Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as they attend a signing ceremony of agreements at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday. Photo: AFP
Bangladesh and China yesterday signed five deals including one for building a large power plant in Patuakhali with Chinese assistance.
During official talks with Chinese premier Li Keqiang in Beijing yesterday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also sought support for five other mega infrastructure projects, and Keqiang assured her of taking necessary steps, reports UNB.
The 1,320-megawatt coal-based power plant will be set up in Kalapara upazila of Patuakhali.
The four other deals signed yesterday include an agreement, a memorandum of understanding and two Exchange of Letters to enhance cooperation in sectors like trade and investment and climate change.
The issue of constructing the Sonadia Deep-Sea Port figured prominently in the talks, and the two sides agreed to continue discussions, Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haq told the media afterwards.
Hasina and Keqiang led their respective delegations at the talks that lasted an hour at the Great Hall of People in Beijing.
The five other mega infrastructure projects, for which Dhaka had sought loan and grant support, are National ICT Network for Bangladesh Government (Phase-III), construction of Rajshahi Wasa Surface Water Treatment Plant, construction of second railway/road bridge over the Karnaphuli at Kalurhgat point, construction of a new dual gauge railway line from Chittagong to Cox's Bazar via Ramu and Ramu to Gundum near Bangladesh-Myanmar border, and establishment of Eastern Refinery Unit-2 and Single Point Mooring Project.
Our diplomatic correspondent reports: There was no firm commitment from the Chinese side regarding the construction of the deep-sea port, which could cost about $14 billion.
An official who attended the talks told The Daily Star over the phone that the project was discussed and Dhaka agreed with Beijing to have further discussions.
As proposed by China, the two sides had earlier agreed to sign a framework agreement on the deep-sea port during Hasina's visit. But the deal became uncertain just before she left for China on June 6, diplomatic sources said.
Officials at the foreign ministry said Dhaka declined to sign the agreement on the deep-sea port following differences of opinions and shifting of Chinese position.
They said China had agreed to provide soft loan for the port construction but later changed its mind and offered a commercial loan. It also set the precondition that it would do the design, construction and operation of the port.
Foreign ministry sources said the Chinese side itself had offered to expand zero-tariff facility to 95 percent Bangladeshi goods going into China to get a more balanced bilateral trade.
However, China backed off at the last moment.
UNB adds: The official talks were held in a very cordial, warm and friendly manner, and both leaders discussed various issues of bilateral interests and of common concerns, Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haq said after the meeting.
During the talks, Hasina mentioned that Bangladesh attached highest importance to its relations with China.
The foundation of these relations was laid by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman during his visits to China in 1952 and 1957 as minister, she said.
China has always been a reliable development partner, and so far it has contributed immensely to Bangladesh's socio-economic development, she told Keqiang.
In this regard, Hasina said the seventh Bangladesh-China Friendship Bridge and Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka bear testament to the Dhaka-China friendship.
She also appreciated the dynamic and visionary leadership of Keqiang, saying that China was emerging as the largest economy of the world.
Hasina said Bangladesh welcomes the peaceful rise of China and wishes to remain as an active partner in this “Asian Century”.
In his introductory speech, Keqiang lauded the Bangladesh premier's dynamic and able leadership, and said the bilateral relations between the two countries had reached a new dimension following her visit to China.
Earlier, on her arrival, the Chinese premier welcomed the state guest at the Great Hall premises.
Hasina along with Keqiang proceeded to a saluting dais when the national anthems of both countries were played.
The Bangladesh premier was given 19 gun salutes by a contingent from the three services of the People's Liberation Army of China.
She witnessed the march-past and inspected the parade.