Dhaka: Even as Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina prepares to inaugurate later this month the landmark China-built Padma bridge, which promises to transform the country’s economy, Dhaka is treading cautiously on economic assistance from China. The Hasina government, according to an official source in Dhaka, has nixed a proposal for a high-speed Dhaka-Chittagong railway line that China was aggressively pursuing.
According to Indian authorities, Bangladesh has been mindful of India’s security interests while allowing Chinese companies to implement projects in the country. Bangladesh is one of the few Muslim-majority countries that have not officially lodged a protest with India over the remarks by (former) BJP spokespersons against the Prophet. Bangladesh information minister Hasan Mahmud told a visiting Indian media delegation that Dhaka is thankful to the Indian government for the action against those who insulted the Prophet.
Significantly, while a Chinese firm has built the multipurpose bridge on the Padma river, Bangladesh is proud of the fact that its government financed the construction without any loan assistance from China or any other country or entity. The 6km bridge built on the choppy waters of the Padma is expected to provide a major fillip to trade and commerce in Bangladesh’s southwest region and, according to official estimates, increase the country’s GDP by 1. 2 per cent. While India didn’t have any role in the construction of the bridge, for Indian authorities it’s still a source of satisfaction that it will bring Bangladesh closer to India by reducing the rail travel time from Dhaka to Kolkata by almost three hours.
According to diplomatic sources, Hasina is expected to visit India in a few months. The visit will probably be the last high-level contact between the two governments before the elections in Bangladesh next year.