taka — one crore is 10 million — for the army. Three helicopters have been purchased and a process is under way to purchase another three for the air force to participate in different peacekeeping missions, the sources said.
"We are now preparing to send our troops to Sudan to provide humanitarian aid," a senior army official told The Daily Star yesterday on condition of anonymity.
Nearly 1.7 million people have been displaced since rebels took up arms last year and thousands of people in Sudanese villages are getting raped and killed in what the United Nations (UN) has termed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Highly pleased with the performance of the Bangladeshi soldiers, the UN has asked for more troops. But the army and air force lack the necessary sophisticated equipment such as the Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), bulletproof jackets and helicopters and are facing difficulties in further contributing to peacekeeping operations, sources said.
Troops require such sophisticated equipment, the procurement of which involves huge funds and takes quite some time that Bangladesh hardly gets.
Finally, the armed forces have initiated steps to purchase equipment on its own, the official added. "Bangladesh’s participation in the peacekeeping missions will be strengthened through the procurement of the necessary equipment," Lt-Gen (retd) Mahbubur Rahman, defence adviser to the prime minister, told The Daily Star yesterday.
Mahbub, an ex-army chief who later became a lawmaker on the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) ticket and the chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on defence ministry, said the UN earlier used to help the participating countries by providing war equipment, but now they have to join the peacekeeping missions on their own arrangements.
Since Bangladesh started participating in the UN peacekeeping mission in 1988, it earned 4,600 crore taka by contributing 40,793 soldiers — nearly half the total troops in Bangladesh army — to 31 missions over the last 16 years.
Currently, 7,816 members of the army are serving in the UN peacekeeping operations in 12 missions in different countries. The air force and the navy are also participating in the peacekeeping missions.