MonitorsPublished on Sep 17, 2010
Bilateral relations between China and Bangladesh will strengthen further once the road and rail links are established between the two countries through Myanmar. The prospects for the road-rail links have brightened after Myanmar cleared the transit facility, the Chinese envoy for Bangladesh has said.
China, all-weather friend of Bangladesh
< class="heading1">Analysis

Bilateral relations between China and Bangladesh will strengthen further once the road and rail links are established between the two countries through Myanmar. The prospects for the road-rail links have brightened after Myanmar cleared the transit facility, the Chinese envoy for Bangladesh has said.

A long-standing desire of Bangladesh, it will not only be helpful in catapulting closer ties with China but also contribute to the nation's economic growth. Giving a further boost to bilateral ties is the Chinese credit-line of $ 800 m, for establishing a fertilizer plant in Sylhet and induction of 3-G technology in the telecommunication sector in Bangladesh.

There is euphoria in the country over the deepening China relations, and unlike in the case of India, there are no suspicions or opposition. China is thus being described as an 'all-weather friend', symbolizing the depth of the relationship and also the level of confidence among the people of Bangladesh about China. Considering that China has been able to get the people of Bangladesh to shed the antagonism dating back to the creation of the country, when Beijing got identified with Pakistan, the bilateral ties have come a long way, since.

Biggest market for Chinese arms

The two countries established diplomatic ties in 1975, four years after the formation of Bangladesh. Since then, there has been no looking back. China today is the biggest trading partner of Bangladesh. The bilateral trade in 2009 was worth $4.58 billion which is likely to cross the $ 5-billion mark in 2010. Besides, China has invested in the infrastructure sector in the country. The six friendship bridges over various rivers of the country and the friendship centres built by China are popularly recognized as a mark of Chinese friendship. Bangladesh has accepted China as a strategic partner, and the two shared close military ties. Bangladesh is also the biggest market for Chinese arms.

However, there are issues like trade-deficit, which could lead to disagreement between the two. But they are hardly regarded as an irritant. Although Bangladesh does not mention the trade-deficit, which stands at $ 2 billion, and has been urging China to reduce the gap, the prominence and intensity hardly matches with that in relation to India. Hence this makes one inquisitive about the reasons for this bonhomie.

For an impoverished country like Bangladesh economic uplift of the country has been a major determinant in forging ties with countries. The Chinese economic success has led the country to believe that stronger ties with Beijing will help to gain economically. The country is eyeing Chinese investments in the country. It is also inviting Chinese companies to set up businesses, mainly in the manufacturing sector.

Being a smaller country with regard to economic, geography and military power in comparison to its Indian neighbour, Bangladesh is always wary of Indian intentions, whatever be the reason and justification. Fondness for China thus becomes a counter-balance against India. Some observers of South Asia argue that it was this policy of counter-balance that led Bangladesh to invite China not only to use but also to construct a sea-port.

Another argument that China deals with Bangladesh on the equal terms and does not display any 'Big Brother attitude' of which India is being often accused of. The most important argument in favour of the country's relationship with China is that the swiftness which China displays while implementing projects. The popular perception is that India promises but China delivers.

However, none should overlook the kind of relationship that China has been able to garner among the political parties which is very important in the context of Bangladesh mainly due to its confrontational politics which also influences foreign policy and relations. While India is regarded to be in favour of the ruling Awami League, China is respected for its non-partisan attitude towards local parties. During Chinese Vice- President's visit in April 2010 not only did he meet leaders of the ruling party but also found time for the Leader of the Opposition.

Joyeeta Bhattacharjee is Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Opposition to return to Parliament

After staying away from Parliament since June 2, the four-party Opposition alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is contemplating to participate in the session commencing on September 20. The Opposition wants to join Parliament to force the Government into meeting demands and to uphold the constitutional system. Hence the Opposition seems to have suspended its agenda of launching an anti-government movement declared earlier by the BNP.

Salauddin Quader, a member of BNP's Standing Committee, observed that the party will not go ahead with the protest movement in a traditional way but will start it from Parliament. However, some media reports claimed that grassroots-level workers of the BNP and other Opposition parties wanted their MPs to return to Parliament They were also reportedly influenced by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's charge that the Opposition was trying to destabilize the country by launching anti-government protests and call for them to return to Parliament.

The politics of the country is infamous for its confrontational nature of politics. Often rival parties resort to street violence to voice their views instead of debating issue in the parliament. It was this confrontational nature of politics that led to the installation of a military-led caretaker government and the postponement of the parliamentary polls in 2007. People do not support such confrontational politics any more, it is said.
Source: The Daily Star, September 14,15 &17, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">JMB is still getting funds

Security agencies have once again spoken about the dismantling funding sources for the banned militant outfit Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). Despite the arrest of top leaders recently, the security agencies are astonished by the continuation of JMB's financial network.

Security agencies claim that the militant outfit gets Taka 50-60 lakh monthly from various local and foreign sources, mainly monthly contributions, zakat and donations from overseas supporters numbering about 3,000 in countries like Australia, the UK, Italy, Canada, Malaysia and West Asia.

Arrested JMB leader Saidur reportedly told the security agencies that they used to receive Taka 50,000 a month from an Indian money-launderer. The security analysts observed that to secure their finances the militant outfits are innovating different ways to get their job done and the security forces are finding it difficult to keep track of their ever-changing techniques.
Source: The Daily Star, September 15, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Accord on constituency identification

The Government and the Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) have agreed to prepare a schedule for determining inhabited islands and announce the administrative constituencies on October 17, ahead of elections to the local bodies by year-end. The Government has proposed three amendments, which include forming of city councils for every 10,000 population, administratively joining islands within four nautical miles and changing the percentage on which members are elected.

DRP Deputy Leader Ibrahim Shareef earlier told Haveeru that the party could not accept most of the amendments. President Mohamed Nasheed welcomed DRP's cooperation in the talks. The President described the manner in which the talks were carried out as a clear example of cooperation that should exist between the government and opposition parties.
Source: Haveeru, 16 September 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Military ties with Turkey

Maldives Defence and National Security Minister Ameen Faisal met his Turkish counterpart Vecdi Conul in Ankara when they decided to sign a framework agreement for military cooperation in the coming days. Faisal said the agreement would contribute to bilateral relations.

The two ministers will discuss cooperation in defense industry, military training and other defense issues in their meetings. Faisal will also visit defence industry facilities in Ankara and Istanbul.
Source: Miadhu, 16 September 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maldives to Establish a Holding Company

The Maldivian Cabinet has decided to establish a holding company and to bring all government-owned companies under it. The company will be run in accordance with international best practice.

State-owned companies in the Maldives were initially created to provide basic services to the people. However, in line with Government's policies, several companies were corporatised. The Cabinet has now resolved that the next step would be to privatise those companies. Currently there are 46 State-owned companies, out of which 33 are fully Government-owned.

The Cabinet has also tasked the Ministry of Housing and Environment to carry out a project to design and manage a national electric grid. The Government believes electricity can be provided at cheaper rates and greater economies of scale can be achieved, by networking islands via cable instead of placing generators in every single island.
Source: Miadhu, 15 September 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Prachanda withdraws from PM elections

In a surprising turn of events, Maoists' chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' has withdrawn from the prime ministerial elections. This follows his failure to garner a simple majority in the seven earlier rounds of polling by the Constituent Assembly.

The decision was made public after the Maoists' meeting with caretaker Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and other senior members of the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist. This has left only one candidate Ram Chandra Paudel of the Nepali Congress, who is also unlikely to win the eighth round of polling on September 26.

Fresh negotiations for a consensus candidate from outside these two parties are likely, with President Ram Baran Yadav possibly playing an important role as the Head of Staet and Custodian of the Cosntitution.
Source: Economic Times, September 17, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UNMIN term extended by four months

Ending uncertainty, the Government and Maoists have agreed to a four-month term-extension for the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), till January 2011. The term of the UNMIN which was operating in Nepal since 2007 to oversee the peace process and the integration of the People's Liberation Army within the ranks of the Nepalese Army, was scheduled to end on September 15.

There were major disagreements within the political circles over prolonging its term but as the task of the integration of the PLA is still pending, the majority decided in favour of extending UNMIN's term, conditionally. However, UN made it clear that UNMIN term would finally end in January when the UN workers would be free to leave.

The UN Security Council has also called on "all political parties in Nepal to expedite the peace process and to work together in a spirit of cooperation, consensus and compromise in order to complete the transition to a durable long-term solution to enable the country to move to a peaceful, democratic and more prosperous future."
Source: AFP, September 16, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China eyes Nepal hydropower

The Chinese private sector is keen on playing a major role in developing the hydro-power sector in Nepal. While speaking at the 11th meeting of Nepal-China Non-Government Cooperation Forum in Kathmandu, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Qiu Guohong said, "Chinese hydro-power companies are looking to exploit opportunities to participate in hydropower generation in Nepal."

A high-level 40-member Chinese team has come to Nepal to attend the Forum meeting and most of them belong to reputed businesses. The Chinese businesspersons told their Nepali counterparts that they were seeking to invest in hydro projects ranging from 10 MW to 500 MW. "Even the district-based small Nepali entrepreneurs can invest in hydro-power sector by forging collaboration with the Chinese," said Kush Kumar Joshi, President of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI).

In 2009, bilateral trade volume reached $ 440 million. It was $ 237 million during January to May 2010. China has 58 joint ventures in Nepal as compared to India's 27.
Source:, September 17, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MQM chief assassinated in London

Dr Imran Farooq, founding leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the organisation's first Secretary-General, was assassinated in London. Dr Farooq also served as the party's only convener. Karachi was shut down to pre-empt any violence, given the historic tensions between the Muhajirs and the Sindhis.

Dr Imran Farooq was one of the key figures who founded the All-Pakistan Mohajir Students' Organisation (APMSO) that created its mother organization, the Muhajir Qaumi Movement, now called the MQM. The party advocates the cause of the Urdu-speaking populace, mainly in Karachi and other parts of urban Sindh.

In 1992 in the wake of a military crackdown against the MQM, Dr Farooq went underground and led the party from hiding. Later he escaped on a fake passport and identity. In 1999, he arrived in London and applied for political asylum.

During the years immediately before his death, Dr Farooq's influence in the party was said to have lessened. Political observers say there could be serious consequences if the assassination was found to have any links within Pakistan.
Source: Dawn, 17 September, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Waivers on tariff likely

European diplomatic chief has proposed the granting of special trade tariffs ahead of the upcoming European Trade Summit. This could include duty free access, unilateral waiver of WTO agreements or lowering of most favoured nation tariff on products. This would provide a struggling Pakistan economy with ?25 millions worth benefits. The US has also proposed relaxing of duties in its markets.

Initial export target of $ 21.5 billions maybe revised after the flood impact assessment on external trade. In fiscal year 2010, textile products rose by seven per cent to $ 10.24 billions and rice exports by 9.7 per cent to $ 2.18 billions. These account for 64 per cent of the exports. Last fiscal year, trade deficit stood at $ 15.3 billions as exports and imports totalled around $19.4 billions and $ 34.7 billions, respectively. Keeping trade deficit low requires a big boost to exports and one way of achieving that could be to try to get easier access to the US and the EU markets.

The idea of preferential treatment has however caused concern among several member nations including India which competes with Pakistan on similar products in the world markets.
Source: Dawn, September 11, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No military action in Balochistan

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani has categorically rejected the idea of a Swat-like military operation in Balochistan. He said that the federal Government was sincere in its attempts to implement the Aghaz-i-Huqooq package.

The package includes addressing issues of provincial autonomy, restructuring of the NFC awards, release of political prisoners, dialogue with all major stakeholders, involuntary disappearances, construction of cantonments, role of federal agencies, royalty formulas, mega projects, share in ownership of oil and gas companies, probe into the killing of Baloch leaders, quota in HEC scholarships and additional jobs for the people of Balochistan.

Interior minister Rehman Malik also denied a statement suggesting possible operations in the Balochistan province. Besides political reluctance, it is likely that the army expressed unwillingness to expand its area of operation, given the present circumstances.
Source: Dawn, 11 September, 2010

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Beijing Lanka's biggest aid giver

In the midst top-notch visits from India, including those of the top brass of the armed forces, a high-level Chinese Defence delegation from Sri Lanka has visited Beijing. The team, headed by Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, discussed bilateral defence cooperation with Chinese officials.

This, even as China was designated the single largest foreign donor to Sri Lanka last year, knocking off traditional financier Japan and also coming ahead of the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. The Chinese Government accounted for 54.3 per cent of the total foreign commitments of $ 2,221.7 million made that year. Apart from a grant of $ 2.4 millions, the rest of the Chinese assistance came in the form of preferential buyer's credit and buyer's credit.
Source: The Island, September 13-14, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">LLRC invites rights groups

The President-appointed Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) has asked the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG), the Human Rights Watch (HRW) in New York and London-based Amnesty International to send their respective representatives to Colombo to appear before it next month, for recording their views on human rights issues and related matter.

The LLRC invite came even as the US and the UK expressed displeasure over the 'erosion of democracy' in the country. "The US is concerned that this constitutional amendment (18-A) weakens checks and balances, and thus undermines the principles of constitutional democracy," State Department spokesman P J Crowley said in Washington. In London Alistair Burt, Minister for the Middle East and South Asia, told Parliament, "Human rights issues, particularly freedom of expression, concerns of the media have been raised with Colombo," which however reacted strongly to the US observations and asked Washington to keep its house in order.
Source: Daily Mirror, Colombo, September 14-15, 2010

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