Dhaka, Thimphu sign 3 MoUs; agree to enhance ties in trade, connectivity, power

Bangladesh and Bhutan have signed three new memorandums of understanding (MoUs) to enhance mutual cooperation between the two neighbouring countries.

The two friendly South Asian countries also agreed to enhance cooperation in the areas of trade and commerce, connectivity, power, agriculture, education, culture, people to people contact etc.

The MoUs are: Establishment of a Special Economic Zone in Kurigram, Setting up a Burn and Plastic Surgery Unit in Thimphu, and technical cooperation on consumer rights. Another MoU on cultural exchange was renewed.

The Bhutanese King and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina witnessed the MoUs signing held at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

Besides, Bangladesh offered to increase the number of annual medical seats for Bhutanese students from 22 to 30 while the Foreign Service Academy of Bangladesh offered two seats for the Bhutanese Foreign Service officers every year for capacity building. Bangladesh will also extend necessary assistance in setting up a Diplomatic Training Institute in Bhutan.

Apart from this, Bangladesh offered special training to Bhutanese officials in Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) annually for three years.

As a special gesture of goodwill and friendship, Bangladesh handed over computers and laptops for the capacity building and skills development of the government officials of Bhutan.

The Bhutanese King held a delegation-level meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina prior to the MoU signing ceremony. They also had a one-to-one meeting.

The Bhutanese King visited Bangladesh from March 25-28 at the invitation of President Mohammed Shahabuddin.

This was the first state visit by any foreign dignitary since the formation of the new government after the January 7 national election.

President Mohammed Shahabuddin and the First Lady received the King and his delegation members who arrived by a special flight.

The king was given a state salute and guard of honour by a smartly turned out contingent of Bangladesh Armed Forces. He inspected the guard of honour, while the national anthems of the two countries were played.

The 4th King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, sent a letter of congratulations to the prime minister recently saying under her dynamic and strong leadership, Bangladesh has enjoyed peace, stability and unprecedented economic development.

He also termed Bhutan as a "close friend" and rejoiced with the people of Bangladesh on this occasion.

Bhutan was the first country to recognise the newly independent Bangladesh on December 6 in 1971 when the 3rd King of Bhutan sent a message of recognition by telegram.

Since then Bangladesh and Bhutan share a special multidimensional bilateral relationship. Immediately after the independence, the Bhutanese government took initiative to establish diplomatic relations with Bangladesh and, consequently, formal diplomatic relations was established on 12 April 1973.

Foreign Minister Hasan on Sunday said Bangladesh will allocate 190 acres of land in Kurigram for a special economic zone for Bhutanese investors.

He said Bangladesh wants to import hydropower from Bhutan and a tripartite agreement is required to bring the electricity through India.

He said Bhutan has a potential of producing 25,000 megawatts of hydropower.

The foreign minister said Bangladesh will also import hydropower from Nepal and things are settled regarding that initiative.

Hasan said Bangladesh will construct a Burn and Plastic Surgery Unit in Thimphu as a goodwill gesture which also demonstrates the country's capacity.

"We have multifaceted relations with Bhutan," Hasan said.

Bhutanese King Jigme attended the celebration of Independence and National Day of Bangladesh on March 26 as the special guest.

He paid tribute to the memory of the sacrifices of the heroic freedom fighters of Bangladesh at the National Martyrs' Memorial at Savar, which included the laying of a wreath, signing the visitors' book and planting a sapling. Queen of Bhutan Jetsun Pema Wangchuck also attended, accompanying the King.

The visit of the King to Bangladesh is a testament of the close ties of friendship and goodwill that so happily exist between the two countries, said a joint statement issued on Monday.

The state visit of the King and Queen to Bangladesh has further strengthened the traditional ties of friendship, cooperation and goodwill between the two countries, it said.

The King and Queen met with the President of Bangladesh. The President hosted a banquet on Tuesday in honour of the King.

Both sides expressed satisfaction that annual intake of Bhutanese students for admission in MBBS in public medical colleges of Bangladesh has been increasing gradually.

To further consolidate the existing momentum of cooperation, Bangladesh offered to increase the number of annual MBBS seats for Bhutanese students from 22 (twenty-two) to 30 (thirty).

During the official meeting, the two sides expressed happiness on the current state of relation between Bangladesh and Bhutan, which is a very special one based on common history, geographical proximity, and the shared aspiration of the people for prosperity and development.

King Jigme expressed his deep appreciation for the cordial welcome and warm hospitality extended to Him and the members of His delegation during their stay in Bangladesh.

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh recalled with gratitude the invaluable support of King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the Third King of Bhutan and the people of Bhutan during Bangladesh's War of Independence.

Prime Minister fondly recalled Bhutan being the first country to recognise Bangladesh as an independent country on 6th December 1971.

Both sides expressed happiness that Bangladesh and Bhutan signed the Agreement on the Movement of Traffic-in-Transit and its Protocol in March 2023 which will usher in new horizons for bilateral trade and connectivity.

The Agreement and its Protocol will not only be phenomenal for bilateral trade but also will work as a platform for paving the way for an interconnected South Asia, said the joint statement.

Both sides noted that regional and sub-regional connectivity are important means of economic integration and enhancing trade and commerce.

They noted with satisfaction that the collaborative efforts between the two sides in connectivity through roads, rail, and waterways will strengthen bilateral ties as well as foster regional integration and economic growth in South Asia.

A New Horizon

Bhutan conveyed its appreciation to Bangladesh for offering the 'Special Economic Zone' in 'Kurigram' in the northern part of Bangladesh, which is 190 kms from the southern city of Gelephu, Bhutan.

The economic zone will add a new horizon in the area of bilateral trade and investment between the two countries and also for achieving greater prosperity in the South Asia region.

Both sides underscored the importance of strengthening subregional cooperation in the energy sector among Bhutan, Bangladesh and India.

Both sides acknowledged that regional cooperation is very important for shared peace and prosperity in the region.

The King visited Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery in Dhaka on March 26 and interacted with the officials, doctors and students there.

Bangladesh is going to establish a burn and plastic surgery unit in Thimphu which will be another milestone in the bilateral cooperation between Bangladesh and Bhutan in the health sector.

Both sides expressed satisfaction that there has been exemplary people-to-people contact between Bangladesh and Bhutan for decades.

They reiterated to further strengthen the people-to-people contact between Bangladesh and Bhutan by connecting the Himalayas in Bhutan with the longest sea beach in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.

Bhutan's Royal Couple Tributes to Bangabandhu

Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck on Monday visited the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum at Dhanmondi-32.

He paid tribute to Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by placing a wreath at his portrait.

The King and Queen Jetsun Pema visited different parts of the museum guided by Bangabandhu's daughter, Sheikh Rehana, and PM Hasina's daughter, WHO regional director Saima Wazed.

The King also signed the museum's visitors' book.

"This morning, my aunt and I showed Their Majesties, The Druk Gyalpo and Gyaltsuen, The King and Queen of Bhutan, our family home in Dhanmondi (now the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum)," Saima Wazed said in a social media post.

"This home was the place of so much happiness in the lives of my mother and my aunt. It is also, of course, the site of our greatest pain," she added

It was a privilege to show Their Majesties around and tell them about all the love that lived within those walls, Saima said.

King visits Padma Bridge, Special Economic Zone

Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck on Wednesday visited the Padma Bridge today, an infrastructural feat constructed entirely through self-financing efforts of the Bangladesh government.

This remarkable infrastructure project stands as a testament to Bangladesh's commitment to advancing connectivity and fostering economic growth.

State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Mohammad A Arafat accompanied the King.

After visiting the Padma Bridge, King Jigme visited a Special Economic Zone in Araihazar, Narayanganj, in the afternoon and witnessed firsthand the infrastructure and facilities there.

Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Iwama Kiminori and Executive Chairman of BEZA Shaikh Yusuf Harun received the King.

After a video presentation and brief discussion, he visited the Singer Bangladesh Limited construction site there.

On Thursday afternoon, the King visited Kurigram Special Economic Zone.

After visiting the Economic Zone in Kurigram, the King went to Sonahat Land Port, where he was given guard of honour by Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB).

The Bhutanese King left Bangladesh territory at 3:30 pm on Thursday for Golakganj, Assam via Sonahat Land Port.

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