Signalling a cautious approach in dealing with the Chinese investments in the country, Gowher Rizvi, Sheikh Hasina's foreign affairs advisor has said that Dhaka would take a very balanced, calibrated investment policy. The statement has come at a time when China is luring the developing and underdeveloped countries with its 'debt trap' strategy. Rizvi further added that the country has taken lessons from Sri Lanka and Djibouti which were forced to give control of their assets after they were unable to pay Chinese debt.

Djibouti and China trapped under heavy Chinese Debt

Djibouti's debt to China is said to have risen to more than 70% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP). As per the China Global Investment Tracker, Chinese investments and contracts in Djibouti totalled $1.02 billion from 2013 to 2020, with the majority of them in the transportation sector.

Gowher Rizvi, Sheikh Hasina's foreign affairs advisor
Gowher Rizvi, Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina's foreign affairs advisorCredit:Twitter

Furthermore, in 2004, DP World, a logistics corporation headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, signed a 25-year contract to run the Doraleh Container Terminal. But Djibouti unexpectedly terminated the arrangement in January 2018, nationalized the terminal, and transferred a stake of over 20% to China Merchant Holdings.

Similarly, citing difficulty to pay loans taken to build the project at the southern port of Hambantota, the Srilankan government agreed to lease the port for 99 years to a venture led by China Merchants Port Holdings Co. in return for $1.1 billion.

Chinese engineer at Hambantota port in Sri lanka
A Chinese engineer looks over the excavation process at the construction site for the new deep water shipping port in Hambantota, 240km (149 miles) southeast of Colombo,EUTERS/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds

Meanwhile, Rizvi dismissed any fears of China building Bangladesh's deep seaport and added, "There was a huge concern that China will build Bangladesh's deep seaport Are you hearing anything of that sort?" He also said, "We know how to guard our sovereignty. We became an Independent State through a war of liberation. We very carefully monitor our borrowings. We are in a very healthy position insofar as our foreign repayment debt repayment is concerned."

Calling New Delhi an important ally of Dhaka, Rizvi said that 'a domestically stable, politically stable and prosperous is in India's interest. He further went on to add that we have given importance to our relationship with India.