‘China a bit reluctant about Teesta project due to sensitivity’


Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming on Thursday said his country is serious about implementing the Teesta River Comprehensive Management Project, noting that it should be taken positively for the benefit of Bangladeshis.


He said China considers the project to be significant after Bangladesh formally proposed it, but also has a sense of reluctance due to the sensitivities it contains.


“…I would have to be frank that the Chinese side is a bit reluctant about this project. The reason of course is that there are some sensitivities — that we sensed and we observed,” the Chinese ambassador said at a seminar on “National Image of China in Bangladesh,” organized by the Centre for Genocide Studies (CGS) at a Dhaka hotel.


The ambassador said they were officially approached by the Bangladesh government one year ago.


After an assessment done by the embassy, he said, they decided that this is a very important project and they should report back to Beijing.


“Now Teesta River Comprehensive Management Project is under serious assessment by the government agencies in Beijing,” said the envoy.


Read: ‘Some misunderstandings can hurt Bangladesh-China relations’


Ambassador Jiming said he is personally concerned whether the Bangladesh government will change its position later on — due to or without external pressure.


“I am not sure. If we decided to do so, and if someone came out and said — well this is again another case of Chinese debt trap — there are some particular geo-political sensitivities and so we should not do it,” he mentioned, adding that then the Bangladesh government may say, “Sorry China, we cannot just go on. That will put us in a very awkward position.”


He said though his recent trip was part of visiting Chinese projects in different parts of the country, he got very positive feedback from the local people and the local government.


“It gives me great confidence to speak more to my colleagues in Beijing, and build their confidence,” said the ambassador.


On October 9, Chinese Ambassador Li Jiming visited Rangpur division and talked to locals at the Teesta Barrage.


On October 10, the ambassador visited the bridge project under construction by CSCEC over Teesta River in Gaibandha district of Rangpur division.


In July 2020, the Ministry of Water Resources sought a $983 million loan from China to implement the project, in a letter to Bangladesh’s Economic Relations Division. The Bangladesh government would be bearing 15% of the total project cost (about $130 million).


The project involves dredging the Teesta river for navigability, building strong embankment, townships, industries on the two sides of the river, water reservoir and irrigation.


Responding to a question on possible engagement of China in a Teesta-related project, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen recently said they have not received any such proposal officially yet.


On the issues of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, Jiming said there have been narratives and news “cooked up by western countries”.


He said China is not suppressing any certain minority, namely the Uyghur, which is one of 56 ethnic groups in China.


“Chinese authorities imprisoned the separatists and terrorists as per the national law,” Jiming said. CGS Director Prof Imtiaz Ahmed presented a keynote. Former ambassadors Nasim Firdaus, Munshi Faiz Ahmad, Dhaka University Professors MM Akash and Dr Delwar Hossain also spoke.


Source: United News of Bangladesh