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Diplomatic Round-Up: Beijing Sees Solution to Rohingya Crisis in BCIM Implementation

Beijing Sees Solution to Rohingya Crisis in BCIM Implementation

China views a “very good solution” to the Rohingya crisis in the process of implementing the BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar) Economic Corridor stressing that its “real solution” lies in development.

Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Zhang Zuo came up with his country’s position on Rohingya issue while briefing at Westin Hotel on May 8.

“China pays very close attention to Rohingya issue. We also hope that in the process of implementing the BCIM Economic Corridor, we can come up with very good solution to the problem,” said the Ambassador.

Bangladesh has been “actively promoting” the BCIM Economic Corridor, a key BRI project connecting China with South Asia and the resourceful Indian Ocean.

Briefing the media and think tanks on the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF), Ambassador Zuo said the repatriation is one of the parts of the overall solution to the Rohingya crisis. “We believe that the real solution to the problem lies in development,” added the Ambassador.

Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.2 million Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar district and over 700,000 arrived in Bangladesh since August, 2017.

The Chinese Ambassador appreciated the government and the people of Bangladesh for sheltering Rohingyas despite Bangladesh’s own difficulties.

He said China, since the crisis began, communicated with both Bangladesh and Myanmar, and put forward a three-phase solution. China is willing to continue to play a constructive role.

Ambassador Zuo said Bangladesh and Myanmar could continue dialogue and communicating over the issue keeping each other’s concerns in minds.

About the BCIM EC, he said China hopes that all relevant parties of the BCIM can work together for an early progress. “We’ll work with all the three countries involved in the BCIM EC initiative to see early, substantial progress and early outcomes.”

The Chinese envoy said China and Myanmar signed a document on the construction of economic corridor which is very important part of the BCIM. “This can also be seen as one of the early outcomes of the larger BCIM project.”

With the efforts and contribution of all parties, action and result-oriented programs and policies, the BCIM initiative could see a very good progress, he said. The envoy said he always believes that India will not hold any reservation against the BCIM.


Modi Eyes Stronger Ties with Dhaka

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized the importance of taking the Bangladesh-India ties to a new level as it remains the highest priority to India.

He came up with this view while meeting with Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on May 31. Both leaders discussed the issues of mutual interests.

Prime Minister Modi said that this should be done as part of joint efforts to suitably commemorate the centenary of the birth of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 2020 and the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s Liberation in 2021.

Modi noted that the bilateral relationship between the two countries, forged in Bangladesh’s War of Liberation, remained of the highest priority to India.

In the past five years, he said, the two countries had demonstrated great maturity and patience in resolving a number of complex pending issues, such as the demarcation of the Land Boundary.

During the meeting, they expressed great satisfaction at the excellent state of bilateral relations, according to Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

The President conveyed felicitations of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who was unable to travel in person.  He also conveyed the invitation of the government of Bangladesh to the Indian Prime Minister to visit Bangladesh, which was accepted with pleasure.

The President of Bangladesh visited India to attend the swearing-in event of the new government of India.


Hasina, Modi pledge to raise ties to unprecedented new heights  

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi have pledged to continue to raise the relationship between the two countries to an unprecedented new height.

Hasina spoke to Modi on May 23 to extend her congratul-ations on the clear mandate given by the people of India to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

They recognized the importance of rapidly completing ongoing plans for deepening the partnership in security, trade, transportation, energy and people-to-people ties.

Doing so within the next three years will have specific significance in view of the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s Liberation in 2021, according to a media release issued by the Indian Prime Minister’s Office.

The leaders also agreed to identify dates for a meeting at the earliest to resume work in service of the bilateral relationship.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina became one of the first foreign leaders to congratulate the Indian Prime Minister, thus reflecting the “extraordinarily close and cordial ties” between India and Bangladesh, and the excellent rapport that the two leaders enjoy, the release added.


Dhaka concerned at directing missiles to Saudi site

Bangladesh has expressed deep concern over the repeated acts of directing ballistic missiles by the Houthi rebels at Saudi sites and installations, including Makkah.

“Bangladesh condemns such unilateral acts of threat and coercion. Equally disconcerting is that the Houthis are targeting holy cities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), which the Muslim World holds near and dear to their hearts,” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement on May 23.

Bangladesh reiterated its steadfast position against any unilateral act of provocation that can have adverse impact on the peace, stability and security of the region, in particular, and the world, in general.


Bangladesh, Pakistan diplomatic row intensifies over visa issue

Diplomatic tension between Bangladesh and Pakistan intensified in recent times as Dhaka halted issuing visa to Pakistani nationals.

Diplomats from Bangladesh High Commission in Islamabad unofficially informed Bangladeshi media on May 20 that in an apparent protest, Bangladesh has stopped issuing visas to Pakistanis.

“Pakistani nationals are not being issued a visa for the past seven days. Visa section of Bangladesh High Commission in Islamabad is also closed since last week,” added the diplomats.

The decision was taken as a visa extension application submitted by Bangladesh diplomat Muhammad Iqbal Hossain, Counsellor (Press) at Bangladesh High Commission in Islamabad, remained pending for over four months.

Iqbal Hossain submitted the application to Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in January last which was sent to its Ministry of Interior later but there was no positive response.

“There had been series of meetings and exchange of letters but all efforts went in vain,” said the diplomats.

It is noted that the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs reportedly proposed Saqlain Syedah as its new High Commissioner to Bangladesh in early March last year. Bangladesh, however, neither accepted nor rejected the nomination.

On May 21, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen gave an opposite version on the issue saying no directive was given to stop issuing visas to Pakistanis.

“No directive was given to stop issuing visas to Pakistanis. But some particular persons may not get visas,” he told reporters at his office.

The Foreign Minister said if the Counsellor (Consular) does not get visa and cannot go to Pakistan how visas will be processed. “I don’t know the reasons. I hope, they’ll settle the pending (visa) matters.”

Dr Momen said this is not a big issue and certainly there is no scope to see any strain in relations between Dhaka and Islamabad. “We want friendly relations with all. We hope, the problems will be resolved.”

The minister said they need to look at it how to fix the “sudden gap” that has emerged, and shared that some Bangladesh officers are not given visas.

The Foreign Minister also said the government will consider it if Pakistan sends a new nomination as the High Commissioner.

The Foreign Minister pointed out Pakistan’s repeated interferences in Bangladesh’s internal affairs centering the trial of war criminals for their crimes against humanity committed during the War of Liberation in 1971, which he said, Bangladesh did not like.


Japan to continue support to Bangladesh’s development efforts: Izumi

Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Hiroyasu Izumi assured Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of his country’s continued support to Bangladesh in its efforts for economic prosperity.

The Japanese envoy came up with the assurance when he met Prime Minister at her official residence Ganobhaban on May 20.

PM's press secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters after the meeting.

He said the Japanese envoy informed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that during her upcoming visit to Japan, the 40th Official Development Assistance (ODA) agreement will be signed, which is worth US$2.5 billion and will be 35 percent higher than the last year.

He also said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe is eagerly waiting to receive his Bangladeshi counterpart in Japan during her coming Japan visit.

The Japanese Ambassador was apprised of the progress of the coal-fired 1200 MW Matarbari Power Plant project in Maheshkhali upazila of Cox's Bazar district.

Mentioning that Japan is a great friend of Bangladesh, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said she is also eagerly waiting to meet Shinzō Abe.

She also recalled the contributions of Japan to the economic development of the country and its to construct Rupsha Bridge during Bangabandhu’s regime after Bangladesh’s independence.


Bangladesh shares Rohingya-related challenges with Turkish interlocutors

Bangladesh has shared the challenges being faced by Bangladesh in dealing with Rohingya crisis apart from highlighting Bangladesh’s efforts to bring an effective and sustainable solution to the crisis with Turkish interlocutors.

Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque presented the latest situation of the Rohingya crisis at a briefing session titled 'Bangladesh-Turkey: Solidarity for Humanity' organized by Bangladesh Consulate in Istanbul on May 18.

Members of Turkish Parliament, Deputy Governor of Istanbul, Rectors of Public and Private Universities of Turkey, prominent academicians as well as top executives of Istanbul-based think-tanks and NGOs attended the event.

Foreign Secretary Haque made an eloquent description on the historical evolution of the Rohingya crisis and the systematic persecution and atrocities unleashed by Myanmar over the years on this particular community.

He elaborated the root causes of the problem, articulating various dimensions and perspectives attached to it.

The Foreign Secretary pointed out the catalogue of challenges being faced by Bangladesh in bringing an effective and sustainable solution to the crisis.

He expressed sincere appreciation to all international friends and allies, including Turkey, that stand by Bangladesh at this critical hour.

Haque sought everyone's engagement, participation and contributions in their own way to this important issue, not only keeping it alive at the global stage but also making it loud and heard by the international actors for getting it resolved at the earliest

Foreign Secretary Haque also led the Bangladesh delegation at the Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) with the Turkish side led by its Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Sedat Onal in Ankara on May 20.


BRI to help achieve Bangladesh’s development goals: Dr Rizvi

Prime Minister’s International Affairs Adviser Dr Gowher Rizvi said the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping, would help Bangladesh achieve its development goals showing the path where Bangladesh wants to go.

“So, we need not to worry. I want to emphasis very clearly - this is not a zero-sum game, it’s a positive-sum game. We can benefit from all various initiatives,” he said ruling out any conflict with any country or other regional initiatives which are already in place.

He was addressing a launching ceremony of Bangladesh-China Silk Road Forum held at the Jatiya Press Club on May 18.

The foreign affairs expert said Bangladesh’s support and participation in the BRI does not exclude the country from participating in other initiatives in the region, and will have no conflict with any country.

Dr Rizvi said the BRI is not only an important initiative of their time but also it goes very well with the priorities of Bangladesh.

Chinese Ambassador Zhang Zuo said Bangladesh and China need to work together to push the bilateral relations towards a new era and better future bringing more benefits to both peoples.

Ambassador Zuo said the Bangladesh-China Silk Road Forum has been launched at the right moment when there is a lot to be achieved.

He said Bangladesh’s diplomatic policy of “Friendship to all, malice to none”, and President Xi Jinping’s Thought on Diplomacy, both have provided new opportunities for win-win cooperation for the two countries.

The Chinese envoy said Bangladesh is an important partner for China in the BRI and in production capacity cooperation in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region from every angle, including its location, the size of its population, it market potential and the cooperation scope.


Rohingya issue to be taken to ICJ: Gambian FM

Gambian Foreign Minister Dr Mamadou Tangara said they are committed to taking the Rohingya issue to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The Gambian Foreign Minister said this when he met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her official residence Ganobhaban on May 17.

Dr Mamadou Tangara said his country will continue its cooperation to Bangladesh over the Rohingya crisis as it is a humanitarian issue.

The Gambian Foreign Minister arrived Dhaka on a two-day visit on May 16 as special envoy to the President of Gambia.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr Momen had a bilateral meeting with his Gambian counterpart at state guesthouse Meghna on May 17 and discussed bilateral, regional and international issues.

After the meeting, Bangladesh Foreign Minister told journalists Bangladesh will extend its all-out support to Gambia as it is playing the lead role in taking the Rohingya issue to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for establishing the legal rights of Rohingyas and addressing the question of accountability and justice.

“We’ll provide whatever support they need. We believe, justice should prevail and no one should be given impunity,” said Foreign Minister Momen.

In a major diplomatic breakthrough in March, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) unanimously adopted a resolution to move the ICJ for establishing the legal rights of Rohingyas.

The resolution to pursue a legal recourse through the ICJ came after a long series of negotiations to seek accountability for crimes committed against humanity and gross violation of human rights in the case of then Rohingyas in Myanmar. Gambia led the process with a ten-member high-powered ministerial committee.

Gambian Foreign Minister Tangara said they are committed and ready to work very closely with Bangladesh to find a solution to Rohingya crisis.

On bilateral front, he also assured that they will continue this collaboration. “We’re looking for avery fruitful cooperation between Bangladesh and Gambia.”

The Gambian Foreign Minister said there are lots of opportunities that the two countries can tap together.

A protocol on bilateral Consultations between Foreign Ministries of Bangladesh and the Gambia was signed by the two Foreign Ministers after the meeting.


Bangladesh urges Finland, EU to mount pressure on Myanmar over Rohingya issue

Bangladesh has urged Finland and the European Union (EU) to mount pressure on Myanmar to compel them to take back its nationals from Bangladesh in a sustainable manner. Bangladesh also sought their role to hold Myanmar armed forces accountable for ethnic cleansing in Rakhine state.

The issue came up for discussion at the third round of Bangladesh-Finland political consultations held at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Helsinki on May 15.

Kamrul Ahsan, Secretary Bilateral (Europe, Africa, Americas; & Consular) led the Bangladesh delegation, while the Finnish delegation was headed by Sipilaionen Anne Marjaana, Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Security Policy, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

The Bangladesh side briefed the Finnish side on the Rohingya crisis while referring to regional and international issues, said a press release.

The Finnish side appreciated Bangladesh for hosting a large number of Rohingyas.

Both sides reviewed different aspects of the bilateral relationship highlighting the importance of expanding and strengthening cooperation and initiatives in all areas of mutual interest, particularly trade, economic, investment, education, infrastructure development, energy, ICT sectors etc.

In the course of the consultations, the two sides also exchanged views on a wide range of multilateral, regional and global topics of mutual interest.

Both sides also emphasised on promoting cooperation in education sector, including creating more opportunities for Bangladeshi students and professionals for higher education, research and vocational education (skills development) by building partnerships among the educational institutions of the two countries.

Two sides also agreed to work on building partnership in implementing the SDGs, Agenda 2030, mitigating the adverse effect of climate change, gender equality, peacekeeping and peace building.


Dhaka seeks Beijing’s support over Rohingya issue

Bangladesh has sought China’s strong support so that Myanmar can move in the right direction for resolving the Rohingya crisis.

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen raised the issue when Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Zhang Zuo met him at his office on May 16.

The Foreign Minister appreciated the Chinese humanitarian assistance for the displaced people of Rakhine State. Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.2 million Rohingyas.

Ambassador Zuo said China is willing to play a “constructive role” in realizing the repatriation of displaced people and will facilitate communication between Bangladesh and Myanmar to find a practical solution to the crisis.

Foreign Minister Momen and Ambassador Zhang shared their concerns that the protracted presence of Rohingyas in Bangladesh may disrupt the regional peace and stability as vested quarters are trying to radicalize the displaced people.

They underscored the need for the early repatriation of the displaced people, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Chinese Ambassador deeply appreciated the proactive engagement of the Foreign Minister in promoting bilateral relations to a newer height. He underlined the importance of the bilateral consultation mechanisms to steer the practical cooperation between the two countries.


US sees rapid growth of economic ties with Bangladesh

The US is optimistic that its economic and commercial ties with Bangladesh will continue to grow rapidly as issues related to investment climate, intellectual property, and workforce are addressed.

“I’m confident about the growth of ties,” said acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director General of the US and Foreign Commercial Service Ian Steff. He visited Dhaka from May 11-13 to participate in a 2019 Trade Winds Indo-Pacific Forum and Mission and to promote US-Bangladesh trade and investment.

Steff noted that two-way trade between the US and Bangladesh has doubled to more than $8 billion over the past decade, said the US Embassy on May 14.

He encouraged Bangladesh to realize the full potential of the bilateral commercial relationship by removing remaining trade barriers and improving the ease of doing business. 

The Trade Winds event facilitated meetings between 12 representatives of US companies and more than 40 business-to-business meetings with Bangladeshi companies. 

Steff, in his first visit to Dhaka, met government officials and discussed intellectual property rights and other investment climate issues.

“US and Bangladeshi business leaders are increasingly expanding their commercial ties and partnerships, as evidenced by growing trade between our two nations and the strong participation of companies in our trade mission,” he said.

On May 13, he met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Private Industry and Investment Advisor Salman F Rahman and Energy Advisor Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury as well as Commerce Secretary Mofizul Islam to discuss ways to expand economic ties.

Trade Winds Indo-Pacific is the US Department of Commerce’s first major trade mission to Bangladesh in recent history. The trade mission began on May 6 in New Delhi and concluded on May 13 in Dhaka.


Thai envoy calls for more BD-Thai joint ventures

Newly-appointed Thai Ambassador to Bangladesh Arunrung Phothong Humphreys has sought more Bangladesh-Thai joint ventures to further strengthen trade and economic ties between the two countries.

The envoy made the call when the Board of Directors of the Bangladesh-Thai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BTCCI) led by its President Mohammad Shahjahan Khan met her recently, said a press release on May 9.

The bilateral chamber also placed some proposals for enhancing bilateral trade and investment relationship between Bangladesh and Thailand.

Issues like making easier business policies, BTCCI’s more involvement to hold trade fair in Thailand, including more duty-free access of Bangladeshi products, working jointly for Thai Special Economic Zone in Bangladesh, relocating labor intensive industries in Bangladesh were discussed at the meeting.


China defends BRI against debt traps debate

Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Zhang Zuo defended its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) against charges that it creates debt traps saying the BRI partners will now have a better understanding.

He said China and other participating parities have formulated a “debt crisis analysis framework” and this will be very helpful for project financing and risk control.

Briefing the media and think tanks on the outcomes of second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF), the envoy said on May 8, the BRF achieved a series of remarkable outcomes that were held from April 25 to 27 in Beijing.

“We follow a sustainable development pattern in our cooperation projects. We’ve adopted very fair and non-discriminatory policies,” said Ambassador Zuo.

He said the major players and partners of the BRI will have better assessment whether it is a debt trap or not involving its loan for projects under mega infrastructure project

China is helping Bangladesh implement 11 projects, including the Padma Bridge and Karnaphuli Tunnel under the BRI with 2-3 percent interest rate.

Ambassador Zuo said Bangladesh is among the first South Asian countries that responded to the BRI.

He said the BRI has become a road of opportunities and development for the people of Bangladesh and China.

“Standing on a new starting point, China and Bangladesh need to play a leading role of head-of-state diplomacy, strive to enhance all-round connectivity that produces multiplying effects in infrastructure development, industrial clustering, economic growth and people’s wellbeing, and deepen our practical cooperation under the BRI,” said the Ambassador.

He highlighted six major outcomes summarised from President Xi Jinping’s keynote speech and the first one was drawing the blueprint for future cooperation actions.

The second one, he said, promoting a global partnership of connectivity. So far, 127 countries and 29 international organizations have signed Belt and Road cooperation documents with the Chinese side.

Focusing on deepening practical cooperation, he said building long-term supporting mechanisms and committing to reform and opening up to show China’s sense of responsibility were among the outcomes.

The Ambassador said President Xi Jinping likened the Belt and Road initiative to the two wings of a soaring Asia.