China and India are stepping forward to invest in the same Bangladeshi port, raising eyebrows as the regional rivals compete for influence in the South Asian country.
The two have zeroed in on the development of Mongla, Bangladesh's second-largest port, in the southwest of the country. China and India have been eyeing the facility for years, promising to provide hundreds of millions of dollars according to Japanese media reports.
Since December last year India and China in quick succession have signaled that they were moving forward with the projects in the Port…China already has a significant presence in Bangladesh's ports and shipping industry, while India has transshipment facilities at two Bangladeshi ports -- Chittagong and Mongla -- to carry goods to its landlocked northeastern states.
India decided to upgrade Mongla under a line of credit from New Delhi in 2015. India selected Egis India Consulting Engineers. The Mongla Port Authority signed a deal with the company in late December.
China, meanwhile, signed an umbrella deal in 2016, when President Xi Jinping visited Dhaka, under which it pledged to fund 27 development projects including an expansion and modernization of Mongla's facilities
India, Nepal and Bhutan are all keen to use Mongla to facilitate their trade. In addition, modernization is considered necessary for the proposed Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor.
Md. Touhid Hossain, a former Bangladeshi foreign secretary, acknowledged the rivalry between India and China but stressed Dhaka has sought to maintain close relations with both.
In Bangladesh's case, Hossain noted that the country has signed the Mongla deal with India but has yet to do so with China. "We have to observe whether India tries to influence Bangladesh not to sign the pact with China for the Mongla port expansion project," he said, adding, "Since a deal is already signed with India, now Delhi's reaction will matter."