Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, during an official visit to Bangladesh, pledged to work continuously to resolve the Rohingya crisis.
Bangladesh has sought cooperation from China to repatriate Rohingya refugees to Myanmar during a visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who promised better trade ties, investment and support for infrastructure development in the South Asian nations.
Yi arrived in Dhaka on Saturday evening and met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen.
They discussed bilateral and global issues before his departure on Sunday morning, said Shahriar Alam, Bangladesh’s junior minister for foreign affairs.
Alam said China pledged to work continuously to resolve the Rohingya crisis and quoted Yi as saying that the internal challenges in Myanmar were not only troubling Bangladesh but also other countries.
”Our foreign minister strongly reiterated that Chinese cooperation is needed. China has progressed on resolving the Rohingya issue and we need the situation to come to an end,” Alam said.
China had used its influence in Myanmar to broker a November 2017 agreement to repatriate about 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar in August that year.
Despite attempts to send them back, the refugees refused, fearing danger in Myanmar, which was exacerbated by the military takeover last year.
Strong bilateral ties
Bangladesh has strong relations with China, which is a major trade partner mostly for raw materials. But maintaining close ties with Beijing is challenging for Bangladesh, which also balances diplomatic and trade relationship with both India and the United States, China's main rivals.
More than 500 Chinese companies are active in Bangladesh. China is involved in the country’s all major infrastructure projects such as seaports, a river tunnel and highways, and helped built its largest bridge over the River Padma at a cost of $3.6 billion.
Amid recent tensions between China and Taiwan, Bangladesh issued a statement reiterating its support for the “one-China” policy.
After winning elections in 2008, Hasina’s administration closed the Taiwanese business representative office in Dhaka in response to a request from China, and since then China has increased its engagement in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh’s garment industry, which brings in more than 80 percent of foreign currency from exports, is heavily dependent on China for raw materials.
On Sunday, Yi told Hasina during a courtesy call that his country considers Bangladesh as 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 promised to stand beside Bangladesh “on all issues at international forums."
Alam said that Yi agreed to expand trade benefits by raising to 99 percent duty-free access of Bangladeshi products and services to Chinese markets.
On Sunday, Bangladesh and China signed or renewed four agreements and memorandums of understanding on disaster management, infrastructure and cultural exchanges.