By Mahua Venkatesh
New Delhi, May 11 (IANS): China, on Monday warned Bangladesh of grave consequences if the latter joined any initiatives under the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or QUAD
“Bilateral relations with Bangladesh would be substantially damaged if it joins hand with [Quad] initiatives,” Radio Free Asia quoted Chinese Ambassador in Bangladesh Li Jiming as saying.
Last month, Chinese Defence Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe who called on Bangladesh President Mohammad Abdul Hamid had insisted that the two countries should join hands to form a military alliance in South Asia.
Bangladesh’s importance in the emerging Indo Pacific geopolitical contours has been increasing in the last few months. Indications are that the QUAD members — US, Japan and Australia besides India — are keen at a QUAD plus group to maintain balance in the Indo-Pacific region.
All eyes on Hasina
Analysts said that while China is putting pressure on Bangladesh, “Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is pragmatic and will do what is best suited for her country.”
China is a significant partner of Bangladesh but so are India and the US. “Hasina is known for her political acumen, she has deftly balanced her relations with India and China both,” an analyst, on condition of anonymity said.
The analyst said that if eventually Dhaka joins any initiative under the QUAD, Hasina will ensure that the right message goes to Beijing which would essentially underline that the collaboration is not military based but is purely developmental in nature.
It is also a fact that the Chinese, who have been under the scanner for their treatment towards the Uighur Muslims, are not much welcomed in the country though Beijing has been trying to woo Dhaka for long. “China is driven by its own interests and Dhaka is aware of that fact. Dhaka’s foreign policies are not dictated by other countries,” a Bangladesh based researcher said.
Besides, Dhaka, considered to be the tailor of the world — it is the second largest apparel exporter– exports over 70 per cent of its garments to Europe and the US. “Given this scenario, Dhaka cannot afford to lose the US or openly tilt towards China, which Pakistan has done,” another analyst said.
Currently, Bangladesh benefits from the most favourable regime available under the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP) which essentially means that Dhaka enjoys duty free quota and free access to the EU for exports of all products, except arms and ammunition.
While “China has been losing its market share mainly due to higher cost of production and shortage of skilled workforce” in the country, Bangladesh has been the major beneficiary.
“Following such shift, Bangladesh’s export of garment items is on the rise as the global apparel retail giants are also increasing the volume of work orders for quality garment at competitive prices, the Daily Star in a report said earlier.
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