Bangladesh seeks help from China to repatriate Rohingya refugees

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) – Bangladesh on Sunday sought cooperation with China to repatriate Rohingya refugees to Myanmar during a visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who sought to improve trade relations, investment and support for infrastructure development in South Asia. countries promised.

China had used its influence in Myanmar to negotiate an agreement in November 2017 to repatriate about 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar in August of that year. Despite attempts to return them, the refugees refused, fearing danger in Myanmar, which was exacerbated by last year’s military takeover.

Yi arrived in Dhaka on Saturday evening and met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen. They discussed bilateral and global issues before his departure on Sunday morning, said Shahriar Alam, Bangladesh’s deputy foreign minister.

Bangladesh has strong relations with China, which is an important trading partner, especially for raw materials. But maintaining close ties with Beijing is a challenge for Bangladesh, which also balances diplomatic and trade ties with both India and the United States, China’s main rivals.

More than 500 Chinese companies are active in Bangladesh. China is involved in all of the country’s major infrastructure projects, such as seaports, a river tunnel and highways, and helped build the largest bridge over the Padma River at a cost of $3.6 billion.

Amid recent tensions between China and Taiwan, Bangladesh has issued a statement reiterating its support for the “one China” policy. After winning elections in 2008, Hasina’s government closed the Taiwanese business representative office in Dhaka at China’s request, and since then China has increased its involvement in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh’s garment industry, which derives more than 80% of its foreign exchange from exports, is heavily dependent on China for raw materials.

On Sunday, Yi Hasina told a courtesy visit that his country considers Bangladesh a “strategic development partner” and would continue to support it, said Ihsanul Karim, the presidential press secretary.

The United News of Bangladesh agency reported that Yi also pledged to stand alongside Bangladesh “on all issues in international forums”.

Alam said Yi agreed to expand trade benefits by increasing the duty-free access of Bangladeshi products and services to China’s markets to 99%.

“It’s good news for Bangladesh, as we have a thriving economy based on exports,” Alam said. “We already have duty-free access to 98% of the items exported to China. The remaining 2% … has been important and sensitive. Now they’ve offered another 1% from September 1, he said, adding that the new tax break is likely to include clothing, woven and other products that had previously faced a number of barriers.

He said Bangladesh would soon receive a list from China of the products and services that would be granted duty-free access.

Alam said Yi explained to Bangladesh’s foreign minister that “some countries misunderstand and misinterpret China.” He didn’t work out.

The secretary of state said China pledged to work continuously to resolve the Rohingya crisis, citing Yi that internal challenges in Myanmar were troubling not only Bangladesh but other countries as well.

“Our foreign minister strongly reiterated that Chinese cooperation is necessary. China has made progress in resolving the Rohingya issue and the situation must come to an end,” Alam said.

On Sunday, Bangladesh and China signed or renewed four agreements and memoranda of understanding on disaster management, infrastructure and cultural exchanges.

Analyst Munshi Faiz Ahmad, who served as Bangladesh’s ambassador to Beijing, said Yi’s visit was very important for both countries.

“To solve the Rohingya crisis, Bangladesh needs support from China. This visit will help strengthen bilateral relations,” Ahmad told The Associated Press.

“China is very important to us. We also need to maintain good relations with both India and the United States, as they are also very important development partners of Bangladesh. There is nothing to be afraid of because of Bangladesh’s close ties to China,” he said.

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