Sun | Oct 2, 2022
BANGLADESH

China’s help sought to repatriate Rohingya refugees

Published:Monday | August 8, 2022 | 12:06 AM
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, second left, and his Bangladeshi counterpart A.K. Abdul Momen applaud as both countries sign agreements in Dhaka.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, second left, and his Bangladeshi counterpart A.K. Abdul Momen applaud as both countries sign agreements in Dhaka.

DHAKA (AP):

Bangladesh sought cooperation from China to repatriate Rohingya refugees to Myanmar during a visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who promised better trade ties, investment and support for infrastructural development in the south Asian nation.

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 take-over last year.

Yi arrived in Dhaka on Saturday evening and met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister A. K. Abdul Momen. They discussed bilateral and global issues before his departure on Sunday morning, 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.

MAJOR PROJECTS

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 built 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.

Analyst Munshi Faiz Ahmad, who served as Bangladeshi ambassador in Beijing, said that Yi’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 AP.

“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.