China says will back Bangladesh against ‘external interference’

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina meet on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg on August 23, 2023. Photo: X/@albd1971 

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday said Beijing would support Bangladesh in “opposing external interference” and would deepen economic cooperation including through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

In talks with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, Mr. Xi said China was “willing to strengthen the synergy of development strategies with Bangladesh, deepen practical cooperation in various fields, push bilateral strategic cooperative partnership to a new level, and better benefit the people of the two countries.”

“China supports Bangladesh in safeguarding national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and in opposing external interference, so that the country can maintain domestic unity and stability, and achieve development and revitalisation,” he was quoted as saying by State media, adding that Beijing was “willing to continue to work with Bangladesh in firmly supporting each other in issues involving their respective core interests.”

China’s support to Bangladesh comes against the backdrop of Dhaka’s recent differences with Washington, which issued a public call for “free and transparent” elections that are scheduled for later this year.

Bangladesh-U.S. ties hit a low in May when U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a visa ban against individuals that the U.S. holds responsible for “undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh”.

The U.S. has also sanctioned senior officials of the Rapid Action Battalion, a tool of Prime Minister Hasina’s in her crackdown against terrorism. In April this year, Ms. Hasina slammed the U.S. saying that “it has the power to topple governments in any country and the Muslim countries in particular are experiencing a tough time.” The Prime Minister’s meeting with the Chinese President also had a personal touch as she was accompanied by her daughter Saima Wazed, Chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

Ms. Hasina has put forward a foreign policy of “friendship with all and malice for none” that she has often highlighted to create space for engaging stakeholders in Bangladesh and for balancing ties with global and regional powers. Though Bangladesh has expressed support for the Belt and Road Initiative ahead of its expected joining of the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal, Dhaka hasn’t seen significant financial support from Beijing on the Rohingya issue for which the U.S. has provided at least $1.6 billion since 2017 to deal with the refugee crisis

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