Dhaka Courier

Dhaka-Beijing: Advancing along ‘strategic’

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina briefs media after her China visit on Monday, 8 July 2019 at Ganobhaban. Photo - PID

Partnership’s success viewed as ‘helpful for prosperity’ in Asia and beyond

China has conveyed Bangladesh that the strategic partnership of cooperation between the two countries will be ‘helpful in a big way’ towards the prosperity and stability in Asia and beyond apart from serving the mutual interest of the two nations.

The Chinese leadership conveyed it to Bangladesh during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s five-day official that experts find as a ‘very important’ one, leading towards stronger ties between Bangladesh and China.

Bangladesh and China established the strategic partnership of cooperation in 2016 during President  Xi Jinping’s historic state visit to Bangladesh.

“Bangladesh-China relationship is flourishing and it’ll go even stronger,” said Dr Ruan Zongze, Executive Vice President of China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) adding that there are numerous synergies and two countries need to work together for a better future.

Principal Research Fellow of the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), National University of Singapore, former foreign affairs adviser Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury also termed the visit a very important one, not only in terms of bilateral relations but also from a regional perspective.

“Bangladesh-China relations are strong of course but it’s going to be stronger because of huge Chinese investment in infrastructural development, partly because of the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) and also  purely on bilateral terms,” Dr Chowdhury said, in remarks to our sister newsagency UNB.

On July 5, Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing and said the elevation of bilateral ties has helped promote cooperation between the two countries to a new phase of fast development, inject impetus into the economic and social development in both countries, and bring more benefits to both peoples.

He called on both countries to carry forward the traditional friendship and jointly promote cooperative and common development of two countries.

The Prime Minister, who returned home on Saturday concluding her five-day official visit to China, briefed the media on July 8 about the outcomes of her just-concluded visit.

9 instruments signed

On July 4, Bangladesh and China signed nine instruments for further strengthening cooperation on power, water resources, culture and tourism sectors as well as providing 2,500 metric tonnes of rice for the displaced Rohingyas.

The instruments, including two loan deals, were signed in presence of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang after a bilateral meeting between the two leaders at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Of the instruments, four ones were signed between the Economic Relations Division of Bangladesh and the Ministry of Commerce of China, foreign secretary Md Shahidul Haque told reporters.

The four instruments are Framework Agreement of Expansion and Strengthening of Power System Network under DPDC Area; Framework Agreement of Power Grid Network Strengthening Project under PGCB Project; Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation between the two governments; and Memorandum of Understanding on the Establishment of Investment Cooperation Working Group.

The ERD also inked two loan agreements with the Export-Import Bank of China. The two agreements are Government Concessional Loan Agreement of Expansion and Strengthening of Power System Network under DPDC Area Project; and Preferential Buyer’s Credit Loan Agreement of Expansion and Strengthening of Power System Network under DPDC Area Project.

Besides, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and its Implementation Plan upon provision of Hydrological Information of Yaluzhangbu/Brahmaputra River was signed between Ministry of Water Resources of Bangladesh and Ministry of Water Resources of China.

Another MoU on Cultural and Tourism Exchange Programme was signed by Ministry of Culture of China and Ministry of Cultural Affairs of Bangladesh.

The remaining instrument is Letter of Exchange (LOE) on the Rohingya Refugees Rice Aid, which was signed the Disaster Management and Relief Ministry of Bangladesh and China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA).

Under the LoE, China will provide 2,500 metric tonnes of rice as assistance for the displaced Rohingya people who have taken shelter in Bangladesh.

On behalf of Bangladesh side, ERD Secretary Monwar Ahmed signed most of the instruments, while Water Resources Secretary Kabir bin Anwar and Cultural Affairs Secretary Dr Md Abu Jena Mostafa Kamal inked one instrument each.

China’s leverage in Myanmar

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang assured that China will persuade Myanmar to resolve the Rohingya crisis through bilateral discussions agreeing that the return of the forcibly displaced people to their homeland is a solution to the problem.

Li Keqiang came up with the assurance at a bilateral meeting with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Great Hall of the People in the capital of China on July 4.

“The Chinese Premier said they’ll try so that the two countries (Bangladesh and Myanmar) could find a solution to this problem. And China will persuade Myanmar in this regard,” said Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque while briefing reporters after the bilateral talks.

Appreciating Sheikh Hasina for her humanitarian response, Li Keqiang said China can understand that it is a big challenge for Bangladesh.

The Chinese Premier said they think the crisis will have to be solved through bilateral channels. China also helped solve the problem in the past as both Bangladesh and Myanmar are friends of China. “So, the two countries need to solve the problem sitting in dialogues and find out a solution,” he added.

Earlier at the bilateral talks, Sheikh Hasina said peace and stability is very much essential for development, but the displacement of Rohingyas from their homes in Myanmar affects the peace and stability in the region.

Mentioning that the Rohingya crisis will worsen with the passage of time, she said it needs to be resolved quickly. “The return of the Rohingyas to their homeland is the solution to the crisis.”

Hasina said Bangladesh engaged in bilateral arrangements and made all sorts of efforts for the repatriation of Rohingyas but the displaced people do not want to return to Myanmar as they are afraid of going back.

In this context, she said China can play the role in creating a congenial environment in Myanmar for ensuing safety, dignity and citizenship of the displaced Rohingyas as well as their access to their lands and property in Myanmar with a view to removing their fear.

Talking about the economy and trade issue, the Chinese Premier said the volume of trade between China and Bangladesh witnessed 16 percent growth in the last year.

In response, Hasina stressed the need for addressing the trade imbalance between the two countries as the trade growth is in favour of China. “So, China should make investment in Bangladesh, develop factories and industries with the buyback guarantee,” said the Bangladesh PM.

Mentioning that Bangladesh is setting up 100 special economic zones, she urged China to come up with investment in those.

In this context, Li Keqiang said they want balanced trade relations and assured of working on reducing the trade imbalance.

Noting that 97 percent Bangladeshi products now enjoy duty-free access to Chinese market, the Chinese Premier said they will try to exempt duties from the remaining 3 percent as well. “China is closely monitoring the outcomes of the FTA feasibility study,” he added.

About the implementation of projects, Hasina said during the Chinese President’s visit to Bangladesh in 2016, Dhaka signed a number of agreements and MoUs with Beijing to implement projects in Bangladesh. She put emphasis on expediting the implementation process of the projects.

Hasina urged China to ease the terms and conditions of loan agreements and take necessary measures for timely disbursement of funds for implementation of the projects. In this regard, her Chinese counterpart said China will consider the matter.

Hasina sought Chinese assistance for implementing the Delta Plan 2100 and setting up a Climate Adaptation Centre, and mobilising resources in implementation of Teesta River Comprehensive Management and Restoration project. She also urged China to expedite implementation process of Dhaka-Chattogram-Cox’s Bazar high-speed train service.

About the visa issue, Hasina said Bangladesh provides preferential visas to Chinese nationals under the umbrella of “on arrival visa” arrangements. But similar treatment is not offered for Bangladeshi nationals travelling to China. The Prime Minister hoped that China will ease the visa process for Bangladesh passport holders, students and businessmen in particular.

About BCIM economic corridor, the two prime ministers highlighted its importance and potentials to connect markets of the region and said both the countries agreed for quick implementation of the corridor.

The foreign secretary said the Chinese Premier termed Bangladesh as a partner of China in South Asia. “We value our relationship with Bangladesh and would like to take it to a higher level ... we’ve a strategic partnership and we hope that it’ll be deepened and strengthened further,” Li Keqiang said.

The Chinese Premier hoped that Bangladesh will keep up its development spree and China will continue to support Bangladesh in this regard. Hasina said her government gives priority to peace, stability and development for the welfare of people.

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen, PM’s Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman F Rahman, and Chairperson of  National Advisory Committee for Autism and Neurodevelopment Disorders, also the  Prime Minister’s daughter, Saima Wazed Hossain (Putul), were some of the notable members of the PM’s entourage during this visit, and joined her at the bilateral talks. Hasina joined a banquet hosted by her Chinese counterpart after the bilateral meeting.

Li Keqiang welcomed the Bangladesh Prime Minister when she reached the Great Hall of the People and they both introduced delegation members to each other.

Later, the Bangladesh Prime Minister was given a guard of honour by a smartly turned out contingent drawn from the three services. Accompanied by the Chinese Premier, Sheikh Hasina took salute from a decorated dais and later inspected the guards. National anthems of the two countries were played and gun salutes were also given on the occasion.

PM pays rich tributes

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, currently visiting China, paid tribute to Chinese heroes by placing a wreath at the Heroes Memorial in Tiananmen Square on July 5.

After placing the wreath, the Prime Minister stood in solemn silence for some time in honour of the heroes as bugle played the Last Post. A smartly turned out contingent of China Armed Forces gave the state salute on the occasion. The national anthems of the two countries were also played.

Later, the Prime Minister joined a meeting with China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) Chairman Li Zhangshu at the Great Hall of the People.

The CPC: Redder than Red

The Communist Party of China (CPC) said it will contact the top leaders of Myanmar to amicably solve the Rohingya crisis and start the repatriation process as soon as possible.

CPC Minister for International Affairs Song Tao gave the assurance when he met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at Diaoyuati State Guest House on July 5.

“We’ll contact Myanmar political leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, to solve the Rohingya problem amicably and so that the repatriation of the first batch of the Rohingyas starts as soon as possible,” he said.

Bangladesh is currently hosting more than 1.2 million Rohingyas. Most of them fled their homeland in Myanmar’s Rakhine State after the military launched a brutal offensive targeting the mainly-Muslim ethnic minority in August 2017.

Foreign Minister AK Momen had told media that the prolonged presence of a large number of Rohingyas in Bangladesh can create an uncertainty and harm the development of the entire region.

China made huge investments in Bangladesh and Myanmar, and the Rohingya crisis might obstruct the fulfillment of their expectations, he said.

‘Bangladesh, China share same goal’

Song Tao highly appreciated Bangladesh’s tremendous development under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

“A very friendly relation now prevails between the two countries and we’ll continue support for Bangladesh’s development endeavours,” he said. The CPC leader described Bangladesh’s GDP growth as “rare in the world”.

In response, the Prime Minister said Bangladesh attained 8.1 percent growth in the last fiscal year and has set 8.2 percent growth target for the current fiscal.

Song Tao hoped that the relations between the CPC and Bangladesh Awami League will be further deepened. He expected that Awami League delegations of various levels would visit China. “Through these visits, ties between the two parties will be close further,” he said.

Terming China as one of the development partners of Bangladesh, Prime Minister Hasina said a deep relation exists between the Awami League and the CPC.

She said that Bangladesh and China share a similar goal and that is poverty alleviation and fulfilling the basic needs of the people. “Our government is tirelessly working to achieve this goal,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh’s founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, recalled his visits to China in 1952 and 1957.

She said Bangabandhu, while narrating the visits to her, predicted that a “new China” is going to be created. “I’m now seeing that China which Bangabandhu predicted after the tours,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said she is now editing a book named ‘New China’ from Bangabandhu’s diary, adding that the book containing Bangabandhu’s predictions about China will be published soon.

The CPC leader expressed interest to translate the book into Chinese and said that they will distribute it among the Chinese people after its publication.

The prime minister extended her heartiest congratulations to the Chinese people and the Chinese Communist Party on the occasion of the 70th founding anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.

Chinese assurances

On July 5, Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Myanmar has a ‘political will’ over the repatriation of displaced Rohingyas.

He made the remark at a meeting with his Bangladeshi counterpart Dr AK Abdul Momen in Beijing, the capital of China.

“The Chinese foreign minister informed that Myanmar has a ‘political will’ to take back its Rohingyas from Bangladesh,” said Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque said while briefing reporters after the meeting.

Highlighting the Rohingya crisis, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr Momen said Bangladesh has no conflict with Myanmar. “We’re good neighbours and we want Myanmar to take its nationals back from Bangladesh,” he said.

In reply, the Chinese foreign minister hoped that the repatriation of the first batch of Rohingyas will be made soon. “We hope that Bangladesh and Myanmar will make arrangements over the Rohingya repatriation and we’ll always stay beside the two countries on this issue,” Haque quoted the Chinese foreign minister as saying.

The foreign secretary said Bangladesh, China and Myanmar sat over the issue in New York and Beijing. “A new door may be opened up due to the talks,” he hoped.

Additional reporting by AKM Moinuddin

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