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Bangladesh Seeks Partnership with China
Jun 16, 2014

Bangladesh and China signed five deals including one for building a large power plant in Patuakhali with Chinese assistance. During official talks with Chinese premier Li Keqiang in Beijing, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also sought support for five other mega infrastructure projects.

The 1,320-megawatt coal-based power plant will be set up in Kalapara upazila of Patuakhali.

The four other deals include an agreement, a memorandum of understanding and two Exchange of Letters to enhance cooperation in sectors like trade and investment and climate change. The issue of constructing the Sonadia Deep-Sea Port figured prominently in the talks, and the two sides agreed to continue discussions.

The five other mega infrastructure projects, for which Dhaka had sought loan and grant support, are National ICT Network for Bangladesh Government (Phase-III), construction of Rajshahi Wasa Surface Water Treatment Plant, construction of second railway/road bridge over the Karnaphuli at Kalurhgat point, construction of a new dual gauge railway line from Chittagong to Cox's Bazar via Ramu and Ramu to Gundum near Bangladesh-Myanmar border, and establishment of Eastern Refinery Unit-2 and Single Point Mooring Project.

But there was no firm commitment from the Chinese side regarding the construction of the deep-sea port, which could cost about $14 billion. As proposed by China, the two sides had earlier agreed to sign a framework agreement on the deep-sea port, but the deal became uncertain. Bangladesh  declined to sign the agreement on the deep-sea port following differences of opinions and shifting of Chinese position. China had agreed to provide soft loan for the port construction but later changed its mind and offered a commercial loan. It also set the pre-condition that it would do the design, construction and operation of the port. 

Chinese side itself had offered to expand zero-tariff facility to 95 percent Bangladeshi goods going into China to get a more balanced bilateral trade. However, China backed off at the last moment.

During the talks, Sheikh Hasina mentioned that Bangladesh attached highest importance to its relations with China. The foundation of these relations was laid by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman during his visits to China in 1952 and 1957 as minister. China has always been a reliable development partner, and so far it has contributed immensely to Bangladesh's socio-economic development.

Bngladesh Prime Minister said the seventh Bangladesh-China Friendship Bridge and Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka bear testament to the Dhaka-China friendship.  Bangladesh welcomes the peaceful rise of China and wishes to remain as an active partner.

China sought Bangladesh's support in enhancing cooperation with SAARC countries while looking to expand ties with Bangladesh in key areas including energy and infrastructure. 

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China attaches high importance to its relations with South Asian nations. He hoped Bangladesh would support China's cooperation with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, comprising Afghanistan, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India besides Bangladesh. 

China, US among others are observers at the economic and geopolitical cooperation among the eight member nations. 

China wants to expand bilateral cooperation with Bangladesh in areas including energy, communication, infrastructure, construction, technology, agriculture, ocean and disaster prevention, and relief. China will encourage companies to invest in Bangladesh and set up joint ventures, and hopes Bangladesh can provide support in this regard. He also called on the two nations to promote setting up of a joint rice research centre. Joint efforts were needed for an early harvest programme of the economic corridor along China, Bangladesh, India and Myanmar—commonly known as the BCIM—and push for the signing of a four-party pact this year to speed up the corridor construction. 

This was Sheikh Hasina's third visit to China and the first since she was elected as prime minister for the second time in January this year.

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