Bangladesh snubs China over attempts to take credit for Padma Bridge

Bangladesh has protested at China’s attempt to take credit for the country’s latest show piece Padma Bridge. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina formally opened the bridge on June 25.

“The Padma Multipurpose Bridge has been entirely funded by the Government of Bangladesh and no foreign funds from any bilateral or multilateral funding agency have financially contributed to its construction,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh said in a statement.

This categorical assertion came in the wake of contention in some sections that the Padma Bridge was constructed under the Chinese BRI and with foreign funds. The government also conveyed its displeasure to the Chinese.

Belt & Road Initiative, BRI is the flagship programme of President Xi Jinping to showcase a new muscular China particularly in Asia and Africa. It is not yet a success story. In fact, most BRI ventures in countries like Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia are mired in controversies. And have become symbols of China debt trap. 

The Bangladesh China Silk Road Forum, a front organisation of BRI, had planned a discussion with the China envoy, Li Jiming as chief guest to hail the Padma bridge as “An example of Bangladesh-China cooperation under the BRI’.

The move did not go down well with the Hasina government, and public at large. And bowing to the uproar, Ambassador Li Jiming gave up his plan to attend the discussion, say local media reports, and note that the very discussion was cancelled ‘sensing the mood’.

Both Bangladeshi and foreign firms were involved in the construction of the bridge with Hasina government paying “for the entire cost of the construction”, says a Dhaka date-lined report.

Indian, American, British, German, Japanese and Taiwanese firms were also involved besides China in the construction of the bridge, the report in Beijing Bulletin (BB) adds. And says that Dhaka is cautious of the geopolitical dependency that goes with participation in BRI projects.

Bangladesh has not allowed Chinese investments in deep-sea ports like the Sonadia deep-sea project which can be suitable for a Chinese naval base. Dhaka has agreed “only to a port project at Payra, approachable only through a 75-km long canal”, the dispatch points out, and notes that local protests and environmental concerns have put brakes on several Chinese initiatives in Bangladesh.    

China’s attempt to browbeat Bangladesh and meddle in its internal affairs, asking Dhaka not to engage with India and Western powers, also has not gone down well with the Hasina government, according to the report.

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