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We believe in peace, not taking sides: FM on India, China row

Published : 20 Jun 2020 09:49 PM | Updated : 06 Sep 2020 01:17 PM

Bangladesh believes in peace and stability in the region as elsewhere in the world and there is no question of taking sides in a dispute between friends.

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen made those comments to Bangladesh Post, when asked, as China’s announcement to allow 97 percent products duty free has been seen by many as an effort to woo Dhaka against the backdrop of the stand-off at Ladakh with India.

But Bangladesh does not see this in that way, the foreign minister said.

“We are not taking any sides. We want peace and stability in the region. We believe that through discussions both of our friendly neighbours can solve any problem,” he said, adding that “both India and China are our close friends”.

“Bangladesh believes in principle in the peaceful settlement of all disputes between neighbours,” he said.

Beijing on Thursday, a day after the border conflict that saw 20 Indian soldiers killed, granted the facility to Bangladesh as a Least Developed Country (LDC) that includes 5,161 more products to enjoy zero tariff treatment in the Chinese market.

Currently, 3095 Bangladeshi products enjoy duty-free access to Chinese market under the Asia – Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA).
With the new announcement, 8256 products would join the zero tariff club, which is 97 percent of Bangladesh’s exports.

The Indian media saw this as Beijing’s effort to take Dhaka on its side as Times of India reported “Nepal on its side, China now woos Bangladesh”.

“This announcement (duty free access) was part of a long process,” the foreign minister. “We have asked for the waiver”.

“But recently we have been pursuing strongly due to the pandemic,” he said, adding that Bangladesh sought similar support from the United States and India also.

“We informed them (Beijing) recently that due to pandemic we are facing a crisis. Our export orders are being cancelled. We are also facing a crisis in remittance earnings. Based on that request, I think China made the announcement,” he said.

“Now most of the items are covered. We hope that other countries will give us such assistance,” Dr Momen said.

“With India we have historic relations and with China we have economic partnership. And both of them are our friendly countries,” he said, recalling India’s role in Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971.

“But we are not going to take any side,” he maintained.