China was due to sign off on loans of more than US$24 billion to Bangladesh during a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) yesterday, Dhaka’s biggest foreign credit line to date that will help it build power plants, a seaport and railways.
Xi’s trip, the first by a Chinese president in 30 years, is aimed at boosting China’s involvement in infrastructure projects at a time when India is pushing investments of its own in Bangladesh, a nation New Delhi considers its area of influence.
Japan, helped by India, has also got involved in Bangladesh, offering finance at low interest rates to build a port and a power complex, sharpening competition for influence in the nation of 160 million people located on the Bay of Bengal.
China plans to finance about 25 projects, including a 1,320 megawatt power plant, and is also keen to build a deep sea port, Bangladeshi Junior Minister of Finance M.A. Mannan said.
“Xi’s visit will set a new milestone. [A] record amount of loan agreements will be signed during the visit, roughly US$24 billion,” Mannan said.
Among the proposed projects are highways and information technology development, he said.
“Our infrastructure needs are big, so we need huge loans,” he added.
China’s Jiangsu Etern Co Ltd signed a US$1.1 billion deal to strengthen the power network in Bangladesh, the company said on Thursday.
Beijing is especially keen to revive a plan to build a deep sea port in Sonadia which has been on hold for years, officials said.
Xi is visiting Bangladesh on his way to a BRICS summit of the world’s leading emerging economies in Goa, India.
His trip comes at a time when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is leading efforts to boost ties with neighboring nations, from Sri Lanka to Nepal, by offering them a share of India’s fast-growing economy.
Last year, Modi announced a US$2 billion credit line during a visit to Dhaka, but China looks set to go well beyond that.
Shanghai Institute for International Studies director of South Asia studies Zhao Gancheng (趙干城) said both India and China are supporting development in Bangladesh and it does not have to be one or the other.
“I really don’t think there is a zero-sum game going on in Bangladesh between China and India. Bangladesh welcomes both Chinese and Indian investment,” Zhao said.
Bangladesh has backed Xi’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative to boost trade and transport links across Asia and into Europe, seeing it as an opportunity to spur growth.
India has reservations about the plan, amid worries that it is an attempt to build a vast zone of Chinese influence.
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