People's Republic of Bangladesh

Bangladesh–People's Republic of China relations

The bilateral relations between the People's Republic of China and the People's Republic of Bangladesh were established between late 1975 and 1976. Ties had been non-existent since Bangladesh's independence in 1971, owing to China's opposition to its creation. But once ties were established, both nations grew closer on both the international stage and bilateral relations over the 1980s and 1990s.

Background

The People's Republic of China supported Pakistan against the Mukti Bahini during the Bangladesh Liberation War and against India during its war with Pakistan that resulted in the establishment of Bangladesh. In 1972, China exercised its veto power as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to block Bangladesh's entry into the United Nations. Bangladesh had aligned itself with India and the Soviet Union, both of whom had strained relations with Pakistan and China.

Establishment of bilateral relations

With the overthrow of Bangladesh's founding leader and president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on August 15, 1975, the successive military regimes distanced the country from its traditional allies, India and the Soviet Union. At the same time, Pakistan warmed towards Bangladesh and diplomatic relations were established in 1975-76, its allies such as Saudi Arabia and China followed. A preliminary agreement between China and Bangladesh to establish relations was signed in late 1975 and duly established in 1976. The then-president of Bangladesh Ziaur Rahman made an official visit to China in 1977.

Development of closer ties

China's move towards a more open foreign policy coincided with Bangladesh's distancing from India and the Soviet Union. Both nations grew closer on the international stage as well, finding common ground against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and Vietnam's intervention in Cambodia. By the mid-1980s, China had forged close commercial and cultural ties with Bangladesh and also supplied it with military aid and equipment. The then-president of Bangladesh Hossain Mohammad Ershad was received with much fanfare and warmth when he visited Beijing in July 1987. On October 4 2000, Ministry of Post and Telecommunications (Bangladesh) issued a postal stamp marking the 25th anniversary of the establishment of Bangladesh-China diplomatic relations. By this time, China had provided economic assistance totaling US$ 217 million to Bangladesh and the bilateral trade had reached a value mounting to USD 715 million dollars. In 2002, the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao made an official visit to Bangladesh and both countries declared 2005 as the "Bangladesh-China Friendship Year." The two countries signed nine different bi-lateral agreements to increase there mutual relationship.

On Bangladeshi invitation China was added as an observer in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). After Cyclone Sidr hit Bangladesh in 2007, China donated US$ 1 million for relief and reconstruction in cyclone-hit areas.

Economic ties

Bangladesh is third largest trade partner of China in South Asia. But, the bilateral trade between them is highly tilted in favor of Beijing. Bilateral trade reached as high as USD 3.19 billion in 2006, reflecting a growth of 28.5% between 2005 and 2006. China has bolstered its economic aid to Bangladesh to address concerns of trade imbalance; in 2006, Bangladesh's exports to China amounted only about USD 98.8 million. Under the auspices of the Asia-Pacific Free Trade Agreement (AFTA), China removed tariff barriers to 84 types of commodities imported from Bangladesh and is working to reduce tariffs over the trade of jute and textiles, which are Bangladesh's chief domestic products. China has also offered to construct nuclear power plants in Bangladesh to help meet the country's growing energy needs, while also seeking to aid the development of Bangladesh's natural gas resources.

In 2005, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao visited Bangladesh on an official visit on April 7 and 8. Various agreements were signed during this visit. On transportation side, China and Bangladesh have agreed to start a direct air transport route between Dhaka and Beijing via Kunming. Also Kunming-Chittagong road link through Myanmar is also considered. The Chinese premier readily agreed to constructing the Di-Aluminium Phosphate (DAP) fertilizer factory in Chittagong entirely on concessional lending instead of on supplier's credit.

In 2007, Chinese Assistant Minister of Commerce, Wang Chao visited Bangladesh with the 39-member purchase delegation. It is the biggest purchase delegation ever to Bangladesh with over 10 companies listed in China's top 500 and some of them in world's top 500. Delegation is reported to have purchased Bangladeshi goods worth over USD $50 million. Both countries accepted to build a "Bangladesh-China Friendship Exhibition Center" in Dhaka.

Bangladesh's relationship with China has historically affected India in one way or another. In 2007, news reports claimed that China was planning to divert the water of Brahmaputra river to it's north-west regions. The Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh met Chinese president Hu Jintao to schedule the first meeting on this matter. Adding to India's voice was Bangladesh, which would be deeply affected if China were to actually go ahead with its plans.

Military ties

Army of Bangladesh has been equipped with Chinese tanks, it's navy has Chinese frigates and missile boats and the Bangladesh Air Force flies Chinese fighter jets. In 2002, China and Bangladesh have signed a “Defence Cooperation Agreement” which covers military training and defence production. China is also reported to pay money like US$25 million for a ‘China-Bangladesh Friendship Centre’.”

In 2006, in a report submitted to the United Nations by China, for its exports and imports of major conventional arms revealed Dhaka is emerging as the prime buyer of weapons made in China. China sold 65 large caliber artillery systems, 16 combat aircraft and 114 missile and related equipment to Bangladesh in 2005. Besides this, some 200 small arms like pistols and sub-machine guns have been imported along with regular 82-mm mortars.

In 2008, Bangladesh has set up a missile launch pad near the Chittagong Port with assistance from China. Breaking usual protocol of informing India about its missile tests, Bangladesh's missile program. Bangladesh performed maiden missile test on May 12, 2008 with active participation of Chinese experts. It successfully test-fired land attack anti-ship cruise missile C-802A with a strike range of 120 km from the frigate BNS Osman near Kutubdia Island in the Bay of Bengal. BNS Osman is frigate class ship, commissioned by the Navy of Bangladesh in 1989, is a 1500-ton Chinese built Jianghu class warship, and the C-802A missile, according to experts, is a modified version of Chinese Ying Ji-802 (western version SACCADE) with weight reduced from 815-715 kg to increase strike range from 42-120 km. This enhanced strike radius that has left Indian security agencies worried.

References

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