Bangladesh wants rail, road link with China via Myanmar

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md. Shahriar Alam has highly praised Beijing’s cooperation to Dhaka and said Bangladesh wants to take rail and road links to China via Myanmar.

He also brushed aside any notion of Chinese ‘debt-trap’ while speaking at a webinar on ‘Bangladesh-China Development Cooperation: Experience Outlook’ organised by the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) on Thursday evening.

“We have formally approached to China to help us to extend the railway and road links form Teknaf through the state of Rakhine into Myanmar so that it (road and railways) connects to China and other ASEAN countries in the Southeast Asia,” Shahriar Alam said.

One speaker of the webinar said that the physical distance between Bangladesh and China is only 69 kilometer. The state minister said: “We will be hoping for a day when we will be able to connect China with other mode of transports rather than air connectivity”.

He said the Chinese ambassador in Dhaka is aware of the proposal.

“In view of resource constraints, we need support of our friends like China for massive infrastructure development work. The Chinese government has been providing funding support for different infrastructure and development projects,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s even a case for any other country …the so-called debt-trap is often been used by certain quarter,” he said, adding that China is relatively newcomer in the global capital market.

“I don’t think that this theory at all applies to Bangladesh. And I don’t think it applies to any other country,” he said, citing statistics of the African countries.

The debt-trap is being seen as a way in which the creditor country intentionally extends excessive credit to a debtor country, thereby inducing the debtor into a debt-trap.

This is done with the intention of extracting economic or political concessions from the debtor country when it becomes unable to meet its debt repayment obligations, according to Institute of Security Studies Africa.

Bangladesh has joined the belt and road initiative of China and also the Beijing led infrastructure bank – AIIB. “China has assured that these initiatives have no other objectives other than development cooperation,” the state minister said, adding that China has become “an important partner” of Bangladesh.

He also referred to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s policy and said past few years witnessed a “significant boost in our cooperation with China”.

“The foundation is laid by our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He visited China twice in 50s,” he said, adding that China is the prime driver of economy in the world today.

He highlighted the infrastructural development projects with the help of China and said the prime minister laid down ‘a very clear policy’ as far as China is concerned. “The relation as it stands today as one of those strategic partnerships that we officially declared in 2016 when Xi Jinping made his visit to Bangladesh”.

He said it is a matter of “deep satisfaction” that Chinese investment is on the rise in Bangladesh and both government and the private sector showed “keen interest” to increase their investments in Bangladesh.

“Bangladesh welcomes FDI in open arms,” he said, adding that the government has already allocated almost 800 acres of land at Anwara in Chattogram district for China.

Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka Li Jiming also expressed his optimism that more investments in the high-tech fields such as 5G telecommunications, high-speed railway, aerospace, and blue economy would be coming to Bangladesh.

“I am very optimistic about the future of China's investment in Bangladesh,” he said while praising the socio-economic development of Bangladesh.