The China card
Bangladeshi Prime Minister is on a five day trip to China. According to the Daily Star, Bangladesh will seek $2.2b for infrastructure projects including several bridges and a fertiliser factory. The PM will visit Kunming, a major city in Souther China. Apparently, Bangladesh is very keen for a Chittagong-Kunming road and rail network through Myanmar. Also, Bangladesh is reported to be seeking Chinese funding for a deep sea port, which China will be allowed to use.
If these stories turn out to be true, this trip will have more reasons to generate headlines than the PM’s trip to New Delhi in January. And yet, the lead up to this trip has been very low key compared with the earlier one.
But then again, China has always been a low key regional power. Whereas Indian envoys have a track record of making headlines (link), the Chinese ones quietly apply pressure to cancel shows on Tibet. Bangladesh has a larger trade deficit with China than India (see the chart), and exports more to India than China — when was the last time anyone heard of Chinese takeover of our economy, or lack of access to the Chinese market?
So China exerts pressure when its interests are at stake. What does Bangladesh get in return? I guess we will know in a few days. For now, let me state my cautious optimism about the trip.