Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said ensuring global peace has become far more challenging than in the past due to the pandemic.
"With the advent of invisible enemies like the coronavirus, the rapid spread of technology, and the advancement of time, new elements of threats have emerged," she said.
The PM was speaking at the closing ceremony of "Exercise Front Runner of Peace-2021" yesterday. She joined the programme virtually from the Gono Bhaban.
On the occasion of the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Golden Jubilee of Independence, a multinational exercise organised by Bangladesh Army was held at Bangabandhu Cantonment, Ghatail, Tangail from April 4-12.
Military members from India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh participated in the exercise.
Hasina said peacekeepers in UN peacekeeping missions currently have to deal with multidimensional and complex situations. "So, the number of peacekeepers' deaths is rising at an alarming rate."
She said 158 Bangladeshi peacekeepers have died and 237 sustained injuries so far. "Time has come to equip peacekeepers with appropriate training and equipment to deal with the upcoming crises in UN peacekeeping operations."
The recent incidents that happened in UN peacekeeping missions were presented in "Exercise Front Runner of Peace" so that future peacekeepers may be trained well in making appropriate decisions to deal with such situations, the PM added.
She said properly trained armed forces are essential to safeguard the national integrity and sovereignty of any country. "Similarly, there is no alternative to regular exercise in proving the capabilities of the military members."
Hasina said the Awami League after returning to power in 2009 had formulated a long-term plan, "Forces Goal 2030", and it is being implemented with the aim of building a highly professional and trained military.
In 2016, she said, the government set up Bangladesh Peacebuilding Centre. In the last 12 years, it has made significant progress in modernising the three forces.
"We have added sophisticated weapons and technology to our military. We have adopted a 'zero-tolerance policy' to eradicate terrorism and militancy."
So far, over 175,000 Bangladeshi peacekeepers, including 1,800 women, have participated in 54 missions in 40 countries of five continents while more than 7,000 Bangladeshi army and police personnel are currently deployed in 10 peacekeeping missions, Hasina said.
"Wherever our peacekeepers were deployed, they upheld the flag of the United Nations as well as brightened Bangladesh's image. That's why Bangladesh has become one of the highest peacekeeper contributing countries in the world today," she said.
Talking about socioeconomic development, the PM said even during the pandemic when the world economy got stalled, the government has tried to keep the Bangladesh economy moving, enabling the country to achieve 5.4 percent GDP growth. "In that time we have been elevated to the developing nation bracket."
Visiting Indian Army Chief Gen MM Naravane also spoke at the programme. Chief of Army Staff Gen Aziz Ahmed delivered the welcome and thanksgiving speeches.
On behalf of the PM, the army chief distributed certificates among the participants of the exercise.