Speakers at a conference called for taking advantage of connectivity initiatives for infrastructural development in South Asian region so that smaller countries can be directly benefited by the projects.
They also suggested countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka to remain cautious while taking loans from other countries.
Countries should give priority to economy first instead of politics, and even in regards to borrowing they should not consider political aspects, they said. Some speakers also mentioned Pakistan and Sri Lanka, who have taken excessive loans from China for infrastructural development.
Bangladesh Institute of International Strategic Studies (BIISS) organised the two-day regional conference on “Importance of BRI and BBIN for South Asia”.
The speakers noted that connectivity initiatives in the present era are considered a prerequisite for economic development. They said South Asia lags behind in transport, trade and people to people connectivity.
In this regard, they said China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Bangladesh, Bhutan India and Nepal (BBIN) Initiative provide opportunities for enhanced economic integration and called for a strong political will of the countries concerned to address various challenges.
Speaking at the concluding session, State Minister for Finance Muhammad Abdul Mannan emphasised reviving all the regional routes for trade and connectivity.
He said Bangladesh and India have already revived historical road, rail and waterways links and now initiated a direct connectivity with other countries like Nepal and Bhutan.
About BRI and BBIN initiatives, he said, “China's initiative is the biggest in the world… and Bangladesh should move together giving top priority to national interest.” In regards to the question of borrowing for infrastructural development, he said, “We take loans only on the basis of need and our capability to utilise the money… We do not take loans on political grounds; we take loans purely on economic grounds for the development of the country.”
Welcoming both the Chinese and Indian connectivity initiatives, Executive Director of Policy Research Institute Ahsan H Mansur said Bangladesh now has options and can negotiate to get the benefit of these connectivity projects.
Prof Gamini Keerawella, executive director of Regional Centre of Strategic Studies in Sri Lanka, said both the BRI and BBIN initiatives are of much importance for the development of connectivity, trade, transit and tourism.
If those are implemented, there will be revolutionary changes in the regional connectivity, which will also bring economic development, said Prof Keerawella. The closing session was also addressed by BIISS senior research fellow Jasim Uddin; Hydrologist from Bhutan Kinley Wangmo; Hernaikh Singh of National University of Singapore; Mahesh Raj Bhatta of Centre for South Asian Studies in Nepal; and Director General of BIISS Maj Gen AKM Abdur Rahman.