South Asia and Beyond

“Bangladesh Doesn’t Want To Cross India’s Redlines On Chinese Port Projects, Weapons, Finances”

New Delhi: On ‘The Gist‘, Ambassador Pankaj Saran, India’s Former Deputy National Security Advisor and Ex- Envoy to Bangladesh in conversation with StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi.

Ambassador Saran says “China has been pursuing a fairly aggressive stance, vis-a-vis all our neighbors, particularly those which are contiguous to us. Sometimes, it is quite evident that the money that they are pouring in is not actually strictly for commercial, industrial or development purposes, but is obviously for dual use application. This is a matter of worry for us. We do not want a situation where China uses or exploits the vulnerabilities of smaller neighbours or countries to pursue its own agenda, vis-a-vis India. We have been in conversation with Bangladesh to say that when it comes to your development agenda, the growth of your economy, all that is unexceptionable. But where we have a problem is when we find that there are activities, or projects or other initiatives, which in our opinion, are disproportionate. And there is definitely an element of dual use intent, which is visible. Whether it is port infrastructure, whether it is weapons for the Bangladeshi armed forces, whether it is using financial resources which result in constraining their ability to take sovereign decisions vis-a-vis foreign policy or make them unnaturally dependent on China, whether it’s in the form of the decision making processes or the domination of certain sectors. These are unhealthy. They sometimes clearly go beyond normal interstate commercial and development cooperation. So, yes, it is a matter of worry for us. No doubt.” The Former Deputy NSA adds, “the Bangladeshis say, of course, that they are responsive. They recognise that they’re seeing this pattern of Chinese behaviour. Not just in their own country, but in the rest of the subcontinent and in the rest of the world. So they are cautious. They do not want to cross redlines when it comes to us. But on the other hand, they also argue that everything that is happening between them and China is completely commercial, normal development cooperation. So there are both sides.They recognise that we have concerns. Geography is very important because Bangladesh basically sits inside India. So, just as if I were to do something on Indian soil or territory, which affects Bangladeshi security, I would understand Bangladesh would get worried or concerned because security is mutual. It can’t be one-sided. So they do recognise it. But, on the other hand, at the official level, they claim that there is nothing unusual about the relationship. But, you know, we have to also sift the facts from the statements”.

Watch this extensive chat on the key takeaways from the PM Narendra Modi-PM Sheikh Hasina meetings, “an extraordinarily comprehensive and very deep rooted relationship”, movement towards a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement(CEPA) “that is another step towards economic integration that must be moved forward relentlessly”, water sharing and the Teesta river sorepoint, inland waterways and building of small ports, “connectivity projects that are a subset of the total development package to Bangladesh”, “energy connectivity that has become a very successful module”, ” creating virtuous cycles of prosperity in northeast India and within Bangladesh”, the $500 million defense credit line “where there’s a lot India can offer including joint production and servicing of equipment”, ” doubts about China’s true intent”, economic shocks and whether there’s a possibility Bangladesh could go the Sri Lanka or Pakistan way, how “India can’t ignore Pakistan’s proclivity to foment trouble”, elections that are due in Bangladesh next year and what that could mean for India and the Rohingya humanitarian and security issue.

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