Bangladesh: Bangladesh is cautious about the support from China

NEW DELHI — Even as Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina prepares to inaugurate the landmark Chinese-built Padma Bridge later this month, which promises to transform the country’s economy, Dhaka is wary of Chinese economic aid .
According to an official source in Dhaka, the Hasina government has rejected a proposal for a high-speed rail link between Dhaka and Chittagong that China has been aggressively pursuing.
According to Indian authorities, Bangladesh has taken India’s security interests into account and allowed Chinese companies to implement projects in the country.
Bangladesh is one of the few Muslim-majority countries that has not lodged an official protest with India over BJP spokesmen’s statements against the country prophet.

Bangladesh Information Minister Hasan Mahmud told an Indian media delegation on Saturday that Dhaka is grateful to the Indian government for cracking down on those who insulted the Prophet.
While a Chinese company built the multipurpose bridge across the Padma River, Bangladesh is proud that its government funded the construction without any credit assistance from China or any other country or entity.
The 6 km long bridge, being built on the turbulent waters of the Padma River, is expected to boost trade and commerce in Bangladesh’s south-western region and boost the country’s GDP by 1.2 percent, according to official estimates.
Although India played no role in the construction of the bridge, it is still a source of satisfaction for the Indian authorities that it will bring Bangladesh closer to India by reducing the rail travel time from Dhaka to Kolkata by almost 3 hours.
“So far, China’s involvement in economic projects has had no impact on India’s security. In terms of credit, Bangladesh has a high debt-to-GDP ratio and is much more exposed to credit from ADB or even Japan,” a source said.
For many, Bangladesh is far more organized in terms of what it wants than perhaps Sri Lanka. That could possibly be why Dhaka, an official source said, thinks investing in a $10 billion bullet train to connect the capital with Bangladesh’s second-biggest city is unnecessary for now.
The decision not to go ahead with the proposal after conducting a feasibility study is still significant as China had urged Dhaka to sign a memorandum of understanding to go ahead with the proposal. Chinese Ambassador Li Jiming reportedly wrote to the Bangladesh government last week to urge the MoU to be signed soon.
In Bangladesh, there were street protests in Dhaka and elsewhere last week against anti-Prophet statements by BJP spokesmen. Asked why Bangladesh has not officially condemned the comments, Mahmud said Bangladesh condemns such insults to the Prophet “wherever it happens” and Bangladesh “congratulates” India on taking legal action.
According to diplomatic sources, Hasina is also scheduled to visit India in a few months. The visit is likely to be the last high-level contact between the two governments ahead of next year’s Bangladesh elections. How fair or credible the elections will be is a matter of debate, however, as the main opposition party, Khaleda Zia’s imprisoned BNP, insists it will only take part if the elections are held under an interim government.
However, a senior Bangladesh government source said accepting the request was out of the question. While India would of course not object to Hasina’s return to power, India believes it is in its own interest and in the interest of Bangladesh for the elections to be participatory, free and fair and not without international legitimacy.

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