Bangladesh has backed China’s $4 trillion One-Belt-One Road initiative, also known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), after Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque explained the need to balance “sovereignty” and “economic integration” during his visit to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in New Delhi on Thursday, reports India Today
This comes a day after the Trump administration weighed in on India’s opposition to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
India boycotted the BRI claiming it violated India’s territorial integrity, as it runs through the disputed territory of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), leading to a compromise of sovereignty. China's lack of transparency in the matter was also considered a factor.
Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque stressed on the economic limitations that Bangladesh faces and expressed the need to build links, even with China.
He said: "In case of Bangladesh, we realise that we are geographically very small but we have, in order to overcome those limitations, to weave ourselves with the rest of the world. That's why economic, social and political issues remain very fundamental to our state practices irrespective of government."
"We cannot remain link-less in the current situation. We have to go beyond. And that's what we think would eventually benefit us. We look at sovereignty and integration rather from a different angle," Shaidul Haque added.
During the “Asia’s New Normal” discussion at the WEF conference, the foreign secretary of Bangladesh emphasised on the importance of economic growth. He mentioned that the issue of sovereignty must take a “backseat” to “economic integration,” emphasising that the stood behind Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s decision to support the BRI.
"We can't forget what the people want and before joining BRI we had several discussions with civil society, and it was clear, what we need is connectivity. For us as a country, what we need is quick upgradation of our infrastructure and our generation wants much more interaction and connectivity," Shahidul said.
Bangladesh is attempting to balance ties with India and China, keeping its own geo-political and economic interests in mind. “Economic issues now dictate how much sovereignty one should exert," said the foreign secretary at the forum.
Bangladesh formally joined the ‘One-Belt-One Road’ initiative in 2016, which will span 65 countries with 70% of the world’s population.