Asia is all set to become the world's new economic center of gravity as China's Belt and Road Initiative will pave the way for new trade links to alter the economic landscape of a vast area stretching from Asia to Europe, said experts and officials in Bangladesh.[Special coverage]
The initiative of reviving the ancient Silk Road through a network of roads and maritime waterways will surely be a boon for cooperation between China and the various regional blocs across the world, they said at a high-level conference here Monday.
The Bangladesh Enterprise Institute, a leading local think-tank, held the conference on "Bangladesh-China Relations: One Belt and One Road Initiative" ahead of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation to be held from May 14 to 15 in Beijing.
Scores of top leading academics, economists, diplomats and business leaders who joined the conference said Bangladesh is extremely fortunate to have a great country like China as a neighbor.
"Our partnership with China is extremely important. In 2015, we celebrated 40 years of our diplomatic ties," said Gowher Rizvi, international affairs adviser to the Bangladesh prime minister.
He said China has been immensely supporting Bangladesh in its economic development.
"We are today looking forward to prioritizing the development of our infrastructures, including transportation and power. In both these areas China has been a prominent partner and we look forward to having better associations in both these matters," he added.
Now with Bangladesh's inclusion in the initiative, he said the country is going to be able to take advantage and expedite its connectivity vision further with a great hope to realize its sub-regional development aspirations.
Prominent Bangladesh Professor Rehman Sobhan, chairman of Bangladesh's top leading think-tank Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said what they are now witnessing over here is a re-concentration of economic and financial power within the Asia region.
"This means the whole concept of the initiative, of constructive infrastructure, is not some sort of imaginative concept. It is really grounded in certain objectives such as economic and financial realities."
He further said, "Huge resources are readily available with China and beyond. Asia is now poised to create a more integrated global order, the center of which is no longer in the Atlantic region, but in the Asia region."
Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Ma Mingqiang said BRI is one of the most hotly talked about topics in the world. The initiative was proposed by China in 2013 with a view to reviving the old silk road in response to changes and causes of time across the world.
The BRI answers to the calls of a fast-changing world, Ma said, adding that the Belt and Road is an initiative for all interested parties to consider.
"It's not the Chinese version martial plan. It's not a sword of China. It is an orchestra of all. It is inclusive rather than exclusive. It's voluntary rather than compulsory. It's based on equality and mutual respect rather than discrimination. It's a win-win situation rather than winner takes all," he said.
Abdul Matlub Ahmad, the president of Bangladesh's apex trade body, the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), said: "We have been traveling all over the world and investigating where people are going. Well, people say it is the time for Asia. So, this gives China a great chance, as it's the leading economy in Asia."
M. Humayun Kabir, former Ambassador of Bangladesh to the United States, said the scale of this project is encompassing Asia and Europe.
"I don't know if in recent decades we have seen such a big project," Kabir said.
He added that China is setting out or bringing about a project that is now being considered a kind of new template for collaboration and cooperation in the world.
"Within a changing global context, developing countries have an opportunity to take leadership roles," he said.