1. With the passage of time Bangladesh and her Navy have grown 42 years old. Today, Bangladesh Navy has more than 80 ships and craft in its inventory. With the pace of development it is now on the way of acquiring three dimensional capabilities. The build-up of Bangladesh Navy which began after independence has come through the end of sectarian exploitation of the land and resource in time and history.

2. Naval activities in this part of the world were visible since the medieval days. In the undivided Bengal there were ship building industries in different parts of the country specially in Chittagong. Mentionably, a frigate for German Navy was built in 1818 in Chittagong.

3. Build-up of navy in the Indian subcontinent in the machine age began during British rule, however Naval build-up by the British did not touch this part of the land. In post-partition era of the Indian subcontinent i.e. during Pakistan rule, negligence to the maritime development in this part was also prominent. In their consideration western wing always got preferential treatment. A careful study of the historical legacies reveals negligence to the growth of a strong maritime power essential for seaward defence of the country.


History of Shipbuilding in Bengal

4. Indigenous Shipbuilding has been a century old tradition in this region. It is one of the early industries developed in Bengal based on its tradition of building boats and sea going vessels. Many countries of Asia and Europe used to regularly buy ships built at Chittagong. Ibna Batuta came to Bengal in the 14th century and went back in a wooden ship built in a dock located at Sonargaon, Dhaka. Such historic ships are being preserved in European Museums. According to the European traveler Caesar Frederick, Chittagong was the centre of building ocean-going vessels during the middle of the 15th century. During the 17th century, a fleet of ships of the Sultan of Turkey was built at Chittagong. During the Mughal period, Bengal is said to have taken the lead in building ship and boats. The Mughal Naval Force had a large number of ships built at Chittagong. The British Navy used warships built at Chittagong in the famous Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. In 1818 the wooden hull frigate Deutschland was built in Chittagong and delivered to German Navy. During the first half of the 19th Century, the shipyards at Chittagong built ships up to 1000 DWT.

Muslim Rule in Bengal

5. At the onset of the Mughal expedition for the conquest of Bengal, they felt the importance of navy to conquer Bengal. Mughal Navy's concern was to prevent pirates' intrusion into the Empire's area of interest. For the protection against depredation of the pirates as well as for the conquest of South-Eastern Bengal, the Mughals established naval bases at various strategic points, such as at Bhola, Sandwip, Quadam Rasul (opposite of Naryanganj), Khizirpur and Dhaka (6 miles north east of Dhaka). A Dockyard was also established in a quarter of Dhaka, known as Tanti Bazar.

6. Mughals were weak at sea. On the other hand, the Burmese, in alliance with the superior Portuguese, became invincible in the eastern water and pillaged the districts of Bakerganj and Dhaka for a long time. Shaista Khan was tasked to bring an end to this terror. A large no of boats were built in the dockyard of Tanti Bazar and Vessels were procured from different ports. In a year, 300 vessels were prepared to meet war requirements.

7. The English East India Company resorted to hostilities against Shaista Khan to establish factories in Bengal in 1651. The British exploiting the weakness of Muslim rulers, succeeded over their contenders in establishing their might first at sea and then on land. The fall of Muslim rule in 1757 in the hands of the British marked the end of Muslim rule and pushed the Bengal into an uncertain destiny for 200 years.

British Rule

8. The British rulers perceived threat to their interest from foreign powers like the Portuguese and the French through the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, and therefore, naval build-up got momentum along the south-western and western coast of Indian subcontinent. Royal Indian Navy was established on 12 October 1934 in Bombay and it shouldered local naval defence. Between 1941 and 1943, out of 18 shore bases established by the British, 7 were located in Bombay and 4 in Karachi. Britain did not feel it necessary to develop any naval infrastructure in the north-east part of Indian subcontinent.

Partition of Indian Subcontinent

9. With the prelude of partition of the Indian subcontinent, the division of military assets was concomitant. To divide naval assets “Navy Subcommittee” was established consisting of officers from Britain, India and Pakistan.The shore establishment naturally became part of the succeeding states and the Royal Indian Navy ships were divided in the ratio 60:40 between India and Pakistan.

Days Under Pakistan

10. At the time of partition, the Pakistan navy had 92 officers. Despite all difficulties naval development started in the western part of Pakistan leaving eastern part in the waiting list. Only after the 1965 war with India, four Brooke Marine Patrol Craft were permanently stationed at Chittagong harbour as a symbolic presence of Navy. Extended Defence office was established in Khulna in 1965 with some men, and a building was commissioned as PNS TITUMIR in 1970 while NOIC Chittagong was upgraded to Commodore Commanding Chittagong. This upgradation did not follow any structural development rather it was done to delegate enhanced power to exercise at the backdrop of political upsurge. Till the end of 1971, naval development in the East Pakistan was confined either in rhetoric or in deliberations/ discussion at the policy-making level without implementation.

11. Demand for naval development in this part was felt since early days of Pakistan in the political arena of the then East Pakistan. Historic 21 point programme of United Front in 1954 and 6 point programme of Awami League in 1966 strongly raised the demand to shift Naval Headquarters from Karachi to East Pakistan. Bangabandhu through a declaration titled "Our right to live" demanded setting up of a militia or para military force in East Pakistan, self sufficiency of East Pakistan in defence matters, an ordnance factory and a military academy to be set up in the east part with the Federal Naval Headquarters to be located in East Pakistan. Officers from East Pakistan were not given due recognition rather they were suppressed, discriminated and deprived of their due share Lt Cdr Shaheed Moazzam used to keep contact with Bangabandhu Sheikh Muzibur Rahman and exchanged views with him. He was said to have motivated many East Pakistan Officers in the Army and Air force against the suppression by the West Pakistani Officers. For this, he had to face Agortola conspiracy case (a sedition case) in 1969. He was brutally killed in the morning of 26 March 1971.