August 8, 2022
DHAKA – In a politically significant visit to Dhaka by its Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Beijing has reiterated its commitment to being a strategic partner in Bangladesh’s development journey.
Dhaka too has reaffirmed its support for the One China Policy.
It has also sought measures to boost export to China, increase of investment inflow here and stronger efforts to repatriate the Rohingyas.
China said it would do everything it could, while continuing its support for Bangladesh on various issues in international forums, as it seeks to take the bilateral relations to newer heights.
When Wang spoke of “provocations” regarding Taiwan, Prime Minister Sheikh told him to handle things with patience and maintain peace and stability, as the world is already facing an array of crises, including economic fallouts from the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The minister’s 18-hour visit to Bangladesh began on Saturday evening as part of his regional tour. It came at a time when US-China tensions escalated with the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan on August 2-3 and China’s military exercise in Taiwan Straits.
International relations analysts said the world cannot bear another war when it is already mired in multiple crises.
Wang held a bilateral meeting with Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen at Hotel Sonargaon from 7:30-8:30am, after which they signed and renewed four MoUs.
Those include handover of the China-aided 8th Bangladesh-China Friendship Bridge in Pirojpur, Plan of Special Assistance for Disaster Prevention and Reduction, Cultural and Tourism Exchange Programme, and an MoU between Dhaka University’s Institute of Oceanography and Ministry of Natural Resources of China for Cooperation on Marine Science and Technology.
The Chinese FM then met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Gono Bhaban for 35 minutes.
Briefing journalists, Momen said the Chinese minister informed that a section of Taiwanese people is being provoked against the sovereignty of China, which is unacceptable.
“Wang said there are separatists in various countries and if they are provoked by the third world countries, there will be no peace in the world. He also said many are jealous of the China’s development.”
Momen further said, “We support the One China Policy. Our prime minister said peace and stability is of utmost importance now and requested [China] to have patience. Many may provoke [them], but there has to be patience.”
The PM also said her only goal is getting her people out of poverty, and China’s support is most welcome in this regard.
Momen added that there appears to be a cold war in the offing, and Bangladesh needs to take a position to halt it.
Referring to the Non-Aligned Movement by some countries in the 1960s, he said it worked quite well.
“Now the world is in a crisis. Under this situation, as an independent country, we want to take a stance. I hope this will be appreciated,” Momen said, adding that some may not be happy with the stance but it will continue its policy of friendship with all.
Wang Yi left for Mongolia from Dhaka around 10:45am yesterday.
AREAS OF DISCUSSION
PM Hasina told Wang Yi that South Asia, Southeast Asia and China could work together for economic progress by addressing challenges caused by the Russia-Ukraine war. People across the world are enduring difficult times, BSS quoted her as saying.
Asked if Wang offered Bangladesh to be part of Global Development Initiative (GDI) and Global Security Initiative (GSI), Shahriar Alam, state minister for foreign affairs, said they discussed it in detail but it was up to China how much would be disclosed.
However, Momen, during his briefing in the afternoon, said that only the GDI was discussed at his meeting with his Chinese counterpart.
Foreign ministry officials said China wants to share its model of development and support the countries that become part of it.
During the meeting, Wang also said they would allow 98 percent, up from 97, products of Bangladesh for export to China under the duty-free regime. The decision will be effective from September 1.
Momen said some important products, including RMG, vegetables and pharmaceuticals, will be included in the export items, and Bangladesh can significantly increase its export to China, which is now only $600 million a year.
On the other hand, Bangladesh’s import from China is worth $13 billion.
Momen also told Wang to use Bangladesh IT experts as the country has 700,000 of them ready to provide services.
“We said that since you are supporting our development, invest more here. We need it.”
He added that Wang agreed and proposed signing an MoU on a Public Private Partnership cooperation framework.
Presently, in most cases Bangladesh takes out loans for implementing infrastructure projects, but under the PPP model, Chinese private companies can go for joint venture projects with Bangladesh to make them commercially competitive, a foreign ministry official said.
During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Bangladesh in 2016, the two countries signed framework agreement for 27 projects worth about $20 billion. Out of that, eight projects were undertaken and $3.8 billion was disbursed so far.
Dhaka requested Beijing to speed up fund disbursement and project implementation, said Momen. He added that there are also issues on the Bangladesh end that cause delays. Wang agreed to help speed up the projects.
In response to another one of Dhaka’s demands, Beijing agreed to start issuing visas for some 5,000 students, who have been stuck in Bangladesh due to Covid-19 restrictions. The visas will be issued soon, Momen said.
He also requested China to increase flights from Bangladesh to China, including private airliners – a proposal well received by Beijing.
About Rohingya repatriation, Shahriar Alam said Dhaka strongly raised the issue as their prolonged stay here is worsening the law and order situation and is becoming a burden for Bangladesh.
Momen said China has already built 3,000 houses in Rakhine, alongside the others built by Japan and India.