China to give $20b in loans, Dhaka engages with ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, Hasina,
Xi agree for ‘strategic partnership for cooperation’, maintain military cooperation
Bangladesh and China on Friday signed 27 deals and memorandums of understanding, including 12 agreements involving about $20 billion as loan from China.
The documents signed included a memorandum of understanding confirming Bangladesh’s engagement in China-led Belt and Road Initiative to steer development, trade and economic cooperation.
The deals were sealed in presence of Chinese president Xi Jinping and prime minister Sheikh Hasina as the Chinese leader arrived in Dhaka on a two-day state visit.
The two leaders said in their statements that they agreed to elevate bilateral relations to a ‘strategic partnership for cooperation.’
They jointly unveiled plaque of six projects including the Karnaphuli River Tunnel, the Chinese Special Economic and Industrial Zone in Chittagong and 1320MW Payra thermal power plant from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The agreements and memorandums were signed for implementing development programmes in the fields of energy and power, roads, railways and information and communications technology, extracting maritime resources, boosting industrial production capacity and containing extremism.
Four Bangladesh Air Force fighter jets escorted the Air China aircraft carrying the Chinese leader as it entered the country’s skyline Friday morning.
Red carpet was rolled out at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport for Xi, welcomed by his Bangladesh counterpart Abdul Hamid at about 11:35am. Xi was accorded a 21-gun salute and a guard of honour by a contingent of army, navy and air force. He was staying at the Le Meridian Hotel under tight security.
This is the first visit from a Chinese head of state to Bangladesh for the past three decades.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina received Xi at the
Prime Minister’s Office in the afternoon. They held tete-a-tete for about 10 minutes before an hour-long official talks.
They witnessed the signing of agreements and memorandums of understanding. They made press statements, but did not take any question.
President Xi and prime minister Hasina said in almost similar language that they agreed to elevate the relations between the two countries from a ‘Closer Comprehensive Partnership of Cooperation’ to a ‘Strategic Partnership of Cooperation’.
‘We’ve agreed jointly advance road and belt initiative,’ Xi said.
They also agreed to launch a joint feasibility study on China-Bangladesh Free Trade Agreement to strengthen trade and investment cooperation, he added.
Bangladesh and China had a huge trade gap. In 2015-16 fiscal. Bangladesh exported goods worth $0.81 billion to China while imported items worth $965 billion from the Asian economic superpower.
Hasina said they reached a consensus on cooperation in key areas such as trade and investment, infrastructure, industry, power, and energy, information and communications technology and agriculture.
During the one-on-one meeting and official talks, Hasina reiterated Bangladesh’s commitment to support the ‘One China Policy.’
The two Asian countries signed a memorandum of understanding confirming Bangladesh’s engagement in One Belt One Road, a Chinese framework arrangement for organising multinational economic development primarily in Eurasia through two main components – the land-based Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road. It was unveiled by Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2013.
The Chinese side agreed to consider and encourage Chinese enterprises to explore cooperation on 22 projects proposed by Bangladesh in power, ICT, river management, infrastructure and other areas, according to a joint statement issued from two capitals on Friday night.
The two sides agreed to maintain military cooperation and exchanges at various levels.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, finance minister Lou Jiwei, commerce minister Gao Hucheng and People’s Bank of China’s governor Zhou Xiaochuan and several senior political leaders accompanies president Xi in the talks.
Finance minister AMA Muhith, industries minister Amir Hossain Amu, commerce minister Tofail Ahmed, Awami League general secretary Syed Ashraful Islam, also the public administration minister, road transport minister Obaidul Quader, foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali, shipping minister Shahajahan Khan, planning minister AHM Mustafa Kamal, foreign secretary M Shahidul Haque and senior officials accompanied the prime minister on the Bangladesh side.
Foreign secretary M Shahidul Haque briefed the press about the talks and the signing of the agreements. Prime minister’s press secretary Ihsanul Karim was also present.
The two leaders felt the necessity of more engagement at the political levels between the two countries and frequent exchange of VVIP to follow up the development.
Agreements on increasing production capacity in Bangladesh industries and the ICT sector were breakthroughs in the visit, Shahidul Haque said.
The foreign secretary, however, did not mention the total amount of financial commitment confirmed by China in the talks.
Government officials involved in the process, however, said the loan agreements were signed involving about $20 billion from China.
Chinese CCTV News reported, about the visit, that the two countries ‘lift ties to strategic partnership of cooperation, ink deals worth billions of dollars.’
Jatiya Sangsad speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury called on Xi at the hotel in the afternoon.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson Khaleda Zia, also former prime minister, called on the Chinese president at the hotel.
Xi called on president Abdul Hamid at Bangabhaban in the evening. Hamid hosted a banquet in honour of the guest
with, among others, kachchi biryani, chicken tikka, malai chop and smoked eel fish.
President Hamid and prime minister Hasina presented silver-made boat, paintings, pajama and panjabi and, for his spouse, Mirpur katan sari.
In this morning, the Chinese president will visit the National Martyrs Memorial at Savar to pay respect to the martyrs of the 1971 Liberation War.
Xi will leave Dhaka for Goa in India at about 10:00am today to attend the 8th BRICS summit. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina will see him off at the airport.
More than 60 Chinese business people were accompanying Xi during the visit.
Before Xi, Li Xiannian was the only Chinese president who visited Dhaka in 1986.
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