Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has welcomed Anandabazar Patrika's apology
Terming some recent Indian media reports highlighting the Bangladesh-China trade relations in a demeaning manner "unacceptable," Foreign Minister has said India is the biggest friend of Bangladesh, and he hopes for the India-China border tensions to be solved diplomatically.
"India is our biggest friend indeed from our liberation war days... India-China, both are our good friends and close neighbours. Both are our development partners," he told the IANS in an exclusive interview, published by Outlook India on Tuesday.
"Who described the zero-tariff bilateral agreement for 97% of exports to China as 'charity' for 'least developed' Bangladesh... for this, many are disappointed. This word ‘Khoyraati' [charity] is not acceptable to me, I said on Sunday," he said, referring to a story published by famed West Bengal-based Bangla daily Anandabazar Patrika, which caused a social media uproar.
However, he welcomed the paper's apology.
"Anandabazar has apologized unconditionally by admitting its mistake today [Tuesday], that's good. Lots of thanks to them from my side for their realization. Hope they also realize that India is a very good friend of Bangladesh," Momen told IANS.
He further said he refused to officially protest against the news report, when many people had asked him to.
"Many had said to protest officially, but I refused. Because, it does not reflect the real scenario at all. That's why we don't think there is a need to protest [officially] on these news reports," he told IANS.
On June 20, in a report titled "Beijing taking Dhaka to its side after Ladakh," Anandabazar wrote that China's recent decision of providing 5,161 Bangladeshi products duty-free access - at the same time as it was in a clash with China - was a "charitable act."
The Indian media claimed that China had given such a duty-free export opportunity to Bangladesh only to put pressure on India.
However, facing massive outrage on social media, Anandabazar on Tuesday apologized for stating that the zero-tariff bilateral agreement for 97% of exports to China was "charity" for Bangladesh.
On the fourth page of Tuesday's print version, it admitted its mistake and apologized unconditionally.
Dr Momen also indicated that Dhaka took serious note of the negative reports of Indian media about Bangladesh.
He told IANS: "We are so happy that the Indian government said nothing about the agreement with China. We are thankful to India.”
He also said that India will also have economic benefits through the bilateral agreement with China; if Bangladesh is developed, India will get the benefit.
Reiterating that Bangladesh hoped for a peaceful resolution of India-China border tensions, Dr Momen told IANS: "Bangladesh is the pioneer of peace. Dhaka is always for peaceful coexistence with neighbours. We believe in solutions by discussing each and every problem, as we achieved lots with Indo-Bangla mutual discussions through understanding on both sides."
He also ruled out any role of Bangladesh in the dispute.
"I don't think Bangladesh needs to interfere in resolving the long-standing issues between India and China. New Delhi and Beijing have shown commitment to a peaceful resolution. They started meetings at the level of defence officers and foreign ministers... it is the ray of hope. We hope for a diplomatic solution," he told IANS.
He also extended deepest condolences for the lives lost as a result of the recent confrontation between Indian and Chinese soldiers.
Imbalance in trade relations
The foreign minister told IANS that the Bangladesh-China trade relations is "imbalanced,” the same as Bangladesh-India trade.
"We export to India only one billion dollars of products, but import huge in multiple billion dollars product. At the same time, Bangladesh imports huge from China, exports less," the IANS quoted him as saying.
On the impact of Covid-19, he said: "It is a big shake for our economy in this pandemic... our major export is RMG sector and remittance also in crisis. We are urging all neighbouring countries to be our development partners... it will help us to overcome the challenge of the pandemic period.
"We are very grateful to China they have moved on with Bangladesh in this crucial period, which we tried for long time. Hope India also will come forward," Dr Momen said.