China is invariably a great friend to us, if we consider the vast amount of investment that China has already made in our development project and forget the past. If economic ties between two countries determine their bilateral relations, both China and Bangladesh have done it successfully. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, since she has been in charge of governance, has taken it as a policy to invite China to help us in our development efforts. In fact in diplomacy, there is nothing called permanent enmity or friendship. Friendly relations develop as per need of the time. For example, USA conducted war against Vietnam for a decade, now both countries are good friends. The enemies of the third world war have been co-operating with one another as friends. This is the reality of politics. In fact China did not directly oppose the War of Liberation of Bangladesh, it supported China’s the then ally, USA, in relation to its South Asia policy, especially against India, the country with whom China had to fight against in the past. So, there was no barrier to establish bilateral relations between both China and India. If this is the reality both Chinese and Bangladeshi leaders have properly approached.
Sheikh Hasina who has vast experience in foreign policy and who really understands the policy of South Asia has already established her ties with its close door neighbor, India, first. The relation between the two countries is now firmly consolidated. Sheikh Hasina has been successful to take the relation with China to a new height through her diplomatic efforts. Even when she was the leader of the opposition, she went to China to ventilate her feeling to cooperate with China. The relation has strengthened now between Bangladesh and China. It can be said that she has almost equal ties with India and China, the two great economic powers in Asia, to improve the economy of Bangladesh with support from both countries. This is a great success for Bangladeshi leader Sheikh Hasina who knows how to deal with people. She has returned home ending her 5-day visit to China. Sheikh Hasina held a series of meetings with her Chinese counterpart and discussed various issues of mutual interest. China has made commitment to invest more in Bangladesh and ease conditions of credit and expedite loan disbursement processes for quick implementation of the Chinese funded projects including several mega projects of Bangladesh. China has also assured reduction of trade gap between the two countries.
The talks between PM and Chinese dignitaries can be noticeable as they were held in a very cordial atmosphere and Bangladesh PM called upon the Chinese authorities into Bangladesh to discuss more areas of cooperation and the response from Chinese side is positive.
Another significant part of the visit is that the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also addressed a panel discussion on the three-day World Economic Forum’s 13th Annual Meeting of the New Champion 2019 at the Dalian city of Liaoning Province at the invitation of Chinese Premier Le Keqiang. Sheikh Hasina’s speech was acclaimed by the leaders of states, academicians, civil society members who were present as she proposed five points including creation of an environment of peace, harmony and stability of all countries. She also highlighted Bangladesh’s peaceful resolution of the disputed issues with its neighbours i.e., the Ganges Treaty with India and maritime demarcation with both India and Myanmar. She reiterated the significance of bilateral relations based on mutual respect and benefits.
Sheikh Hasina felt that the role of China is more important than any other country to resolve the Rohingya issue as Myanmar is their next door neighbor and China has huge investment in that country. So Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina raised the Rohingya issue with utmost importance with her Chinese counterpart. During the meeting between Bangladesh Prime Minster and Chinese President Xi Jinping, they agreed that there should be quick solution to the Rohingya crisis so that the displaced people can go back to their homeland soon.
It is Myanmar which created problems by driving out Rohingyas from their homeland. As a result of their repressive measures, over 1 million Rohingyas took shelter in Bangladesh and are staying in the coastal areas of the Bay of Bengal. The peace and stability in South Asia may be destroyed if the Rohingyas are not repatriated immediately. Moreover, any further deterioration in the Rakhine zone might be the cause of destabilization in the South Asia region. The UN and other countries should put pressure on Myanmar to implement the agreement signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar for repatriation of the Rohingyas. It’s very unfortunate that Myanmar has been delaying in the implementation of the deal despite Bangladesh’s repeated call to Myanmar to start repatriation.
It is in such a situation Sheikh Hasina has to take initiative to find out a solution involving China. It is the responsibility of the China to find a meaningful solution to the problem and compel Myanmar to take back the Rohingyas to their homeland. During meeting with Chinese President on 5 July the Bangladesh Prime Minister has said Bangladesh was hosting 1.1 million Rohingyas which is a big challenge for the country. It has emerged as environmentally challenging and a threat to security and also trafficking problem in particular has been mentioned. In response Xi Jinping said their goal is quick return of the Rohingyas to their homeland.
I think meeting between Chinese President and Bangladesh Prime Minister has yielded a positive headway on way to resolve the Rohingya crisis. Probably those who always try to find fault with Sheikh Hasina would say that the China tour of the Prime Minister has not been able to achieve any tangible success. They will talk in the TV to find out the loopholes if there is any of this tour.
It is also noticeable that Bangladesh did never undermine the role of China in respect of Rohingya crisis for a peaceful solution. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina did always expect China to play its due role to bring an end to the crisis. She has just repeated the request since China is a common friend of Myanmar and Bangladesh. China has got strategic interest in the area, it may take some time but Chinese leadership will do what is needed to approach Myanmar to start repatriation of 1.1 million Rohingyas immediately to Myanmar from Bangladesh. It is really amazing that the kind of patience that Bangladesh has demonstrated already seeking a solution of the crisis through UN and countries like India and China as they are very close to Bangladesh and Myanmar.
The foreign policy of Bangladesh is `Friendship to all, malice towards none’ which has been strictly maintained by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Although some provocative remarks passed by opposition leaders and individuals on foreign policy relating to Rohingya crisis come up from time to time, the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wants to pursue the policy of peaceful cooperation with Bangladesh’s neighbour and resolve the crisis through bilateral discussion. The same policy is still in operation.
Bangladesh is the worst affected country due to the Rohingya crisis created by Myanmar. So, Bangladesh has to move seriously and it has been doing so since the inception of the crisis some two years back. It is the soil of Bangladesh that has to bear the burden. So, Bangladesh has been persistently trying through the UN and many other leaders of different countries and the opinion is certainly in favour of Bangladesh.
Dr S A Malek is the former political adviser to the Prime Minister and Member of Parliament, general secretary of Bangabandhu Parishad and columnist.