Bangladesh lags behind others in the commercial purchase of Chinese vaccine as it did not respond on time, Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming has said.
Addressing a virtual meeting with the members of the Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh on Monday, he said Bangladesh had proposed the commercial purchase of Chinese vaccine on 30 April.
"They could have received it much earlier if they decided on time."
He also said Bangladesh should not join the anti-China Quad, a US-led initiative.
"Otherwise, Bangladesh's ties with China would be substantially damaged," said Li, terming the Quad a military alliance aiming against China's resurgence and its relationship with neighbouring countries.
He said there was a high demand for Chinese vaccine and it would take time for Bangladesh to receive it through commercial purchase as many other countries were in line.
But he officially announced the arrival of five lakh doses of Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine on 12 May as special gifts.
He said China had proposed gifting the vaccine doses on 3 February and the government of Bangladesh had taken three months to approve it.
The ambassador emphasised quick and effective decisions by the Bangladesh government on issues like vaccine.
"Government-to-government procurement is under negotiation now. China is quite positive about supplying vaccines to Bangladesh but there is a long queue of buyers and Bangladesh is not near those in the front.
"I do not know how long Bangladesh will have to wait. My colleagues in Beijing said it would not be wise for Bangladesh to expect vaccines before December. But I told them we need it here as fast as possible. I guess it will arrive before December but not in the first half of the year," he explained.
Earlier, Bangladesh exclusively depended on India for vaccines as it signed a commercial deal with the Serum Institute of India in 2020 to buy 30 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
The country has received seven million doses from the Serum Institute and another 3.3 million doses as bilateral partnership gifts. But Bangladesh's vaccination efforts were hit hard after India had halted vaccine shipments.
India paused vaccine exports after a massive surge in new infections and deaths there. Now, the first dose of vaccination has stopped in Bangladesh.
In such a situation, the country has kept up its intense efforts to get vaccines from other sources like China, Russia, and the United States.
The Sinopharm vaccine is produced by Beijing Bio-Institute of Biological Products Co Ltd, a subsidiary of China National Biotec Group (CNBG). The World Health Organisation (WHO) has listed the vaccine for emergency use, giving the green light for this vaccine to be rolled out globally.
Regarding the gifts of five lakh Sinopharm doses, the Chinese ambassador said, "It is the latest outcome of China-Bangladesh anti-pandemic cooperation, which again shows that we are in the same boat and will stand by each other till the end of this battle."
"China is dedicated to international vaccine cooperation," he said, adding that the Sinopharm vaccine had already been recognised and used in over 50 countries and regions globally for quite some time.
"The Bangladesh government also gave the emergency use authorisation for the vaccine a week prior to the WHO's clearance, which I believe is a far-sighted decision. It shows the faith put in China by Bangladesh and it will surely mean a lot for our future cooperation," he further said.
He talked about the six-country anti-pandemic cooperation in South Asia. Among them, the joint production of vaccines may happen in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The envoy said China and Bangladesh had stayed in touch regarding vaccine cooperation, including clinical trial, bilateral assistance, commercial purchase, and local production, and some of those would materialise very soon.
He said two Chinese companies had contacted their Bangladesh counterparts about the joint production. Though nothing is final yet, he said he was quite optimistic.
Beijing wants Dhaka not to join anti-China Quad led by the US
The ambassador said the Quad is a narrow-purposed geopolitical clique and Bangladesh should not join it since it would not derive any benefit from it.
He said the Quad is a small anti-China group.
"I want to make it very clear that there is a security element in it even though it involves an economic proposal."
The US, India, Japan, and Australia are part of an informal strategic alliance – the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the Quad as it is known.
"History has proved again and again that such partnership surely damages our neighbours' own social and economic development and people's wellbeing," Li said.
On 27 April, Chinese State Councillor and Minister of National Defence Wei Fenghe met Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid and the two sides agreed to advance bilateral military cooperation.
At the meeting, China sought Bangladesh's assistance in the Quad among other matters.
"To jointly maintain regional peace and stability, the two sides should make joint efforts against powers outside the region, set up military alliance in South Asia, and practice hegemony," Xinhua quoted Wei as saying.
The Chinese ambassador did not reply when asked what Bangladesh had said in response to China's request.
Tripartite talks on Rohingya issue uncertain
Answering a question on the tripartite talks on the Rohingya issue among China, Bangladesh, and Myanmar, the ambassador said, "We planned to start the talks in February this year. But all of you said something had happened in Myanmar."
"We have to have more patience, maybe two or three years, to see the situation in Myanmar. No one can say when the situation will improve and I do not think they are ready to talk now," he said.
"We have not received any positive signal from Myanmar," he further said.
In response to a question on whether workers shot dead in Chattogram's Banshkhali had created an image crisis for China, he said the workers had demonstrated against their Bangladeshi employer.
Commenting on Bangladesh submitting a $1 billion proposal to China on the River Teesta, he said they had only received it.
"But we have not received any feasibility study. If we get that, we will consider it seriously."
Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh President Pantho Rahaman and General Secretary AKM Moinuddin also spoke at the event.