Asian countries should forget their differences to rally around China’s belt and road initiative for regional development, peace and prosperity, said participants in a regional conference on Wednesday.
The initiative, they said, promised to open up so many windows of opportunities for economic development that it should not be ignored at all.
Countries which opposed the initiative did so only out of egotistical issues, they observed on the first day of the two-day event at a Dhaka city hotel.
‘Not many countries in the world can offer to make such huge investment in building infrastructure to facilitate economic development,’ said Major General (Retd) ANM Muniruzzaman, president of Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies, which organised the conference.
‘The power of the belt and road initiative lies in its spirit of openness. It is open to all,’ he noted.
The participants at the end of the day’s sessions met with journalists in the afternoon.
Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs deputy director Lailufar Yasmin said that India was opposing the initiative just for the sake of opposing China.
‘India is not ready to accept China’s leadership in the region. Its decision to oppose the initiative is egotistical,’ Lailufar commented.
‘But India would have to come around eventually,’ she added.
Fudan University associate professor Lin Minwang said India’s opposition rather helped China get support from many South Asian countries.
‘Due to the Indian opposition, Chinese investment is increasing in South Asian countries, including Bangladesh,’ observed Lin.
The Chinese speakers, however, faced criticism from journalists as China had repeatedly stalled the United Nation’s moves to take action against Myanmar over the persecution of the Rohingyas.
Asked why Bangladesh should help China establish the BRI given its stance against resolution of the Rohingya crisis, Fudan University professor Zhang Jiadong said that China was very careful about ‘issues of other countries.’
He said that the issue should not stand in the way of implementing the BRI.
Former foreign secretary of Nepal Madhu Raman Acharya expressed the hope that India and China would find a way to come together for the sake of regional development.
Chinese ambassador Zhang Zuo spoke at the inaugural ceremony.
Divya Hundlani, research fellow at Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute, Sri Lanka, and Sholto Thomas Scettrino, senior fellow, ISIS, Malaysia also spoke at different sessions on the day.
Bangladesh was slated to get $40 billion for infrastructure development and investment under the BRI, said the speakers.
They said that the biggest challenge for Bangladesh was to ensure transparency while spending the money.