Bangladesh sought China’s support to repatriate Rohingya refugees to Myanmar during a visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi, as the Chinese government has a strong influence on the military junta ruling Myanmar.
China had used its influence in Myanmar to broker a November 2017 agreement to repatriate about 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar in August that year.
Despite attempts to send them back, the refugees refused, fearing danger in Myanmar, which was exacerbated by the military takeover last year.
Wang arrived in Dhaka on Saturday and met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen. They discussed bilateral and global issues before his departure Sunday, said Shahriar Alam, Bangladesh’s junior minister for foreign affairs.
Bangladesh has strong relations with China, which is a major trade partner mostly for raw materials. But maintaining close ties with Beijing is challenging for Bangladesh, which also balances diplomatic and trade relationship with both India and the United States, China’s main rivals.
More than 500 Chinese companies are active in Bangladesh. China is involved in the country’s all major infrastructure projects such as seaports, a river tunnel and highways, and helped build its largest bridge over the River Padma at a cost of US$3.6 billion.
Amid recent tensions between China and Taiwan, Bangladesh issued a statement reiterating its support for the “one-China” policy. After winning elections in 2008, Hasina’s administration closed the Taiwanese business representative office in Dhaka in response to a request from China, and since then China has increased its engagement in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh’s garment industry, which brings in more than 80% of foreign currency from exports, is heavily dependent on China for raw materials.
On Sunday, Wang told Hasina during a courtesy call that his country considers Bangladesh as a “strategic development partner” and would continue to support it, said Ihsanul Karim, the presidential press secretary.
The United News of Bangladesh agency reported that Wang also promised to stand beside Bangladesh “on all issues at international forums.”
The junior minister said China pledged to work continuously to resolve the Rohingya crisis and quoted Wang as saying that Myanmar’s internal challenges were troubling other countries.
”Our foreign minister strongly reiterated that Chinese cooperation is needed. China has progressed on resolving the Rohingya issue and we need the situation to come to an end,” Alam said.
On Sunday, Bangladesh and China signed or renewed four agreements and memorandums of understanding on disaster management, infrastructure and cultural exchanges.
Analyst Munshi Faiz Ahmad, who served as Bangladeshi ambassador in Beijing, said Wang’s visit was very significant for both countries.
“To resolve the Rohingya crisis Bangladesh needs support from China. This visit will help strengthen the bilateral relations,” Ahmad told The Associated Press.
“To us, China is very important. We also need to maintain good relations with both India and the United States as they are also very important development partners of Bangladesh. There is nothing to be afraid of because of Bangladesh’s close ties with China,” he said. (Source: AP News)