China-Bangladesh: Strengthening Partnership

China-Bangladesh: Strengthening  Partnership

Vice Premier of China Ms. Liu Yandong visited Dhaka on May 24-26, 2015. It is reported that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is expected to visit Bangladesh next September to join the programmes marking 40 years of diplomatic relations between Dhaka and Beijing.
Bangladesh and China on 24th May signed six instruments including three MoUs, two cooperation agreements and one exchange of notes in the public and private sectors in the fields of education, media and container inspection to further boost the bilateral ties of the two countries. The deals were signed following the meeting between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Chinese Vice Premier Lio Yandong at the Prime Minister’s official Ganobhaban residence this evening. Both of them also witnessed the signing of the deals and instruments

Bangladesh’s pragmatic foreign policy under the Hasina government- with China and India- is bearing fruits. Bangladesh Prime Minister’s landmark visit to India in January 2010 created an excellent environment of mutual trust that sought to lay the foundations to a much more mature, stable and fruitful relationship with India through a – 51-paragraph Joint Statement.
Similarly Bangladesh Prime Minister visited China in March 2010 and in June 2014 has injected dynamism in Bangladesh-China relations and bilateral interaction is closer than before.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits next month, Chinese Premier will reach Dhaka next September. The visit of the two Prime Ministers to Dhaka will be noticed by other powers that Bangladesh has been a “transit hub” for economic activities for China and India and as such its profile will be enhanced which in turn may attract investment from other countries.

With regard to Bangladesh’s relation with China, it stands on a different footing from that of India because Bangladesh does not share border with China. As such people in Bangladesh perceive China as a good helping friend

China has assisted Bangladesh in a multi-faceted direction such as, in infrastructure, power, industrial plant and telecommunications. Over the past few years, China has replaced India as Bangladesh’s biggest import destination with bilateral trade of about $10.6 billion in 2014, heavily in favour of China.
China has already built six bridges in the country. All the bridges have contributed to the accelerated socio-economic growth in the country by connecting distant areas. China Major Bridge Engineering Company (CMBEC) is constructing the Padma Multi-purpose bridge, the country’s largest-ever infrastructure project, which is estimated to cost about $1.77 billion or more. China has shown its interest in constructing a deep sea port at Sonadia at Chittagong and Payra .in Patuakhali.
The government of Bangladesh reportedly sought Chinese soft loan for 20 years for 14 infrastructure projects. The important projects include a rail bridge over the Jamuna river and a high-speed “chord” train line between Dhaka and Comilla. Another project envisaged under the loan is the construction of a 4.8km long dual-gauge double-track rail bridge — parallel to the Bangabandhu Jamuna Bridge.

Furthermore, during the visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister in December 2014, to Bangladesh, China reportedly agreed to invest about $4 billion on six projects which include among others, a tunnel of multiple lanes under the Karnaphuli river, a second railway bridge on the Karnaphuli river at Kalurghat, construction of double gauge railway from Chittagong to Cox’s Bazar via Ramu and from Ramu to Gundhum. During the visit it is reported that the foreign minister welcomed Bangladesh’s proposal of creating a specialized zone for investment of Chinese companies.
The Hasina government has been a strong believer in regional connectivity, and given the friendly relations with China and India , the economic corridor among Bangladesh, India, China and Myanmar (BCIM) will come into existence. In December 2014, the representatives of four nations , at a meeting in Cox’s Bazar (Bangladesh) decided to create a fund, a substantial part of which may come from various multilateral development partners while the rest might be borne by the four governments and the private sector.
It is noted that China is an important supplier of arms and weapons to Bangladesh. Reportedly Bangladesh and China signed an agreement in December 2013 to buy two “Ming” class submarines at the cost $230 million to protect its maritime areas in the Bay of Bengal. Since 2010, the government has taken firm steps in gradually building Bangladesh Navy as a deterrent force and the acquisition of submarines is a part of the plan to defend its off-shore areas.
Future cooperation with China may be explored in the following areas among others: reduction of trade deficit, investment, ICT, renewable use energy : solar, wind power and biomass, a shifting of low-end industries to Bangladesh from China, (such garments and leather).and water resource management of the Brahmaputra River through a Himalayan Commission consisting of China, India & Bangladesh, since China built a dam in Tibet on the upper stream of the Brahmaputra River.

Bangladesh has been able to maintain a balanced relationship with China and India because Bangladesh needs both economic giants of Asia to quicken the pace of economic and social development of the country. . Many analysts believe that friendly relations with China and India will enable Bangladesh to have more negotiating leverage regionally and globally.

By Barrister Harun ur Rashid
Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva

Barrister Harun ur Rashid

Barrister Harun ur Rashid

Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva and Former Bangladesh High Commissioner to Australia (1982-84)

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