Sri Lanka including Bangladesh can benefit from CPEC


Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are both South Asian countries. As an island county in South East Asia, Sri Lanka has been utilizing some facilities in the sector of international maritime trade. Sri Lanka is known as a maritime hub in South Asia. Its Colombo port is very famous in the world map.

On the other hand, Bangladesh has some geo-strategic significance that’s why China is interested in investing in Bangladesh. Now Western powers want to see Bangladesh as a strategic partner in the Indo-Pacific region. But Bangladesh joined China’s BRI in 2017. Its location across the Bay of Bengal gives a strategic position in South East and South Asia. Bangladesh can utilize this properly.

However, Pakistan is the only South Asian country showing its full-scale strategic significance to the world leaders at this moment. Its foreign policy has shifted towards geoeconomy from geostrategy. CPEC and Gwadar port have added extra value in this regard. China runs Gwadar port and CPEC has increased more confidence between China and Pakistan to prove that they are really “all weather allies”.

Sri Lanka has some advantageous position in South Asia in terms of maritime connectivity. It is also known as a maritime hub in South Asia. Sri Lankan Hambantota port is a hot cake in international politics. Sri Lanka has leased it to China for 99 years. There is some debate regarding this. But that is another issue. However, China is more interested to connect Sri Lanka with its connectivity project “Belt and Road Initiative.”

As regional states, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh each can and should join the project to enjoy the benefits. This trilateral connection would boost up the business connection, people-to-people connection. Public diplomacy, economic diplomacy, cricket diplomacy would be strengthened more

Sri Lanka and Pakistan are both active members of ‘BRI’. Sri Lankan Hambantota and Colombo ports are considered as epicentres and hubs of China’s BRI project in South Asia. Sri Lankan ports can be used as a regional maritime hub between South Asia, South East Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East.

Sri Lanka and Pakistan can work together in the sector of bilateral trade, investment, science and technology, and culture through enhancing connectivity. Sri Lanka is one of the top business partners of Pakistan in South Asia.

Pakistani PM Imran Khan visited Sri Lanka on February 23-24. During his visit to Sri Lanka, he focused on Pakistan’s connectivity with Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has a historical connection with Pakistan. Sri Lankan Colombo port’s connection with Pakistan’s Karachi port is well known.

Pakistan is the part of the Chinese President’s BRI through its flagship China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, Sri Lanka could benefit from it through enhanced connectivity up to the Central Asian states. Bilateral connectivity would increase the bilateral trade between the two states. Basically, Sri Lanka and Pakistan would benefit mutually.

Sri Lanka can ensure its maximum interest from the use of Gwadar Port for warehousing to facilitate trade with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Western and Central China, the Central Asian Republics and the Middle East. Gwadar is connected with CPEC. Ultimately, Sri Lanka can easily export to and import from the markets of the above-mentioned states. Sri Lankan can use Gwadar Port’s gateway for export to Afghanistan and then Uzbekistan and from there to the entire Central Asia.

During the visit to Sri Lanka, Imran commented that Pakistan was allocating land to Uzbekistan for warehousing and export, and the same facility can also be provided to Sri Lanka. 

On the other hands, according to a leading Bangladesh daily (Daily Observer), Bangladesh can benefit from using Pakistan’s Gwadar port. The Daily Observer published an article titled “Bangladesh can benefit from Gwadar port’ on 30 September  2021.

This newspaper has also published an article titled ‘Why Bangladesh should use Pakistan’s Gwadar port?” on September 26. It is pertinent to mention that Sri Lanka’s online portal Lanka Web and India’s “Maritime Gateway’ republished the article on September 26 amd 27 respectively with referencing.

My point here is that the main theme of the article is connectivity amongst Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The author of the article shows that If Bangladesh’s Chittagong, Payra, Mangla ports can be connected with Pakistan’s ports including Karachi port, Port Qasim and Keti bandar along with Gawadar via Sri Lankan Colombo and Hambantota ports, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan would benefit trilaterally. Regional connectivity would ensure their own maximum business interest. The millions of people in the region could benefit.

Sri Lanka’s tea, apparel, and machinery and Bangladesh’s apparel, mangoes, medicines and potatoes can be easily exported to the above-mentioned markets. On the other hand, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka both import goods such as cotton from Pakistan, the Central Asian States, Western and Central China, and even Russia. But a holistic trilateral effort is much needed in this regard. If Sri Lanka and Bangladesh use CPEC, they can take part in the development process in Afghanistan with Pakistan, China, Russia, Iran. SAARC may be revived through these activities. Revival of SAARC is a must in the present context or scenario of South Asia.

Pakistan’s Gwadar port could benefit Sri Lanka in this regard. If Sri Lanka starts to use Gwadar port, its exports to Central Asian states, Central and Western China and Pakistan would increase. Sri Lanka’s connection with Pakistan’s CPEC project would accelerate regional connectivity further.

The bilateral connection between two states would boost up. Sri Lanka and Pakistan can increase their joint bilateral efforts to counter terrorism, tackle covid-19 etc. Terrorism has been harming the economic interests of both states. Sri Lanka saw the Easter Church attack in 2019. Pakistan has been facing the challenging TTP threat. If Pakistan and Sri Lanka increase the connectivity through utilizing these connectivity projects, bilateral efforts of tackling and countering terrorism would ensure automatically.

Tourism is another sector. Pakistan has many historical Buddhist sites such as ancient civilizations of Gandhara, Takhsila. Sri Lankans can easily visit these historical holy sites if connectivity between two states builds. On the other hand, Sri Lanka has historical places for Muslims like Adam peak. More Pakistani Muslims will be able to visit the holy site. But bilateral connection is a must for ensuring that. CPEC is a regional connectivity project.

As regional states, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh each can and should join the project to enjoy the benefits. This trilateral connection would boost up the business connection, people-to-people connection. Public diplomacy, economic diplomacy, cricket diplomacy would be strengthened more.



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