Hasina, Xi pledge to boost strategic ties


Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina meets Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday, the last day of her tour of China. The two leaders discussed bilateral issues of mutual interest. - Photo: PID

DHAKA: China has promised to provide economic support to Bangladesh in the form of grants and three types of loans including interest-free ones.

The pledge came Wednesday (July 10) as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wrapped up her China visit, holding talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China also offered Bangladesh one billion Yuan (about $140 million) as economic assistance, Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud said at a press briefing in Beijing prior to Hasina's departure for Dhaka last night.

Beijing said it attaches utmost importance to its relationship with Dhaka and assured Bangladesh of continued support for its journey of development.

At the meeting with Hasina, Xi said China wants to invest more in Bangladesh and work with it on the international stage.

"China and Bangladesh will work together to establish global peace and prosperity," Hasan Mahmud said.

Xi brought up the Rohingya issue, the foreign minister said.

"I know that you have sheltered millions of Rohingyas who were displaced from Myanmar. This is a burning issue for you. We will do our best to help you resolve it," Hasan Mahmud quoted Xi.

China will play an important role towards solving the Rohingya crisis by holding talks with the Myanmar government, and even with the Arakan army if necessary, he mentioned.

Technical committees from both the countries will sit together to decide how the four types of financial assistance will be given to Bangladesh.

A technical committee from China will soon visit Bangladesh, BSS quoted Hasan Mahmud as saying.

Hasina left for China on July 8 following a state visit to India just two weeks before.

She returned home from Beijing early Thursday (July 11).

Experts say the back-to-back visits are a way of balancing the relationship with the Asian powers that are vying for influence in the Indian Ocean region.

Hasina last visited China in 2019.

Back in 2016, Xi visited Dhaka when Bangladesh joined the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and elevated the relationship to "strategic partnership of cooperation".

Yesterday, the two leaders elevated the relationship to "comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership".

Xi said, "We, the two countries, are going to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations next year.

"Marking the celebration, we want to take the existing strategic relations to the second step."

Hasina invited the Chinese president, the prime minister and others to visit Bangladesh next year to celebrate the 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

"You stood firm against foreign interference.

"This not only demonstrates your conviction to stand upright against the pressure, but also the courage of the Bangladeshi people as an independent people," Xi told Hasina according to a pool report made available to this newspaper.

He said China consistently opposes interference in other countries' internal affairs under any pretext, and firmly supports Bangladesh in its pursuit for a development path that suits it.

Xi expressed his readiness to work with Hasina to improve bilateral relations based on a strategic and long-term perspectives, deepen political trust, and carry forward the traditional friendship.

He called for joining hands to boost Belt and Road cooperation, collaboration in various fields, and establish the "comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership" between the two countries.

Xi also expressed his desire to contribute to the development of South Asia and the Global South, according to the pool report.

Hasina reassured Xi about Taiwan -- Beijing's most sensitive issue -- saying "Bangladesh firmly adheres to the one-China principle, supports China's position on the Taiwan issue, and resolutely opposes external forces interfering in China's internal affairs", reported South China Morning Post.

Hasina said she faced many problems in holding elections and that there were some quarters who always try to disrupt the polls.

"...I always enjoy the people's support and with the people's support, we won the election. This is my fourth consecutive term.

"So, I feel that I have big responsibility for my people," she said thanking Xi for always supporting her.

"And after the elections, your message gives us more enthusiasm," she said.

Hasina thanked the Chinese president for helping Bangladesh build some iconic structures, including the Padma Bridge and Bangabandhu Tunnel.

Xi assured Bangladesh of providing assistance in the development of its southern part as Hasina sought support towards this end.

She raised the issue of trade imbalance between the two countries and called upon China to mitigate the gap.

In 2022-23, the bilateral trade was $24 billion, but Bangladesh exported to China goods worth less than $700 million.

In response, Xi said China will import more goods, including mangoes, from Bangladesh.

In response to Hasina's request for Chinese assistance in developing Bangladesh's agriculture sector, Xi assured her of providing technical support and necessary training.

Xi stressed the need for more cultural exchanges and people-to-people contact.

Noting the deepening relations between the Awami League and the Chinese Communist Party, he said, "Good governance needs good party."

Earlier in the day, Hasina had a delegation-level meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang.

She requested her Chinese counterpart to import leather products, jute products, pharmaceutical goods, and ceramic products from Bangladesh.

Hasina invited more Chinese investments in 100 special economic zones and Bangabandhu Industrial Park, mentioning that Bangladesh has allotted one export processing zone for Chinese investors.

She stressed the need for Bangladesh's inclusion in BRICS in any form.

In response, Li Qiang assured her of Chinese support.

Hasina also sought Chinese cooperation so that Bangladesh could enjoy the LDC facilities at least for three more years after it graduates to a middle-income country in 2026.

The Chinese prime minister gave a positive response.

Both the leaders put emphasis on celebrating the Golden Jubilee of their diplomatic relationship in a befitting manner.

Bangladesh and China also signed 21 instruments and made seven announcements.

The instruments involve the banking sector, trade and investment, digital economy, infrastructure, disaster management, export of agricultural products from Bangladesh, and people-to-people connectivity.

On Tuesday, Hasina attended a trade and investment summit participated by businesses from both countries.

Bangladeshi and Chinese companies signed 16 MoUs to boost collaboration in textiles, electric vehicles, solar power, financial technology, and other technology.

Four of these MoUs will bring in nearly $500 million in investments.

Hasina also met Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) President Jin Liqun and requested him to cut the interest rates on its loans for Bangladesh and finance infrastructure, river dredging, and climate-resilient houses.

According to former ambassador to China Munshi Faiz Ahmad, elevating the relationship to "comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership" means the two countries will now cooperate in all sectors and further deepen their bilateral relationship.

People often think there are military components when the word "strategic" is used, which is not correct.

Bangladesh was seeking a loan of $5 billion in Yuan amid foreign currency shortage but the terms and conditions were not agreed upon.

Faiz said China has pledged 1 billion Yuan and more will follow as evident in Xi's words. - The Daily Star/ANN

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