Dhaka, Oct 14

Bangladesh today rolled out the red carpet for Chinese President Xi Jinping who arrived on a two-day state visit, the first by a Chinese head of state in 30 years, seen as crucial for bilateral economic ties.

A 21-gun salute heralded Xi’s arrival as he stepped down from a special Air China flight to be received by Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid at the VVIP terminal of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.

Four Bangladesh air force jets escorted the aircraft carrying the Chinese leader as it entered the country’s skyline while a contingent of army, navy and air force accorded him an honour guard as he landed.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency on the eve of Xi’s visit that the tour would usher in a new era of “intensive cooperation” between Dhaka and Beijing.

“We are very happy and feel honoured that President Xi is coming to Bangladesh. I believe that President Xi’s visit will also be more important for South Asia (as well),” she said.

Xi will hold talks with Hasina and join a banquet at Bangabhaban presidential palace as part of his 23-hour visit, the first by any Chinese head of state to Bangladesh in three decades after President Li Xiannian’s trip in March 1986.

Hasina said Bangladesh strongly adhered to one-China policy and supported China on issues related to its core national interests and efforts to safeguard its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

She said “China has become our largest trading partner and we consider China as a trusted partner in realising our dreams too. China is the leading generator of many of our mega projects in terms of finance, capitalisation and technology”.

Beijing earlier this week in a statement said the visit would be a “milestone” as “both sides would make deals and bilateral relations would be improved”.

Bangladesh officials familiar with the tour said the two countries were expected to sign 25 agreements and MoUs on investment and cooperation coinciding with the visit. They said the proposed deals would involve billions of dollars in Chinese funding for large infrastructure projects which Bangladesh considered critical to its development ambitions.

India extended a USD 2 billion line of credit to Bangladesh after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit last year, following up on a USD 1 billion loan in 2010 when his predecessor Manmohan Singh visited Dhaka.

Analysts said Dhaka sought to develop economic ties with China keeping its warm strategic and political relations with next door India, as its traditional ally and the dominant power in South Asia.

Ruling Awami League’s general secretary and local government minister Syed Ashraful Islam earlier described Bangladesh-China ties as “historic”. He also sought restoration of an old road link, saying it would benefit the regional countries including India.

Foreign minister Mahmood Ali said Xi’s visit would have no negative impact on Bangladesh’s relations with other countries, particularly with India. “We don’t think so,” he said in response to a question.