China, India duel for riverine lifeblood of Bangladesh – Asia Times

China, India duel for riverine lifeblood of Bangladesh - Asia Times

With double-digit prices pinching wallets, declining foreign exchange reserves, and declining economic growth, Bangladesh’s economy is in for a storm. The state is frantically looking for international funding to weather the problems.

Enter China into the attention of the storm. With a proper US$ 5 billion soft product, Beijing has positioned itself as Bangladesh’s possible economic savior. Beijing’s support comes just after Dhaka received a$ 1.4 billion tranche of a$ 4.7 billion IMF loan package.

But China’s present has a political spin. China has a chance to counteract India’s influence in the Bay of Bengal area as the two regional giant compete for power of the Teesta River project as a result of Bangladesh’s financial vulnerability.

The Teesta River, even spelled Tista River, is important for both Bangladesh and India for water and electricity. According to India’s unwillingness to discuss the water’s water downstream, it has also caused years of diplomatic tension.

Now, Beijing’s$ 5 billion loan is seemingly tied to making China the lead on completing the Teesta management and restoration project, provisionally estimated at$ 1 billion.

If China is really given the site’s direction, Dhaka and Delhi will undoubtedly find themselves in a new commotion. That’s in part because Vinay Mohan Kwatra, the Indian foreign secretary, recently offered American funding for growth projects along the river.

India’s Teesta present was taken with a grain of salt in Dhaka. Before Kwatra’s explore, a big American newspapers, The Hindu, expressed worry about China’s proposed Teesta growth project in Bangladesh.

India’s fear stems from the site’s area near the Siliguri Corridor, a carefully important strip of land connecting India’s north to the island. Nicknamed the” Chicken’s Neck”, this hall holds huge geopolitical importance.

India fears that China’s role in the Teesta project may serve as a covert attempt to woo this delicate area.

The Teesta River is Bangladesh’s essence. As the country’s fourth largest river and the main source of water for its northern parts, it’s important for water, supporting thousands of people and a significant portion of agricultural output.

India’s water diplomacy, however, has n’t been very diplomatic from Dhaka’s perspective. According to experts in Bangladesh, upstream reservoirs built by India have restricted waters flowing, significantly and negatively affecting downstream Bangladesh.

During clean seasons, Bangladesh receives just a fraction of the 1, 200- 1, 500 square feet per second of liquid it needs and much less compared to the perceived perfect 5, 000 cusecs, with levels dropping yet below 200- 300 cusecs at times.

Bangladesh and China collaborated to create a multipurpose barrage, dredge, and embank portions of the river to create a single, manageable channel with much higher water levels in 2022.

For the$ 88 million project, Bangladesh sought$ 725 million from China to ensure better water preservation on the Teesta River. China has already completed a survey and is waiting for Bangladesh’s response to its previous project proposal.

Chinese envoy to Dhaka Yao Wen last year predicted that his nation would wait until the election’s outcome ( which took place on January 7 this year and reinstated the Awami League-led government ) to continue discussions on the development project.

China requested that Bangladesh review its loan application and submit a new implementation plan after the election if the government still deemed the project essential, which Dhaka agreed in principle. &nbsp,

Map showing Tista ( Teesta ) River. Image: X Screengrab

Munshi Faiz Ahmed, a former Bangladesh ambassador to China, has criticized Bangladesh’s approach to the Chinese proposal.

When Bangladesh could have adopted a more neutral stance, Ahmed believes it readily accepted China’s offer. This, he says, suggests Bangladesh is favoring China in implementing the Teesta project.

China is already Bangladesh’s largest economic partner. Beijing has already committed a sizable$ 17.5 billion in grants and loans to the nation as part of its Belt and Road Initiative ( BRI ).

Some people take note of how this commitment contrasts starkly with the Covid-19 pandemic’s global trend. A report from the William and Mary Global Research Institute reveals that China continued to support Bangladesh while many countries reduced their foreign aid, providing a consistent$ 2.3 billion annually.

The Awami League government was able to quickly complete important infrastructure projects like the Padma Bridge, a significant elevated expressway, and several new power plants thanks to the influx of funds.

” China’s generosity is n’t purely altruistic”, Ahmed said, suggesting that Beijing’s largesse is part of a strategic soft power play in the Bay of Bengal region vis- à- vis India.

” By fostering economic ties and supporting Bangladesh’s development goals, China aims to build goodwill and secure a stronger foothold in the region”, he said.

The retired diplomat argued that Bangladesh’s economic dependence could give China more influence in the ongoing conflict over regional influence.

In his well-known podcast, Taj Hashmi, an expert on history and security studies, stated that Bangladesh desperately needs Chinese assistance and investment to avoid a financial crisis. He claimed that Dhaka cannot afford to provoke Beijing by allowing India to instead implement the Teesta project.

” If China denies Bangladesh’s request for a$ 5 billion soft loan and decides to scale back its investments, it will be a disastrous blow for Dhaka”, he said.

In the current situation, former Bangladeshi foreign secretary Md Touhid Hossain says Bangladesh has little choice but to take into account China’s involvement in the Teesta Project.

He said,” I believe it will be wiser for Bangladesh to pursue the Teesta project with China’s assistance.”