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China makes strategic forays into Bangladesh

June 16, 2010

June 15, 2010

In another sign of its growing strategic inroads
into South Asia, China has proposed to help
Bangladesh build a deep-sea port in Chittagong
and agreed to exchange data about the Brahmaputra
river that flows from Tibet to Bangladesh through India.

China has also promised assistance in installing
Bangladesh's first space satellite.

All these issues came up Monday during talks
between visiting Chinese Vice President Xi
Jinpeng and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina which
covered cooperation on political, economic and
cultural fronts, The Daily Star newspaper reported.

Bangladesh officials said Xi's was a 'return
visit' to the one paid by Hasina in March this
year and would see updating on the pacts signed then.

Hasina had travelled to China, seeking closer
cooperation in a number of areas, including
building a road link from Chittagong to Kunming in eastern China.

According to strategic analysts, the port
development in Chittagong is part of China's
'String of Pearls' strategy that it wants to use
to secure sea lanes that cross the Indian Ocean
and link its industrialized eastern seaboard with
the energy resources of the Middle East.

China has been developing ports in Gwadar,
Pakistan, and at Hambantota in Sri Lanka. It has
expanded its influence in Myanmar in recent years.

This is the first visit by a Chinese state leader
since the Awami League-led government assumed
power in January last year. Xi is leading a
35-member delegation and will sign an agreement
regarding economic cooperation, under which China
will provide 40 million yuan ($5.8 million) as grant.

Over the past few years, China has emerged as the
largest supplier of military hardware to Bangladesh.

China has also replaced India as Bangladesh's
biggest import destination with trade between the
two nations standing at $4.58 billion, though
heavily skewed in favour of Beijing with Bangladesh import being $ 4.4 billion.

China offered last month duty-free access to some
5,000 Bangladeshi products in a 'goodwill gesture'.

Bilateral trade between Bangladesh and China is
expected to increase to $5 billion in 2010 from $4.58 billion in 2009.

Interestingly, China had opposed Bangladesh's
independence from Pakistan in 1971 and recognized it only in 1975.
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