The Indian Air Force is offering the Bangladesh Biman Bahini (Bangladesh air force) the use of its facilities to modernise and maintain fighter aircraft and helicopters, a senior defence source told The Telegraph here.
In reaching out to Dhaka with an offer to help upgrade its air fleet, New Delhi is stepping into an area in which Bangladesh has been dependent mainly on China and, to a limited extent, on Pakistan, Russia and the US.
Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik, currently in Dhaka on a week’s visit that began on Saturday, offered the use of Indian Air Force facilities in meetings with the chief of the Bangladesh Biman Bahini, Air Marshal S.M. Ziaur Rehman.
The IAF is understood to have offered to liaise with defence public sector company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bangalore, to help modernise Bangladesh’s MiG-29 aircraft and Mi-17 helicopters. The IAF flies and has upgraded the two aircraft for its own fleet. HAL is engaged in upgrading India’s own MiG-29s.
This is the first visit by an Indian Air Force chief to Bangladesh in more than five years. The last such visit was in 2004. But the Bangla air chief was here in April 2009.
Military-to-military relations with Bangladesh have been resuscitated since the visit by the Bangladesh army chief in February 2008.
An IAF source pointed out that while Bangladesh had mostly Chinese and some American-origin aircraft, it also had a squadron of MiG-29aircraft.
Nearly 70 per cent of Bangladesh’s flying fleet is aged, with the fighter aircraft being 20 years old or even more than that. Bangladesh has taken help from China and Pakistan for its A-5 and A-7 Chinese-origin aircraft.
But the Indian Air Force has said that the facilities for its Mi-17 helicopters (the IAF flies the transport helicopter in large numbers), the MiG-29 and the Antonov 32 could be spared for Bangladesh’s limited air force. Bangladesh flies three AN 32s and 14 Mi-17s.
In Dhaka, Air Chief Marshal Naik has met President Zillur Rahman and was scheduled to meet Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday. He has also met the three chiefs of the armed forces.
“The main focus of the visit will be on improving bilateral relations, promoting defence ties, outlining further areas of defence co-operation between the two countries and resolving pending issues through dialogue and understanding,” the air force source said.
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