Bangladesh dismisses reports linking construction of Padma bridge with Chinese project

Bangladesh on Sunday rejected reports over links between a newly-built road bridge and China’s multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, saying the country’s longest bridge was entirely financed by the government and no foreign funds were used in its construction.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is set to inaugurate on June 25 the nearly 10-kilomtre-long Padma Bridge, a structure that would connect by road Bangladesh’s southwestern region with the capital Dhaka and other parts of the country.

“It (the bridge) is not related to the BRI and Bangladesh has not taken any foreign fund for building the structure either,” a foreign ministry spokesman said.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a multi-billion-dollar project launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he came to power in 2013. It aims to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.

The foreign ministry’s reaction came after a group called ‘Bangladesh-China Silk Road Forum’ last week announced it would hold a panel discussion on “The Padma Bridge: An Example of Bangladesh-China Cooperation under Belt and Road Initiative” on June 22.

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Hours after the group distributed invitation letters to the media, the foreign ministry issued a statement refuting the bridge’s connection with the BRI, prompting the organisers to postpone their planned discussion the next day.

The group had said leaders representing different Bangladeshi political parties, including the ruling Awami League, and China’s envoy in Dhaka, and other officials will take part in the event.

“It has come to the attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that some quarters are trying to portray that the Padma Multipurpose Bridge has been constructed with the assistance of foreign funds and is a part of the Belt and Road Initiative,” said the foreign office statement.

The statement asserted that the Padma Multipurpose Bridge was entirely funded by the Bangladesh government and “no foreign funds from any other bilateral or multilateral funding agency” contributed to its construction.

It, however, said both foreign as well as Bangladeshi construction firms were engaged in the implementation of the project and the completion of the bridge would “fulfill the long-cherished dream of the nation of connecting the 19 south-western districts with the rest of the country”.

The foreign office said the bridge would pave a way for “collective prosperity, socioeconomic development of Bangladesh as well as enhanced regional connectivity”.

A Chinese embassy spokesman, meanwhile, told a select group of journalists in Dhaka that the bridge was built entirely with Bangladeshi funds, adding that: “We are proud that a Chinese construction company was involved in building the Padma Bridge”.

“The (China Railway Major Bridge Engineering Corporation) company which had built a bridge on our mother river (Yellow River) decades ago has built the first longest such bridge (over the Padma) outside China,” he said.

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