People's Republic of Bangladesh - News and Developments

RISING SUN

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Saudi King, Crown Prince congratulate Bangladesh PM on winning elections
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman congratulated Bangladesh’s new Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for winning the elections.

On behalf of the people and the Government of Saudi Arabia, the King expressed his best wishes for the success of the country and the people of the brotherly Republic of Bangladesh and for further progress and prosperity.

The Crown Prince expressed his sincere congratulations and best wishes for the success and health of the country and the people of the brotherly Republic of Bangladesh, and for further progress and development.
Saudi King, Crown Prince congratulate Bangladesh PM on winning elections
 

RISING SUN

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Elephants face 'time bomb' in Bangladesh land clash with Rohingya refugees
After about 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar into Bangladesh 18 months ago and set up camp, they realised they were not only at risk from monsoons and cyclones but also elephants

Standing a top an elephant watch-tower on the outskirts of the sprawling Rohingya refugee settlement in southeast Bangladesh, Nur Islam takes great pride in keeping his people safe.

Dressed in a uniform of blue T-shirt, navy trousers and a neon yellow vest, Islam is one of 570 Rohingya on the Elephant Response Team, known locally as the task force, who are on duty every night to look out for elephants coming into the camps.

After about 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar into Bangladesh 18 months ago and set up camp, they realised they were not only at risk from monsoons and cyclones but also elephants, as they were blocking a migration path, with 13 people killed in six months.

Raquibul Amin, Bangladesh representative for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said as a quick fix in February 2018 they built 95 towers and trained a team to watch, raise the alarm and guide elephants out of camps.

He said in the past year the all-male response team, who are paid to work, had steered elephants away from the former nature reserve on at least 50 occasions with no more fatalities.

But now 18 months into the crisis, Amin said it was becoming important to find a longer-term solution as the elephants were confined to a shrinking forest area, and needed an alternative corridor to move freely to find food or conflicts could resume.

"They are in a time bomb, a slow paced time bomb where not a very bright future is waiting for them," Amin told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.

"It should be OK for some time but they are now in a small area and will start inbreeding and food could be an issue."

Islam, 32, said he had been involved in stopping about 18 elephant incursions into some of the camps located from 40km south of the beachside town of Cox's Bazar that now make up the world's largest refugee settlement.

Route to freedom

More than 900,000 mainly Muslim Rohingya now live in the camps after the 2017 exodus, which followed an offensive by Myanmar's military that the United Nations has described as "ethnic cleansing."

With the influx, swathes of forest were cut down to make space and build shelters, threatening biodiversity, including the endangered Asian elephant. Its numbers have shrunk to about 50,000 globally, due largely to habitat loss, according to WWF.

The IUCN estimates there are about 268 surviving elephants in Bangladesh, of which about 15%, or 35-45, live around the sprawling Rohingya camp area.

Kutupalong, the largest refugee camp, was well known as a corridor for elephants moving between Myanmar and Bangladesh in winter to find food and shelter, breaking obstacles in their way which led to human conflicts.

Islam, who arrived in Cox's Bazar with his wife and two children, said he was not scared of elephants, although others were, so he stepped forward to be on the elephant team.

The project, a joint venture between IUCN and the UN refugee agency UNHCR, received so many applicants that they held a 100-metre running race to choose the fittest candidates.

Islam said his job was to keep watch at night and if he saw an elephant to call team members on duty in other watch-towers who would come to help drive the elephant out of the camp using megaphones and a high-powered search light.

"It's a good job because we help our people," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation via an interpreter before climbing up the rickety, 20-feet bamboo tower overlooking a labyrinth of mud and bamboo shelters as well as the adjacent forest.

"This will also help the elephant to survive. All this land was forest before but now it has been torn down and the elephant deserves to be conserved."

Amin said it was the response team's job to also educate the Rohingya about elephants through awareness campaigns and children's programmes.

They are also trying to encourage local Bangladeshi farmers to grow crops that elephants do not like, such as green chillies and tobacco, to stop the animals encroaching on their land in search of food and creating more human conflict.

"We need to spread the message that the elephant is not an enemy and deserves space as, like the Rohingya, it has lost access to its own land," Amin said.

He said it was unclear what impact restricting the elephants' movement would have in the longer term, or whether it would be possible to provide a new corridor.

This, he said, would involve moving about 100,000 people to new shelters, eating into the forest.

The team wants to gather more data to understand the elephants' migratory patterns, he said, and there are plans to collar and follow five of the animals in the area this year.

"It may happen that the elephants understand the loss and become more violent or desperate to move again," he said.

"Maybe we can find an alternative route for the elephants to cross through the camps and to the corridor."
Elephants face 'time bomb' in Bangladesh land clash with Rohingya refugees
 

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Bangladesh anti-graft body to learn from CBI under new pact
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) may be in the middle of controversy, but Bangladesh’s top anti-corruption body wants to learn from the CBI’s investigative skills, especially in tackling economic offenders.

Bangladesh’s Anti-Corruption Commission, which has been at the forefront of investigating the country’s former PM Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique, is expected to sign a pact with the CBI Thursday to formalise a partnership.

This is likely to be one of the key outcomes of the India-Bangladesh 5th Joint Consultative Committee Meeting, which will be chaired by visiting Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday. Momen will also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday.

This is Momen’s first visit to India after being appointed Foreign Minister last month. An economist and a diplomat, he was Bangladesh’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York from August 2009 to October 2015. His elder brother, A M A Muhith, was Bangladesh’s Finance minister from 2009 to 2018.

The pact between Bangladesh’s Anti-Corruption Commission and CBI is expected to give a boost to the cooperation between the two investigating agencies. For the Bangladesh government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, bringing economic offenders to justice and fighting corruption is a priority area.

“This pact is likely to help in capacity-building and experience-sharing by CBI with it’s Bangladesh counterpart, the ACC,” a source said.

In the latest report by the Transparency International in January-end, Bangladesh was ranked 149th in the Global Perceptions Index 2018 out of 180 countries — down by six notches from 143 last year. India’s ranking improved by three notches to 78.

According to Transparency International, a Berlin-based graft watchdog, Bangladesh is ranked second-lowest in south Asia, only ahead of war-torn Afghanistan, and the reasons include the Anti-Corruption Commission’s failure to act effectively.

Among other pacts likely to be signed up during the visit by the Bangladesh Foreign Minister is one on setting up a Special Economic Zone near Mongla port by the Hiranandani group, on traditional medicine, training of Bangladesh’s civil servants, and one between public broadcasters of the two countries.

Sources said the discussions at the 5th JCC meeting will review the progress made in areas such as trade and investment, security, connectivity, border management, power, energy, shipping and people-to-people exchanges.

The two countries will also discuss common challenges and find ways on how, along with other like-minded nations, they can continue fighting terrorism, extremism and radicalisation.

Ahead of the visit, Momen said on Wednesday, “Among other things, we want to consult with my counterpart about the early resolution of the Rohingya crisis as it may affect regional stability.” He said he expects enhanced Indian support in resolving the crisis.
Bangladesh anti-graft body to learn from CBI under new pact
 

Butter Chicken

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Recently there was news about intel regarding jihadis potentially hijacking a flight in India.Seems to be close enough
 

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Bangladesh eyes alternatives to China’s belt and road loans as it seeks to fund future development
Bangladesh “never will” ask China for more loans as it looks for ways to finance its future development, according to the country’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Mohammed Shahriar Alam.

Speaking to the South China Morning Post ahead of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on Thursday, Alam said any amount of debt can be “dangerous” for countries not achieving high economic growth, adding that “Bangladesh has gained the economic power” to service its own loans linked to Beijing’s “
Belt and Road Initiative”
.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (centre) walks with Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid (centre right) after arriving in Dhaka on October 14, 2016. Photo: AFP
During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Bangladesh in 2016, the two governments signed 27 agreements for investments and loans, amounting to a reported US$24 billion.Concerns were raised at the time that this could be creating a debt trap for the South Asian country – criticism that Chen Wei, deputy chief of mission at China’s embassy in Dhaka, has dismissed as a “total misunderstanding” and “smears” that are “totally groundless”.
When asked if Dhaka planned to seek more loans from Beijing during the upcoming Belt and Road Forum, Alam said his government “never had this intention and never will ask for more loans”.

“We have signed many projects with multiple companies and countries,” he said. “It’s a competitive bidding process. We are awarding contracts to companies who can set up [in Bangladesh] and bring loans on their own. That suits us best.”

Other financing models such as public-private partnerships were also being investigated, he said. Under this model, a foreign company could build a power plant, for example, and sell the electricity produced to recoup its costs. Then, after a specified time, ownership of the plant would revert to the national government.

“We are devising new financial mechanisms. That’s how we want to finance our future,” Alam said. Dhaka is expecting GDP growth of 8.13 per cent this financial year, up from 7.86 per cent the previous year, which would make it the fastest growing economy in Asia.

According to Bangladesh’s Information Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud, since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came to power 10 years ago, development projects have increasingly been financed out of the country’s national budget rather than through foreign loans. “We have economic relations with China, and we have economic relations with many other countries,” he said, pointing to the US$8.2 billion in loans that India has granted Bangladesh.
“We don’t want to become dependent on any countries.”
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Chen Wei, deputy chief of mission at China’s Bangladesh embassy in Dhaka. Photo: Phila Siu

In a separate interview, Chen from the Chinese embassy in Dhaka said Bangladesh’s foreign loans were mostly from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, with Chinese loans making up only a “small percentage” of them.

He described China as Bangladesh’s No 1 trading partner, citing figures that indicated bilateral trade had reached US$18.74 billion last year, up 16.8 per cent from 2017. Bangladesh’s exports to China stood at US$1 billion in April last year. Bangladesh’s total trade deficit was US$7.66 billion last year, according to the Dhaka Tribune.

Chen said both sides will “soon” finalise details on tariff-free access for 97 per cent of the products Bangladesh exports to China.

Michael Kugelman, a South Asia specialist at the Washington-based Wilson Centre, said Bangladesh’s robust economic growth offered it more of a buffer than other nations such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan against the potential downsides of being heavily indebted to China.

“This means Bangladesh can afford to take on more debt than some of the poorer countries [involved in the belt and road plan],” he said.

“But the bottom line is that these loans impose considerable hardships on recipient countries, including those like Bangladesh that do enjoy a relatively stable economy. And that risk will necessitate a degree of caution in Dhaka’s thinking.”

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Photo: AP
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Professor Brahma Chellaney, from New Delhi’s Centre of Policy Research, pointed to China’s reported attempts in 2017 to hike interest rates on some of the loans agreed during Xi’s visit to Bangladesh by converting them to a form of commercial lending from the government-to-government soft financing that had been initially agreed.
This, he said, “underscores the manner in which [Beijing] is using [the belt and road plan] as a strategic and economic instrument to bring smaller states into the Chinese orbit”.

“Bangladesh has pursued a cautious policy: it seeks closer economic and strategic cooperation with China but without getting ensnared in a Chinese debt trap,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Parag Khanna, author of new book The Future is Asian, questioned how Dhaka was using its Chinese loans.

“Are they investing them in economic diversification activities, job creation and so forth, or is [the money] being wasted?” he said, adding that he believes the belt and road plan will be beneficial for both China and the other countries involved as it will facilitate efficient trade corridors being built.

Chen from the Chinese embassy in Dhaka declined to say how much Chinese loans has China promised to grant Bangladesh during Xi’s visit.

Chen said Beijing and Bangladesh will sign an unidentified number of commercial contracts during the Belt and Road Forum, but no government-to-government loans agreements will be signed.
Bangladesh looks for alternatives to China’s belt and road loans
 

Gautam

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India wants Bangladesh land for Agartala airport expansion

By Muktadir Rashid | Published: 00:02, Aug 01,2019 | Updated: 11:00, Aug 01,2019
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India has proposed to expand its Agartala airport into the Bangladesh territory in Brahmanbaria for an upgrade to international standards, Bangladesh officials said.

The home minister, Asaduzzaman Khan, told New Age on Monday that the government was yet to make any decision on the issue.

India, which already has obtained transit and transshipment facilities, has made the proposal at several meetings in the past one year.

The foreign ministry held a meeting in October with other relevant ministries and intelligence agencies to examine whether or how Bangladesh could share its land with India for the expansion of Agartala Airport in Tripura which was renamed as Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport on August 7, 2018.

None of the officials disclosed the amount of land that India has sought but a defence ministry official said that the existing Agartala airport and its runway were located less than a kilometre off the border at Chanpur of Akhaura.

A defence ministry official posted to Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka said that aircraft from Kolkata and Guwahati needed to use the Bangladesh airspace during take-off and landing at Agartala airport.

India first made the proposal at a bilateral meeting in July 2018 when India’s the then home minister Rajnath Singh, now the defence minister, visited Bangladesh.

‘As we were approached on the issue at the meeting, we asked them to make a formal proposal,’ the civil aviation and tourism secretary, Mohibul Haque, said.

Two senior officials who attended the meeting at the foreign ministry in October 2018 said that a military official detailed security issues of the sharing of the Bangladesh territory with India.

‘We also discussed how the airport would be managed and whether the bordering land would be leased out and what might be the process if the government wanted to share the land with India,’ one official said.

Another official who attended the meeting drew a map and showed if the Agartala airport was extended, India would install lights inside the Bangladesh territory and would fence it for airport security.

The foreign secretary, Shahidul Haque, said, ‘No decision has yet been made. A number of ministries are related to the issue and the ministries are coordinating themselves on the issue.’

He said that all who attended the meeting in October 2018 received the Indian proposal positively. ‘Everyone thinks that part of our land will be well connected.’

At the meeting, he also argued that Geneva International Airport falls partly in Switzerland and partly in France, he added.

Established in 1920, the Geneva airport lies in the Swiss territory while its northern boundary runs along the border and the airport can be accessed from both Switzerland and France.

Freight operations are also accessible from both the countries, making Geneva a European Union freight hub although Switzerland is not a member of the European Union.

The airport, which is the property of the state of Geneva, is an autonomous public institution.

In 2018, more than 17 million passengers used the airport connected to 148 destinations by 57 airlines. There are a number of such airports in Europe and the US-Canada borders.

Whether allowing the land would affect national security, the foreign secretary said that people related to security issues would decide the matter. ‘I have seen it in a broader perspective and also in terms of business and mobility.’

He argued that there were cross-border airports in different countries. ‘Many countries use the same airport.’

Dhaka University international relations teacher Imtiaz Ahmed said that Europe and South Asia were not similar in terms of, among others, border management, immigration system or currency policy.

He said that there are questions as to whether the airport would be managed by both the countries or it would be a joint venture.

‘If it is a joint venture, then we can consider,’ said Imtiaz, ‘otherwise, it is not logical.’

The home minister, Asaduzzaman Khan, said, ‘We do not give land to anyone this way… No decision has yet been made.’

Former civil aviation minister Rashed Khan Menon, also the Workers Party of Bangladesh president, was surprised at the proposal. ‘How can an airport be expanded into my country? The government will face stiff resistance on the issue. This is not logical considering political, economic and aviation affairs,’ he said.

‘We should expand our airports, not other’s. Our people should not go to Kolkata via Agartala. I want to go to Kolkata from here. I want seven sister states of India to use Sylhet airport to reach other states in India,’ Menon said.

The Indo-Asian News Service reported from Agartala on June 24 that after Guwahati and Imphal, Agartala airport was set to become the third international airport in India’s north-east by 2019 or early 2020.

The report quoted Tripura’s the then transport and tourism minister Pranajit Singha Roy as saying that the Airport Authority of India planned to upgrade Agartala airport to international standards by 2019 or early 2020.

The Indian airport authorities took up a project involving Rs 438 crore (about Tk 538 crore) to upgrade Agartala airport to international standards while the Indian government has already provided the authorities with 72 acres of land for the construction of the terminal building, runway and other necessary infrastructure, the report said.

Once the project is completed, Pranajit told the news agency, flights would run between Agartala and Dhaka as well as other Bangladeshi cities such as Chattogram and Sylhet.

Tripura’s the then king Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur built the airport in 1942 where three airliners now run on an average 14 flights on the Agartala–Kolkata, Agartala–Guwahati and Agartala–Delhi routes.


India wants Bangladesh land for Agartala airport expansion
 

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India hosting Myanmar leader doesn’t give good impression: Bangladesh leader

By Kallol Bhattacherjee
New Delhi,July 31, 2019 02:45 IST
Updated:July 31, 2019 03:09 IST
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Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is internationally blamed for his role in the Rohingya tragedy

The Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar Defence Services who is currently visiting India should be brought to justice for his role behind the genocide of the Rohingya, a leading member of the ruling coalition of Bangladesh has stated. Hasanul Haq Inu, a member of the Sheikh Hasina-led ruling combine in Dhaka, said that Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is internationally blamed for his role in the Rohingya tragedy.

“General Min Aung Hlaing has been named by the UN for being the power behind the genocide and displacement of the Rohingyas from Myanmar. He should be brought to the altar of justice,” the Bangladeshi leader told The Hindu on phone from Dhaka.

The senior Myanmar figure is currently on a tour of India and held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Monday. The Ministry of External Affairs stated that the Indian side discussed military-to-military, counter-insurgency capacity-building with him.

The visit drew attention of rights activists who pointed out that the UN Human Rights Council has called for investigation and prosecution of General Min Aung Hlaing for crime against humanity. The 440-page report by the office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights pointed at the general’s role in the military campaign in the Rakhine province that led to the death of unknown number of Rohingya individuals and displacement of 1.2 million members of the community who are currently in Bangladeshi shelters near Chittagong. The report recounted the military campaign included cases of planned mass murders of the Rohingya community members.

In a 2018 report, Amnesty International had also called for bringing General Min Aung Hlaing to justice for his role in the the violence that targeted the Rohingyas.

Mr. Inu, who is a former information minister, said that hosting of the general does not give a “favourable” impression of India which he described as a “great democracy”. “We demand trial of the persons behind the genocide of the Rohingya people and repatriation of the community to the Rakhine state of Myanmar,” Mr. Inu said.

India hosting Myanmar leader doesn’t give good impression: Bangladesh leader
 

_Anonymous_

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ചാത്തൂട്ടി (@chathootti) Tweeted:
Dhaka Tribune reports Bangladesh is facing a population explosion due to Rohingya refugees. 8 lakh refugees turn 9 lakh in 2 yrs! average 6 kids/woman! People refuse schooling except Madrasa education & firmly believes birth control is against their faith. Rohingya crisis: Population exploding as 91,000 babies are born in two years ( )


Aah! To get but a taste of ones own medicine is nothing short of poetic justice.
 

Ashwin

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How the digital economy is shaping a new Bangladesh

India is the largest supplier of online labour, with close to 24% of total global freelance workers, followed by Bangladesh (16%) and the US (12%). Different countries focus on different sectors of freelancing services. For instance, technology and software development is dominated by Indian freelancers, while Bangladesh is the top supplier of sales and marketing support services.