China woos Bangladesh with in­vest­ment

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

DHAKA:

Chinese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping signed loans and in­vest­ment deals with Bangladesh worth about $20 bil­lion yes­ter­day, seek­ing to in­crease Bei­jing’s in­flu­ence in a coun­try closely al­lied to ri­val re­gional power In­dia. Xi hailed what he called a “his­tor­i­cal turn­ing point” in re­la­tions with the im­pov­er­ished South Asian na­tion af­ter talks with Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Hasina. A se­nior min­is­ter who at­tended the closed-door talks said the loan agree­ments from Bei­jing, which will fund key in­fra­struc­ture projects such as roads and rail­ways as well as a new in­dus­trial park, to­talled around $20 bil­lion.

“Bangladesh and China have also iden­ti­fied other projects, whose to­tal loans and in­vest­ment will sur­pass $50 bil­lion,” he told AFP on con­di­tion of anonymity. Xi said both sides had agreed to look into a free­trade agree­ment and ex­pressed hopes the visit would “chart the course for the fu­ture growth of China-Bangladesh re­la­tions”. It is the first visit in more than three decades by a Chinese pres­i­dent to Bangladesh, which lies firmly within New Delhi’s sphere of in­flu­ence.

Im­pov­er­ished Bangladesh needs tens of bil­lions of dol­lars of in­vest­ment in its trans­port in­fra­struc­ture and en­ergy pro­duc­tion to boost its flag­ging eco­nomic for­tunes and cre­ate jobs for its 160 mil­lion peo­ple. But an­a­lysts said Hasina would have to main­tain a care­ful bal­anc­ing act be­tween cul­ti­vat­ing eco­nomic ties with China, al­ready the coun­try’s largest trad­ing part­ner, and main­tain­ing good re­la­tions with In­dia. New Delhi has long backed Hasina and held off from crit­i­ciz­ing her re-elec­tion in Jan 2014 in a con­test that was boy­cotted by the op­po­si­tion and dis­missed as “not cred­i­ble” by Western na­tions.

“Bangladesh is in In­dia’s sphere of in­flu­ence,” said Ali Riaz, political science pro­fes­sor at Illi­nois State Uni­ver­sity in the United States. “Un­der­stand­ably, In­dia is watch­ing Bangladesh’s grow­ing ties with Bei­jing. But Bangladesh is im­prov­ing ties with China care­fully so that it does not jeop­ar­dize its re­la­tions with In­dia,” he told AFP.

Jock­ey­ing for In­flu­ence

Xi will travel on to the western In­dian state of Goa to­day for a sum­mit of BRICS coun­tries - Brazil, Rus­sia, In­dia, China and South Africa - and a one-on-one meet­ing with In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi. China and In­dia, the world’s two most pop­u­lous na­tions, are jock­ey­ing for re­gional in­flu­ence in Asia. Their re­la­tion­ship is col­ored by a brief but bloody 1962 bor­der war over the north­east­ern In­dian state of Arunachal Pradesh, parts of which Bei­jing claims as South Ti­bet.

China has com­mit­ted to a ma­jor pro­gram of in­fra­struc­ture build­ing stretch­ing from its im­me­di­ate neigh­bor­hood to Europe through its flag­ship “One Belt, One Road” pol­icy which seeks to re­vive the an­cient Silk Road trade route. Asked whether that in­vest­ment could jeop­ar­dize her coun­try’s ties with In­dia, Hasina said Bangladesh would main­tain “good re­la­tions with ev­ery­one”.

— AFP

DHAKA: Chinese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping (left) is greeted by Bangladesh’s Pres­i­dent Ab­dul Hamid af­ter ar­riv­ing yes­ter­day.

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