The growing Bangladesh-China relationship, now seen at its new historical turning point, is ‘not a threat’ to the strategic interests of India as of now, says an international political analyst.
“The investments China is expected to make in Bangladesh doesn’t pose any challenge to the Indian Strategic Interests,” Dr Ali Riaz, Prof and Chair of the Department of Politics and Government at the Illinois State University, told UNB in a brief interview on Saturday.
Understandably, he said, India is closely watching the developments because Bangladesh is under India’s sphere of influence and it would like to see the status quo is maintained. “China, in recent years, has been trying to expand its sphere of influence in Asia,” said Prof Riaz, a Bangladeshi American political scientist and writer of Bangladeshi origins.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, after his important official talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday, said the Bangladesh-China relations are now at ‘new historical’ turning point and heading towards a ‘promising future’. China-Bangladesh cooperation will deliver more fruits for the people of the two countries, and will contribute to peace and stability and development in the region, Xi mentioned.
Sought his evaluation on the just-concluded visit of the Chinese President, Prof Riaz, an expert on South Asian politics, said it is good to see that the relationship between Bangladesh and China is growing. “It’s a clear indication that China would like to enhance its relationship with South Asian countries beyond Pakistan which is its longtime ally,” he explained.
The analyst said the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping should open doors for further cooperation between these two countries. “Altogether loan deals of $24 billion have been signed. We’ll have to wait to see how many of them come to fruition,” Prof Riaz said.
Because about a month or so ago, he said, the Finance Minister expressed frustration with regard to China’s non-response to a number of requests for financing some projects. Condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, China has offered Bangladesh to cooperate with it in combating terrorism and maintaining national security and stability through sharing information, capacity building and training.
On Friday, the two sides have agreed to explore the possibility of establishing a dialogue mechanism on countering terrorism.
Asked how he does see Beijing’s interest in having counterterrorism cooperation with Dhaka when the US and India are willing to invest more in these areas, Prof Riaz said although the relationship between Bangladesh and China has been described as “strategic partnership for cooperation”, there has not been any sign of cooperation in defence and security arenas.
“Therefore, I think, the likelihood of cooperation in counterterrorism is a wish rather than a concrete proposal,” he explained. Prof Riaz also said to engage in CT (counterterrorism) cooperation both countries will require cooperation in security issues. “If Bangladesh moves in that direction, India is expected to react negatively.”
The long 23-point joint statement mentioned that the Chinese side agreed to consider and encourage Chinese enterprises to explore cooperation on the 22 projects proposed by Bangladesh in power, ICT, river management, infrastructure and other areas on the basis of equality and mutual benefit.
There was no mention about deep seaport issue in which many countries have shown interests so far.
Bangladesh was also appreciative of China’s initiative of the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ and the ‘21st Century Maritime Silk Road’ (the Belt and Road Initiative), believing it will bring important opportunities for Bangladesh’s goal of becoming a middle-income country by 2021 and a Developed Country by 2041.
On Thursday, Bangladesh categorically said Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Dhaka visit will not have any negative impact on Bangladesh’s relations with other countries, including India. Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali referred to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s defined broad parameters of Bangladesh’s chosen foreign policy – ‘friendship to all, malice towards none’, and said, “We don’t want enmity with anybody.”
While talking to reporters at the Foreign Ministry, Ali said Bangladesh is fully committed to the policy. “We’ll proceed protecting the country’s interest and following our foreign policy. So, there’s no scope (of negative impact),” he said.
The minister said Bangladesh is achieving successes following the principle showed by Bangabandhu. Earlier, a Chinese foreign affairs expert at a function in Bangladesh, said Bangladesh’s growing relations with India will have no negative impact on Bangla-Sino ties as China is also looking for stronger relations with India.
“There’s no such factor at all. We’ve strong relations with Bangladesh, and now we’re also trying to build better and stronger relations with India. So, where’s the point for us to worry about that?” said Dr Li Li, Associate Research Fellow of China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR).