State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam said that he looks forward to establishing direct road and rail links with China via Myanmar.
Speaking as the chief guest at a webinar “Bangladesh-China Development Cooperation: Experience Outlook” organised by the leading local thinktank Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) on Thursday, he said, “We’ve formally approached the Chinese embassy in Dhaka for rail and road links between the two countries via Myanmar.”
“It is to help us also connect with other ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries as well,” he said with reference to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Proposed in 2013, the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (BRI) aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa on and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes.
Alam brushed aside the claim that Bangladesh is falling into a Chinese “debt trap,” saying China’s loans only comprise a small fraction of the Bangladesh’s total global debt.
The Chinese supports come as a blessing for Bangladesh, he said, expressing hope that mutual cooperation between China and Bangladesh will be deepened further in the future to bring prosperity in the countries.
Distinguished speakers from both China and Bangladesh who joined the webinar have also stressed the need for cementing further relations between the countries.
Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming expressed optimism over more investment cooperation with Bangladesh in high-tech fields such as 5G telecommunications, high-speed railway, aerospace, and blue economy.
“I am very optimistic about the future of China’s investment in Bangladesh,” he said, hailing the continuous socio-economic development of Bangladesh.
He said China’s investment in Bangladesh will not only maintain the lead in net inflows but also lead other foreign capital sources in terms of FDI (foreign direct investment) stock in Bangladesh.
CPD Chairman Rehman Sobhan said China has been investing in infrastructure and development across the world as part of its Belt and Road Initiative.
Wang Shida, deputy director of the China Academy for Contemporary International Relations, said the BRI is a new driving force in Bangladesh-China relations.
He said economic and trade relations between the two countries have been growing rapidly and having a quite positive impact on Bangladesh’s economic development.
In her speech, Cheng Min, professor for Bangladesh Studies at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences in Kunming, said Chinese loans are different from other traditional lenders.
“Chinese loans mainly help construct infrastructures which are high quality assets,” she said, adding that the BRI offers a shared future for mankind and a win-win situation for all.
Major General (retired) ANM Muniruzzaman, president of Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS), among others, took part in the webinar and said China has excellent startup knowledge that is what Bangladesh has to acquire now.
He sought more Chinese involvement in Bangladesh’s economic development initiatives including the exploration of the almost untapped blue economy and said it’s high time for China to start talks on subregional cooperation.