Need to Strengthen Bangladesh Navy's Capacity to Defend Sovereignty: PM Sheikh Hasina

Bangladesh doesn't prefer war and wants peace with all its neighbours, but needs to defend its maritime borders, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Thursday as she commissioned the Bangladesh Navy's latest acquisition.

"We need to strengthen our naval force further to defend the sea areas and its resources," she said while commissioning Chinese-made corvette "BNS Sangram", via video conference, from her official residence Ganobhaban.

She added her hope that this will strengthen the Bangladesh Navy's capacity to protect the country's sovereignty.

Bangladesh Navy chief, Admiral Aurangzeb Chowdhury formally handed over the 'commissioning firman' of the ship to Captain Arifur Rahman on behalf of the Prime Minister at the Issa Khan Naval Base, Chattogram.

BNS Sangram will leave for Lebanon on Friday to take part in the UN peacekeeping mission.

In her address, Sheikh Hasina also said that after the "Great Liberation War of 1971, Father of the Nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman started the newly-independent country's journey with very limited resources", and recalled the contribution of India.

"The Father of the Nation built the newly-independent country with very limited resources. The army, navy and air force are the symbols of a country's sovereignty. The Bangladesh Navy started its first voyage with two ships from India," she said.

She said that 'Bangabandhu' Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had first taken the initiative of establishing legal rights of Bangladesh to its maritime areas soon after independence, but the governments after 1975 did nothing to this end.

After assuming office in 1996 after 21 years, her Awami League government collected necessary data and information regarding the matter and took legal measures after coming to power for second time, Sheikh Hasina said.

She also said her government has formulated a perspective plan called "Forces Goal 2030" in light with the "Defence Policy" adopted by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1974 and started faster implementation to make the armed forces well prepared.

The Prime Minister also said that Bangladesh has safeguarded its maritime boundary. She noted that Bangladesh has won the legal battle in the International Court of Justice, while maintaining friendly relations with neighbours India and Myanmar.

The new corvette has been added to Bangladesh Navy fleet to increase its capacity to protect the maritime borders of Bangladesh, she said, while adding that her government has attached priority on protecting the sea areas and utilising its huge resources in Bangladesh's economy.

She also said that the Bangladesh Navy needs to be further strengthened with modern technology-based knowledge to protect the country's vast sea area and its resources.

Sheikh Hasina also renewed her call to the countrymen to follow the health codes as the best defence to fight coronavirus effectively. "Protect yourselves and your families from Covid-19 by maintaining the health directives properly," she said.

Noting Bangladesh also suffered immensely due to coronavirus at a time when it has halved its poverty rate to 20 per cent from 40 per cent and increased GDP growth to 8.1 per cent, she hoped that Bangladesh, as well as the world, would get relief from the virus.

Meanwhile, the higher curve of Covid-19 in Bangladesh has the Prime Minister worried. She had held a meeting at her official residence with some top bureaucrats and representatives of health services on Wednesday and issued some necessary directives. She has demanded a better, more optimal health service to contain the Covid-19 crisis in Bangladesh.

Officials present at the meeting told IANS on the condition of anonymity that the Prime Minister said that "the services of the health sector have become questionable after the Covid-19 attack in the country. We have to overcome it".

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed 100,000 in Bangladesh on the 103rd day of virus outbreak, reaching 102,292 with 3,803 new cases reported on Thursday.

Bangladesh is now ranked 18th in the world in terms of the highest number of coronavirus infections, while the death toll has reached 1,343 after 38 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours.