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Dhaka examines twin proposals from China

Shakhawat Hossain

Dhaka is examining a proposal from Beijing that expressed interest to construct a tunnel under a river and set up an industrial estate in the port city of Chittagong in a single package.
Economic Relations Division officials said China earlier proposed to construct the tunnel to bolster communication between the two parts of Chittagong divided by the river Karnaphuly.
China has recently tagged establishment of the proposed industrial estate, also known as special economic zone, in the same city with the financial assistance to the tunnel project.
‘Beijing has sought land to set up the economic zone,’ ERD additional secretary Mohammad Shafiqul Azam told new Age.
Azam presided over a meeting held at the ERD last month to review the Chinese proposal.
The meeting asked the Bangladesh Export Zones Authority to examine whether a big stretch of land on the bank of river Karnaphuly could be allotted for the purpose of setting up a Chinese industrial estate, he said.
Experts linked the recent Chinese proposal with its future plan of developing an economic corridor among India-Bangladesh-Myanmar-China.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi told Bangladesh former foreign minister Dipu Moni that China was willing to push forward the construction of the BCIM Economic Corridor through Bangladesh.
Moni visited China from October 19 to 22 last year at Wang’s invitation.
The bridge division officials said they have long been trying to construct the tunnel instead of another bridge over the same river to overcome siltation that is a major threat for proper functioning of the Chittagong Port, the gateway of the country’s 80 per cent trade worth over $55 billion.   
Officials said the Chinese proposal was put forward in last February after the government decided to set up five special economic zones in different strategic locations.
Land at Anwara and Mirersarai in Chittagong, Moulavibazar in Sylhet, Mongla in Khulna and in Sirajganj were already acquired for the SEZs to woo foreign investments.
China reportedly asked for a stretch of land in Anwara in Chittagong for setting up its industriaol zone.
Bothway trade between China and Bangladesh figured worth more than $8 billion in 2012, heavily lopsided in favour of China.
During the first quarter of 2013, the trade volume reached US$ 3.3 billion with a year-on-year increase by
36 per cent.

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