Beijing, Jul 5 (PTI): China and Bangladesh vowed to deepen their cooperation under the Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) on Friday during talks between Chinese President Xi Jinping and the visiting Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, official media reported.
During the meeting between the two leaders in Beijing, Xi told Hasina that “the ties between the two countries were upgraded to a strategic partnership of cooperation” during his visit to Bangladesh in 2016.
After that visit, the relations between the two nations deepened, instilling a new impetus for accelerating socio-economic development and improving livelihoods in both sides, he said.
The two leaders vowed to deepen their cooperation under the BRI during the meeting, state-run CGTN TV reported.
Bangladesh is willing to actively participate in the BRI and accelerate the construction of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM), Hasina was quoted as saying by the report.
Strengthening the partnership between China and Bangladesh will bring prosperity, stability and openness not only at the regional level but also on a global scale, Xi said.
He highlighted the importance for the two nations to boost cooperation in the digital economy and jointly build the Digital Silk Road, so as to unleash its great potential.
On her first visit to China after her re-election, Hasina was accorded a red-carpet welcome on Thursday. She later held talks with Chinese Premier Li during which a consensus was reached to step-up cooperation under the BRI.
After the talks, Li and Hasina witnessed the signing of bilateral cooperation agreements in different sectors ranging from aid for the Rohingyas, economic and technical cooperation, investment, power, culture, tourism and water conservancy.
The reference to the BRI and the BCIM during the meetings between Hasina and Chinese leaders were regarded significant from India’s point of view.
Under the BRI, China has been routing most of its investments through its multi-billion-dollar global project aimed at financing and building infrastructure projects, especially in developing countries to enhance its influence across the world.
The BRI investments were criticised by the US as debt trap especially after Sri Lanka handed over its Hambantota port as debt swap to China in 2017.
The controversial USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and BCIM are the components of the BRI, which was mooted by Xi in 2013. While the CPEC regarded as the flagship project of the BRI took off, the BCIM failed to make headway.
India has protested to China over the CPEC as it is being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
China lately is making efforts to revive the BCIM.
After a long gap, Xi raised the BCIM project during his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Bishkek on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit early this month.
The 2800-km BCIM corridor proposes to link Kunming in China’s Yunnan province with Kolkata, passing though nodes such as Mandalay in Myanmar and Dhaka in Bangladesh before heading to Kolkata.
With an estimated USD 31 billion investments, China has emerged as a major investor in Bangladesh – mainly in the infrastructure and energy sectors – raising concerns in India over growing Chinese influence in the region.
The rapid expansion of Chinese investments in Bangladesh were regarded as the second highest by Beijing after the USD 60 billion CPEC.
Hasina began her visit on July 3 by taking part in Summer Davos meeting held at the Chinese city of Dalian.
She is also scheduled to meet Xi before winding up her visit on Friday.
China in recent years has ramped up its investments in Bangladesh especially after the visit of Xi in 2016.
China’s investments in Bangladesh included the construction of 6-km long bridge across the Padma river, as the Ganga is known in the country, costing about USD 3.7 billion and the USD 2.5 billion power plant at Payra near Dhaka.