Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Tuesday that her government was "very much careful" about issues of development partnership with China and Dhaka was not dependent on any particular country for overseas assistance, amid global concerns over mounting debt to Beijing by smaller countries.
The 99-year lease of Hambantota port to China by Sri Lanka has raised red flags about the downside of China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative and Beijing’s push for major infrastructure projects costing billions of dollars in small countries.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
"We're very much careful about taking loans - mostly we take loans from institutions like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. From China, our loan is very low. It is not like Sri Lanka or anybody," she said in an interview with CNN.
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"We're not depending on anybody," Hasina, who is also the President of the ruling Awami League, said. When asked why the US thought Dhaka was getting closer to China and what she would like to say about the notion, the prime minister replied Bangladesh was close to every country which supports its development efforts.
"We're close to everybody, China, USA or India. Those who are supporting our development, we're with them," the 75-year-old prime minister said. Hasina described China as one of Bangladesh's major development partners as they were investing and engaged in some major construction works in the South Asian country.
"That's all," she said. Hasina added that her government did not take any unnecessary loan from anyone, saying "we consider from which project we can get a return and we will be the beneficiary".
Numerous questions regarding Ukraine and the Rohingya crisis featured in her interview with CNN when she said intensified global steps were needed to stop the Ukraine war. "I feel that the world should come forward to stop the war as the common people are suffering," she said. Hasina said any conflict could be solved through dialogue and "we (Bangladesh) never support any kind of invasion or any conflict".
"Friendship to all, malice to none," she said. “We're following that, so, when we see any human rights violation or invasion, we definitely oppose it." She, however, said no war could be one-sided alone as it needs the involvement of both sides. “(but) I believe each country has its own rights to live in their own territory (with freedom) and protect their own territory."
Asked what Bangladesh needs from the international community to deal with the Rohingya crisis, Hasina said, "we have called upon the international community that they should pressure Myanmar to bring their citizens back to their country".
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"Not only that, but we have also started a dialogue with Myanmar. (But) unfortunately, they are not responding properly," she said. The premier went on to say that her government had already talked to China, ASEAN countries, Japan, the USA and others countries and requested them to put pressure on Myanmar to bring their nationals back.
"Unfortunately, the Myanmar government is not listening to anybody. That is the problem," she said. Nearly one million Rohingya Muslims fled a crackdown by Myanmar's military in 2017 in Rakhine state and are living in camps in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh.