China’s interest in building deep sea port in Bangladesh was solely on ‘business reason’ and ‘not for military use’, its ambassador in Dhaka said on Saturday, placating concerns from some quarters about the Asian power’s interest in the coveted infrastructure project.
“We believe in Bangladesh’s economic development,” Li Jun said at a seminar, “We want to see a stable South Asia.”
The ambassador said several years ago some Chinese companies showed their interest to build the port and few of them also opened up offices in Dhaka.
“Some countries showed their concern about it,” he said without naming any, “But China is open to cooperate with all.”
“Our interest was not for military use, it’s for business reason,” the ambassador of the world’s second largest economy with which Bangladesh has strong military relations, said.
Officials say Bangladesh wants to build a deep sea port at Sonadia to cater to the growing need of cargo movement for the country and the region.
China, and India had showed interests for the proposed port long before and recently the UAE offered its investment in building the project.
Analysts find Bangladesh in quagmire as the two rising powers in Asia – China and India — want to have their control in the Bay of Bengal, an important sea for Bangladesh’s security and development.
Apart from investing in deep sea port, a number of strategic initiatives with China like constructing an oil-pipeline from Chittagong to Kunming and connecting with the Kunming, Myanmar road link were much-talked about issues in recent years.
Analysts said the initiatives remained unrealised, because of strategic dynamics of ‘triangular relations’ between India, China and the United States.
The ambassador said: “Bangladesh has a tradition to work with western big companies. But when they (western companies) get contracts, they give sub-contract to Chinese companies.”
He, however, said Bangladesh should not be worried about the ‘complexities’ of China’s relations with the US and India.
“The bilateral trade volume between China and India is now nearly $ 10 billion,” he said, suggesting that Bangladesh take advantage of the opportunities from both India and China. “You don’t need to take any side,” he said.
Stating that the current trade volume between Bangladesh and China stood at $ 6.2 billion in 2011-2012, dominated by China’s export, the ambassador said, he was not happy with the figures as he believed there was much more potential for increasing bilateral trade and investment.
He said Bangladesh was important for China as ‘we have a long history of people to people contact.’
“Bangladesh is a developing country with huge population, we are also a developing country with huge population,” he said as he drew some similarities between the two countries to drive home the point that China wants more cooperation with Bangladesh.
He said Bangladesh’s connectivity with China through Myanmar depends on the relations between Bangladesh and Myanmar and China did not have any problem with it.
Presenting the keynote paper at the seminar, Dhaka University’s Professor of Political Science Ataur Rahman said the friendship between the two countries was ‘all weathered and based on mutual interest.’
He said Bangladesh does not have ‘strategic autonomy’ in the region, so ‘we have to have the capacity of skilful balancing’ to tap the benefits of the big powers.
Centre for East Asia (Foundation) Bangladesh organised the seminar.