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Bangladesh seeks China’s help to repatriate Rohingya refugees

DHAKA, Bangladesh – Bangladesh on Sunday sought cooperation from China to repatriate Rohingya refugees to Myanmar during a visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who promised better trade, investment and assistance ties. infrastructure development in this South Asian country.

China used its influence in Myanmar to broker a deal in November 2017 to repatriate some 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar that August. Despite efforts to bring them back, the refugees refused out of fear of danger in Myanmar, which has been exacerbated by an army takeover last year.

Wang arrived in Dhaka on Saturday and met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen. They discussed bilateral and global issues before he left on Sunday, said Shahriar Alam, Bangladesh’s minister in charge of foreign affairs.

Bangladesh has close ties with China, which is a major trading partner mainly in raw materials. However, maintaining close ties with Beijing is a challenge for Bangladesh, which is also balancing its diplomatic and trade ties with both India and the United States, China’s main rivals. Country.

More than 500 Chinese companies are operating in Bangladesh. China is involved in all of its major infrastructure projects such as seaports, river tunnels and highways, and helped build the largest bridge over the Padma River at a cost of 3.6 billion USD.

Amid recent tensions between China and Taiwan, Bangladesh issued a statement reiterating its support for the “one China” policy. After winning the 2008 election, Hasina’s government closed the Taiwanese business representative office in Dhaka at the request of China, and since then China has increased its involvement in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh’s garment industry, which generates more than 80 percent of foreign currency from exports, relies heavily on China for raw materials.

On Sunday, Wang told Hasina in a courtesy call that his country considers Bangladesh a “strategic development partner” and will continue to support it, said Ihsanul Karim, the president’s press secretary for know.

Bangladesh’s United News agency reported that Wang also promised to stand by Bangladesh “in all matters at international forums.”

Bangladesh’s state news agency Sangbad Sangstha reported that Hasina raised global tensions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Western sanctions on Moscow, saying “everyone (all over the world) is suffering. endure difficult times … South Asia, Southeast Asia and China can work together for economic progress”.

Alam said that Wang agreed to expand the commercial benefits by increasing to 98% duty-free access from 97% of Bangladesh’s current products and services to the Chinese market.

“It is good news for Bangladesh because we have a thriving export-led economy,” Alam said. “They’ve now offered another 1% from September 1,” he said, adding that the new tax advantage could include apparel, textiles and other products that had previously been met with some barriers.

He said Bangladesh will soon receive a list from China of duty-free products and services.

Alam said that Wang explained to Bangladesh’s foreign minister that “some countries misunderstand and misunderstand” China. He did not say clearly.

But Ms. Momen privately told reporters that the Chinese minister mentioned that some Taiwanese are being provoked against China’s sovereignty. Beijing considers self-governing Taiwan to be its own territory.

The junior minister said China was committed to working continuously to resolve the Rohingya crisis and quoted Wang as saying that Myanmar’s internal challenges were causing difficulties for other countries.

“Our foreign minister strongly reiterated that China’s cooperation is needed. China has made progress in dealing with the Rohingya issue and we need the situation to end,” Alam said.

On Sunday, Bangladesh and China signed or renewed four agreements and memorandums of understanding on disaster management, infrastructure and cultural exchange.

Analyst Munshi Faiz Ahmad, who served as Bangladesh’s ambassador to Beijing, said Mr. Wang’s visit meant a lot to both countries.

“To solve the Rohingya crisis, Bangladesh needs support from China. This visit will help strengthen bilateral relations,” Ahmad told the AP news agency.

“For 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 fear because Bangladesh has close ties with China,” he said.

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