Military history of Bangladesh

Bangladesh Military Force
Bangladesh Shena Bahini

Coat of arms of Bangladesh
Service branches Sena Bahini (Army)
Nou Bahini (Navy)
Biman Bahini (Air Force)
Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)
Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB)
Bangladesh National Cadet Corps
Military age 15
Available for
military service
35,170,019 (2005 est.), age 15–49
Fit for
military service
26,841,255 (2005 est.), age 15–49
Reaching military
age annually
Active personnel 197,000 (2007)
Percent of GDP 1.8% (2005)
Related articles
History Bangladesh Liberation War

The military history of Bangladesh begins with the 1971 liberation war that led to the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan. The Military of Bangladesh inherits much of its organisation and structure from the Military of British India and from 1947, the Pakistani Armed Forces and its composition was significantly altered with the absorption of the Mukti Bahini guerrilla forces following independence.


The military history of the region covers the rule of the Sena dynasty and Mughal dynasty. The current armed forces were raised from the armed forces of British India, which included the Bengal Regiment and major installations such as the Dhaka Cantonment, Savar Cantonment and the Bogra Cantonment. With the partition of India on 15 August 1947 the territory constituting modern Bangladesh was partitioned from the province of Bengal as East Bengal, joining the newly created state of Pakistan. Ethnic and sectional discrimination hampered the role and function of the Pakistani military. Bengalis were under-represented in the Pakistan military. Officers of Bengali origin in the different wings of the armed forces made up just 5% of overall force by 1965.[1] West Pakistanis believed that Bengalis were not "martially inclined" unlike Pashtuns and Punjabis; the "martial races" notion was dismissed as ridiculous and humiliating by Bengalis.[1] Moreover, despite huge defence spending, East Pakistan received none of the benefits, such as contracts, purchasing and military support jobs. The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 over Kashmir also highlighted the sense of military insecurity among Bengalis as only an under-strength infantry division and 15 combat aircraft without tank support were in East Pakistan to thwart any Indian retaliations during the conflict.[2][3]

Bangladesh Liberation War

Following the victory of the Awami League in the 1970 elections, then-president General Yahya Khan refused to appoint its leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as the prime minister and launched Operation Searchlight, using the Pakistani army to repress political activities and kill Bengali students, intellectuals and Hindus.[4] Figures of people killed by Pakistani forces vary from a minimum of around 300,000 to a maximum of around 3 million.[5][6] Responding to Mujib's call for rebellion, many Bengali officers and units mutinied against their West Pakistani counterparts and raised the Mukti Bahini, a guerrilla force under the leadership of General Muhammad Ataul Gani Osmani with active support and supplies from India.[7][8][9] While the war raged on, the Bangladesh Navy was constituted in August 1971. Two ships and 45 navy personnel originally made up the force; they attacked Pakistani naval vessels.[10] The Bangladesh Air Force started up on 28 September at Dimapur in Nagaland, under Air Commodore A. K. Khandker's command. While consisting of only a handful planes and one helicopter, the Air Force carried out 12 sorties against Pakistani targets.


The newly formed Bangladeshi armed forces incorporated some of the units and guerrillas of the Mukti Bahini.[11] Gen. Osmani, who had led the Mukti Bahini was appointed the General of the Bangladesh armed forces.[12] For many years, there was active discrimination in favour of the inductees from the Mukti Bahini against those Bengali officers who had continued service in the Pakistani armed forces or had been detained in West Pakistan.[11][13] A group of angered officers assassinated the president Sheikh Mujib on 15 August 1975 and established a regime with politician Khondaker Mostaq Ahmed as President of Bangladesh and new army chief Maj. Gen. Ziaur Rahman.[13] The military itself was subject of divisions as Mujib's assassins were overthrown by the pro-Mujib Brig. Gen. Khaled Mosharraf on 3 November, who himself was soon overthrown by a socialist group of officers under Col. Abu Taher on 7 November who returned Ziaur Rahman to power—an event now called the Sipoy-Janata Biplob (Soldiers and People's Coup).[14] Under the presidency of Ziaur Rahman, the military was reorganised to remove conflicts between rival factions and discontented cadre.[15] However, Ziaur Rahman was himself overthrown in a 1981 coup attempt,[16] and a year later, Lt. Gen. Hossain Mohammad Ershad took power from the elected government of president Abdus Sattar. The military remained the most important force in national politics under the regimes of Ziaur Rahman and later Hossain Mohammad Ershad until democracy was restored in 1991.[15]

Modern period

Having relied primarily on India and Soviet Union for military aid, Bangladesh has also developed military ties with the People's Republic of China and the United States. The Bangladesh Army has been actively involved in United Nations Peace Support Operations (UNPSO). During the first Gulf War in 1991, the Bangladesh Army sent a 2,193 member team to monitor peace in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The Bangladesh Army also participated in peace keeping activities in Namibia, Cambodia, Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, Mozambique, former Yugoslavia, Liberia, Haiti, Tajikistan, Western Sahara, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Georgia, East Timor, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire and Ethiopia. As of October 2008, Bangladesh remained the second largest contributor with 9,800 troops in the UN Peacekeeping forces.

Until a peace accord was signed in 1997, the Bangladeshi military engaged in counterinsurgency operations in the Chittagong Hill Tracts fighting the Shanti Bahini separatist group. In 2001, Bangladeshi military units engaged in clashes with the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) along the northern border.[17] Controversy also emerged over possible links maintained by the Bangladeshi military and intelligence agencies with Islamic terrorist groups and anti-India secessionist outfits.[18][19][20] Several projects and schemes aiming to expand and modernise the Bangladeshi armed forces have been launched by the regime of Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia.


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website

  1. 1 2 Heitzman, James; Worden, Robert, eds. (1989). "Pakistan Era". Bangladesh: A Country Study. Washington, D.C.: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. p. 207.
  2. Demons of December — Road from East Pakistan to Bangladesh
  3. Jahan, Rounaq (1972). Pakistan: Failure in National Integration. Columbia University Press. pp. 166–167. ISBN 0-231-03625-6.
  4. Bose, Sarmila (8 October 2005). "Anatomy of Violence: Analysis of Civil War in East Pakistan in 1971". Economic and Political Weekly. Archived from the original on 1 March 2007.
  5. Matthew White's Death Tolls for the Major Wars and Atrocities of the Twentieth Century
  6. Virtual Bangladesh : History : The Bangali Genocide, 1971
  7. Heitzman, James; Worden, Robert, eds. (1989). "Zia's regime". Bangladesh: A Country Study. Washington, D.C.: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. pp. 37–40.
  8. Ahmed, Helal Uddin (2012). "Mukti Bahini". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  9. Uddin, Syed Mohd. Saleh (2012). "Bangladesh Air Force". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  10. Bangladesh Navy History
  11. 1 2 Heitzman, James; Worden, Robert, eds. (1989). "Postindependence Period". Bangladesh: A Country Study. Washington, D.C.: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. p. 211.
  12. Khan, Muazzam Hussain (2012). "Osmany, General Mohammad Ataul Ghani". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  13. 1 2 Heitzman, James; Worden, Robert, eds. (1989). "Mujib coup". Bangladesh: A Country Study. Washington, D.C.: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. pp. 32–36.
  14. Islam, Syed Serajul (May 1984). "The State in Bangladesh under Zia (1975–81)". Asian Survey. University of California Press. 24 (5): 556–573. JSTOR 2644413.
  15. 1 2 Heitzman, James; Worden, Robert, eds. (1989). "Restoration of Military Rule". Bangladesh: A Country Study. Washington, D.C.: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. pp. 36–37.
  16. "Bangladesh: Death at Night". Time. 1981-06-08. Retrieved 2006-09-10. (subscription required (help)).
  17. "India-Bangladesh border conflict". BBC News. 18 April 2001.
  18. Saikia, Jaideep (July 2003). "Terror Sans Frontiers: Islamic Militancy in North East India" (PDF). The Program in Arms Control & Domestic and International Security at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  19. ULFA, an agent for India's enemies
  20. Parthasarathy, G. (3 November 2005). "The Bangladesh Challenge". The Hindu Business Line (Opinion).
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