China has tangled Sri Lanka into a debt trap to strengthen its position in the Indian Ocean, and the former wants to debt trap Bangladesh as well, but Dhaka is playing safe.
India-Bangladesh and Bangladesh-China relations are now a trending topic in discourses of subcontinental politics. At various times the question arises whether Bangladesh is leaning towards India or China? Bangladesh’s foreign policy claims that Dhaka is not careening in any direction, rather, it is moving forward with its own policy.
China has sold its vaccine to Bangladesh for $10 per dose— the same vaccine has been sold to Sri Lanka at a higher price of $15. But now China is angry with Bangladesh for revealing the rates explicitly. With this, the relationship between Bangladesh and China can take a new turn.
There is no dearth of China’s efforts to embrace Bangladesh. However, Sheikh Hasina’s government in Dhaka is very careful in this regard. Nevertheless, in recent times, China’s Covid-19 vaccine politics with Bangladesh has yielded what China had not expected under the bay.
Protests have erupted in Sri Lanka with regards to the vaccine price row. Opposition leaders of Sri Lanka, as well, are making sure to leave no stone unturned to keep the government in power on toes. All of this has resulted in the further escalation of the tensions between Bangladesh and China.
There is a lot of tension between China and Bangladesh over why Bangladesh revealed the price of the vaccine. It is a fact that Bangladesh is not a one-party country like China, Bangladesh is a democratic country, and nothing can be hidden therein.
China has tangled Sri Lanka into a debt trap, and the former wants to debt trap Bangladesh as well. Nevertheless, Bangladesh is careful to avoid falling into Chinese debt. China took over a port in Sri Lanka as the latter was not able to clear the balance.
Dhaka, however, knows that development is possible without being in the grip of any country. Sri Lanka should learn something from Bangladesh in this regard.
Meanwhile, On 12 May 2021, Li Jiming, Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh, surprised the world apart by ruffling Bangladeshi feathers with an uncharacteristically aggressive statement. He warned Dhaka that China-Bangladesh bilateral relations would be “substantially damaged” if Bangladesh joined the Quad.
If Bangladesh did not comment on this, the question would definitely arise about the sovereignty of the country. At the same time, Bangladesh was known to all as a weak state in the world. But that did not happen. Because Bangladesh knows about its own merits and strengths.
And that is why there was a toned-down exchange of views between China and Dhaka’s foreign department on the comments made by Bangladesh about the Quad. Li Jimming made the move after Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fang visited Dhaka on 27 April. During his visit, Wei Fang discussed ways to discourage the entry of troops from different regions into South Asia. It goes without saying that he has also held talks in Sri Lanka and Nepal. In his cautionary message, Li Jimming said, “Bangladesh should not be a member of a small organization like the Quad, as it could lead to the deterioration of bilateral relations.”
Nevertheless, Bangladesh is now aware of its strength and that is why the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh AK Abdul Momen has reacted strongly to the remarks of the Chinese Ambassador. “As a sovereign country, Bangladesh will decide its own foreign policy for the welfare of its people,” he said.
At the same time, he called on foreign diplomats in Bangladesh to “stay within diplomatic etiquette and conduct” and “consider the issues and comment”.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying’s added that China never interferes in other countries’ internal affairs. They believe in the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of others, she said.
China views the Quad as an essentially anti-Chinese amalgam of four countries that can decisively contest its ambitions in the Indian Ocean Region.
Even though the Chinese ambassador in Dhaka apologized, the country’s foreign ministry made it very clear that it was in favor of his statement and that it would continue to do so.
Moreover, the indication that their future will not be good if Sri Lanka joins the Quad is quite clear in Hu Chunyang’s statement. And this is the main difference between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Nevertheless, in order to soften the hot iron, China has agreed to give Bangladesh Covid-19 vaccine at a price of $10 per dose.
Evidently, Sri Lanka is more important to China than Bangladesh, because the former has a loan assistance relationship with the latter, which is not in the case of Bangladesh. However, after the recent fuss about the price of vaccines, what is being heard anew is that China will no longer give vaccines at a $10 price. And by focusing on this issue, there is a possibility of reading about the ebb again.