(Recasts after deals signed)
By Ruma Paul
DHAKA Oct 14 Chinese President Xi Jinping,
stepping up a competition with India for regional influence,
said on Friday ties with Bangladesh would be enhanced to a
strategic partnership as the two countries signed 27 agreements
worth billions of dollars.
Xi, making a first trip by a Chinese president to Bangladesh
in 30 years, boosted involvement in Bangladeshi infrastructure
at a time when Japan has also increased investment in the
country located on the Bay of Bengal.
"We agreed to elevate the relations between China and
Bangladesh from a closer comprehensive partnership of
cooperation to a strategic partnership of cooperation," Xi said
after talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
India has long considered Bangladesh as part of its area of
influence and under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has boosted
economic links with it as well as with other neighbours
including Nepal and Sri Lanka.
Last year Modi announced a $2 billion credit line during a
visit to Dhaka, but China is set to go well beyond that.
Ahead of Xi's visit, Bangladesh junior finance minister M.A.
Mannan said the deals the two countries planned to sign would
involve Chinese funding of about $24 billion, Dhaka's biggest
foreign credit line yet.
Among the agreements sealed on Friday was a 1,320 MW power
plant that China will build, officials said.
China's TBEA signed a power grid deal worth $1.6
billion with Dhaka Power, following a pact that Jiangsu Etern's
consortium signed on Thursday to strengthen
Bangladesh's power grid network valued at $1.1 billion.
"We reached a consensus to work together in trade and
investment and other key areas such as infrastructure,
agriculture, energy and power, information technology and
transportation," Hasina said.
Xi visited Dhaka en route to a BRICS summit of the world's
leading emerging economies in Goa, India.
Zhao Gancheng, director of South Asia Studies at Shanghai
Institute for International Studies, said there was room for
both India and China to support development in Bangladesh.
"I really don't think there is a zero sum game going on...
Bangladesh welcomes both Chinese and Indian investment," said
China is currently Bangladesh's biggest trade partner with
annual turnover of around $10 billion which is heavily in favour
"Xi's visit will set a new milestone," minister Mannan told
Reuters. "Our infrastructure needs are big, so we need huge
Bangladesh has backed Xi's "One Belt, One Road" initiative
to boost trade and transport links across Asia and into Europe,
seeing it as an opportunity to lift growth.
India has reservations about the plan, amid worries that it
is an attempt to build a vast zone of Chinese influence.
($1 = 78.40 taka)
(Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Mike Collett-White and