Bangladesh foreign secretary Shahidul Haque
A day after the Trump administration threw its weight behind India's opposition to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Bangladesh backed China's 'One-Belt-One-Road' (OBOR) initiative, also known as the 'Belt and Road Initiative' (BRI).
Bangladesh's foreign secretary Shahidul Haque explained at length the need to balance "sovereignty" issue and "economic integration" during his interaction at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Thursday in New Delhi.
This is in absolute contradiction toIndia's stand on OBOR which it boycotted on grounds of violating India's territorial integrity as it runs through the disputed territory of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and because China has not been transparent leading to compromise on sovereignty.
Haque spoke on the economic limitations that Bangladesh faces and hence the need to build linkages even with China. "In case of Bangladesh, we realised that we are both 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," he said.
"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," he added.
Speaking during the discussion "Asia's New Normal" at the WEF conference, the Bangladesh foreign secretary emphasised on the importance of economic growth and said that sometimes the issue of sovereignty need to take the "backseat" to "economic integration" emphasising that the country stood behind Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's decision.
"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," Haque said.
Bangladesh is trying 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," Haque said at the forum.
China's $4 trillion OBOR initiative will span 65 countries with 70 per cent of the world's population. Bangladesh formally declared joining China's OBOR initiative during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2016. All major political parties welcomed Xi's visit, the first by a Chinese President in three decades.