Is Bangladesh Next To Fall In China’s Debt-Trap Diplomacy?

Dhaka: In a quest for rapid progress and development, Bangladesh is falling under the debt trap of China by sponsoring infrastructure projects.Four Chinese state-owned firms expressed their keenness to build the Metro Rail Network in a recent affair along with a ‘Smart City’ on the land in Chittagong with their own funds in return for which the Chinese firms demanded a share of the profits from the ‘Smart City’ after selling off the plots.Experts believe that the construction of ‘Smart City’ on reclaimed land would adversely affect the environment. Though Chinese companies are promising to use modern technologies in reclaiming land. However, it is known that China promises something and does something else after getting projects.As Chinese companies want to build the Metro Rail in Chittagong with their own funds. It implies that, after the completion of the project, Chinese technicians will continue to stay in Chittagong under the cover of maintenance of the Metro. China will never hand over the maintenance work to the Bangladesh Authority.”The construction of Metro Rail will increase the traffic problem further as Chinese companies will never complete the project on the due time for which China is known for,” said a source as Chittagong is a congested place and managing traffic is a big problem for the police.Actually, it is an attempt by China to strengthen their footstep in Bangladesh, especially in Chittagong which is strategically an important place. The main target of China is Chittagong Port, which is the main port of Bangladesh from where entire Bangladesh export and import takes place.An expert said, “China wants to take control, especially the export and import towards the West as they are the main buyers of garments from Bangladesh. So, construction of Metro Rail and Smart City is an attempt to capture Bangladesh similarly like Sri Lanka”.China is gradually bringing Bangladesh into its trap as it is already the major supplier of arms to Bangladesh.Dhaka acquired a sizable amount of military hardware from China which includes two Submarines, Missiles, guns, frigates and fighter aircraft. But now Bangladesh is facing a problem as many of the arms acquired from China are giving trouble. The type 053H3 Frigates and K-8W fighter aircraft have developed snags.Bangladesh had procured the FM-90 (Chinese HQ-7A) system from China. The system is important for the Bangladesh Air Force’s plans of setting up an Integrated Air Defence system. However, there are defects in the system and BAF is now planning to procure additional spares and items. The system is hardly three years old.Bangladesh Naval officers are against purchasing ships and other equipment from China as they do not have good experience in handling them. Recently, the Bangladesh Navy acquired two frigates from China that have developed snags. Two submarines acquired from China are just a showpiece as Bangladesh Navy is yet to use them properly.Bangladesh Navy planned to build ships in Chittagong Dry Dock and like many other countries, China is also showing interest in the project. But Navy is reluctant to give the project to China for their poor track record.Sources reveal that Bangladesh sends their officers and personnel to China for training. Reportedly, one batch of Bangladeshi Air Force officers who were undergoing training at the Aviation University of Changchun was mistreated by Chinese officers.It has also been alleged that China does not supply spare parts while supplying arms and ammunition. So for the maintenance of the defence hardware, Chinese technicians will be asked for maintenance against huge maintenance charges. Most of the defence officers (especially Naval officers) are against acquiring defence hardware from China because of sub-standard quality and lack of maintenance facilities.The people in Bangladesh are not happy with the presence of Chinese in their country as Chinese officials working on various projects are not showing any respect to the local sentiments.They are openly eating pork and tortoise meat in front of their Muslim colleagues and labourers. It is also been reported that Chinese officials refused to give time off to the locals for Iftar during Ramadan month. Salaries have been deducted who left the working site for Iftar.Clashes have also been reported between Chinese officials and locals in a power plant due to non-payment of salaries. Police had to open fire to control the situation a result of which many locals died in the firing.Chinese nationals involved with the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project physically, mentally and even financially harassed the local Bangladeshi labourers which led to fighting. The Chinese nationals in this project area are also alleged to be involved in embezzlement.A Chinese national, representative of the firm China Railway Engineering Corporation was asked by the government to leave for inefficient handling of the project.In May 2020, some locals working on the project were also shot for demanding their dues.Chinese projects in Bangladesh demonstrate the consequences of China’s failure to engage in open and transparent conduct.



  • Pazdin Dalal

    A marketing expert from Mumbai takes interest in covering defence and geopolitical issues. He has also been active in covering growth of private defence sector in India.

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