Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping said he stands ready with Bangladesh leaders to better align the two countries’ strategies and jointly promote the construction of his multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to take the strategic partnership of the two countries to new heights.
Xi made the remarks in an exchange of congratulatory messages with his Bangladesh counterpart, Mohammad Abdul Hamid, on the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the bilateral diplomatic relationship on Sunday.
In his message, Xi hailed the steady and long-term friendship saying he is ready to work with Hamid to better align development strategies with Bangladesh, step up cooperation under the framework of the BRI and push forward the China-Bangladesh strategic, cooperative partnership to a new level, official media reported.
With over $26 billion Chinese investments and USD 38 billion dollars funding commitments, Bangladesh is one of the largest recipients of China’s massive infrastructure project.
China has also offered zero-tariff treatment to 97 per cent of Bangladesh’s exports by adding 5,161 more items to the existing list of 3,095 duty-free products. The BRI seeks to build rail, maritime and road links from Asia to Europe and Africa in a revival of ancient Silk Road trading routes.
The issues related to BRI, earlier known as One Belt One Road (OBOR), has been a major bone of contention between India and China as one portion of the corridor passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Besides Pakistan, where China initiated over USD 60 billion as part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China has stepped up its huge infrastructure investments in Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives rising concerns of its growing influence in India’s immediate neighbourhood. The BRI is President Xi’s top priority initiative, which aims firm up China’s global influence.
The initiative has, however, attracted allegations, especially from the US, of debt-diplomacy after Sri Lanka handed over its Hambantota Port to a state-run Chinese firm in 2017 for a 99 years’ lease in a debt swap amounting to USD 1.2 billion. Malaysia has also deferred several projects under the BRI, citing cost revaluation.
Xi, in his message to Hamid, also said the two countries had worked jointly to fight against COVID-19. Earlier, China had sent medical team to Bangladesh to share its experience of handling coronavirus, which had emerged first in Wuhan in December last year.
Bangladesh also is among over a dozen countries where the final phase of clinical trials of Chinese vaccine is being conducted. In his message, Hamid said the Bangladesh-China relationship is developing rapidly and has covered cooperation in key areas, to which Dhaka attached great importance, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
He expressed his deep appreciation for China’s continuous support for Bangladesh in its socio-economic development progress, adding that he believes the close and friendly relationship between the two countries will continue to deepen in the future. Also on Sunday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang exchanged congratulatory messages with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Li said in his message that China is willing to deepen practical cooperation with Bangladesh in various fields and promote the steady and sustainable development of the China-Bangladesh strategic partnership of cooperation to better benefit the two countries and their people. For her part, Hasina said the strategic partnership of cooperation between Bangladesh and China has been developed from the two countries’ time-tested friendship and cooperation.
The strengthened Bangladesh-China cooperation has unleashed enormous potential in maintaining peace, security and stability in the region and even around the world, Hasina said according to Xinhua News.