Substantial progress made towards trilateral cooperation in hydroelectricity
Bangladesh says regional connectivity is one of the most important means of trade and that Bangladesh’s unique geographical location in the region provides an opportunity for all countries in the SAARC, BIMSTEC and BCIM to be connected by road.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came up with the view during her conversation with her Bhutanese counterpart Dr Lotay Tshering on March 24.
She reiterated the offer to Bhutan for full access to Bangladesh’s seaports, according to a joint statement between Bangladesh and Bhutan issued on Wednesday night.
The Prime Ministers noted the substantial progress made in the past towards signing an MoU among Bangladesh, Bhutan and India on trilateral cooperation in hydroelectricity.
In order to move forward, they agreed that a Secretary-level meeting among the three countries should take place at an early date.
They also decided to explore the possibility of bilateral cooperation in this sector.
Dr Tshering thanked the government of Bangladesh for its support towards the establishment of the Third International Internet Gateway and Bhutan’s proposal to purchase bandwidth from Bangladesh, which will ensure the reliability of internet and communications for Bhutan.
The discussions between the agencies concerned of the two governments are at an advanced stage and he expressed the hope that the two sides will soon be able to agree on a rate that is mutually acceptable.
The two Prime Ministers agreed to explore the possibilities of rail connectivity between Bangladesh and Bhutan through the recently inaugurated Chilahati-Haldibari rail interlink between Bangladesh and India.
The Prime Minister of Bhutan, who arrived on March 23 on a state visit, is scheduled to leave here for home on Thursday morning. Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen will see him off at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
Dr Tshering paid the visit as the Special Representative of Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, King of Bhutan, to celebrate the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and the Golden Jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence.
He was accompanied by senior officials of the Royal government of Bhutan and a cultural delegation.
The visit of Dr Tshering to Bangladesh at a time of the global pandemic is an exceptional gesture of friendship and goodwill that so happily exist between the two countries.
He laid a floral wreath at the National Martyrs’ Memorial at Savar as a mark of respect to the memory of the sacrifices of the great freedom fighters of Bangladesh.
He also visited the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum to pay tribute to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Dr Tshering paid a courtesy call on President Abdul Hamid.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina hosted a banquet in honour of Dr Lotay Tshering.
Foreign Minister Dr Momen met Prime Minister of Bhutan at the latter’s place of residence on March 23.
Inspiring Leader Hasina
Dr Tshering delivered the Bangabandhu Memorial Lecture at the National Parade Ground as a special guest at the programme organised to celebrate the birth centenary of Bangabandhu.
Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering has said he is here in Bangladesh to listen to the story of Bangladesh siting next to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, an inspiring leader and a mother like figure.
"I have come here to listen to the story of Bangladesh, that too seated next to Her Excellency Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, an inspiring leader and a mother-like figure to me," he said.
Exactly 50 years ago, the Bhutanese Prime Minister said a nation was born amid strife and turbulence and it went on to make a remarkable progress.
While Bangladesh shares its story of success with the world, Bhutan as the first country to recognise its independence, joins the celebration.
Besides the golden jubilee of its independence, Bangladesh also marks the birth centenary of the person behind it, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Conveying warm greetings and prayers of The King and the people of Bhutan, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering during the event held at National Parade Ground in Dhaka said it was always a delight to return to Bangladesh, but the reason this time was even more compelling.
The Bhutanese Prime Minister said such significant occasions uplift the spirit of not just the people of Bangladesh but the entire region at a time when COVID-19 pandemic has claimed many precious lives and disrupted livelihoods of millions around the world, he said.
He also applauded Bangladesh's efforts to manage the pandemic, despite sheer size of the population.
"While we have many bilateral engagements, the purpose of my visit this time is solely to pay tribute to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his heroic legacies that laid strong foundations for a peaceful, progressive, and prosperous Bangladesh," said the Bhutanese Prime Minister.
With a few reiterations in Bengali, he thanked Bangladesh for giving him and the people of Bhutan an opportunity to be a part of the journey.
Meanwhile, he presented the commemorative stamp to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. As a tribute from Bhutan, a team from Royal Academy of Performing Arts also made colourful cultural performance at the venue.
The official discussions between Bangladesh and Bhutan were held at the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday in a warm and cordial atmosphere reflecting the time-tested friendship between the two countries.
During the official discussions, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh recalled with gratitude the invaluable support of the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and the people of Bhutan towards Bangladesh’s fight for independence.
In commemoration of the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Golden Jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence, the two Prime Ministers paid tributes to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the valiant freedom fighters, 3 million martyrs, and two hundred thousand women and children who suffered oppression during the war.
The two Prime Ministers recognised with deep satisfaction the manner in which the historic ties between Bhutan and Bangladesh have evolved over the years into a mutually beneficial relationship.
They stated the kinship, which is based on goodwill, friendship and understanding, is an example of good neighborliness, mutual respect, and cooperation.
Taking note of the challenges imposed by the ongoing pandemic, the two Prime Ministers congratulated each other for successful, effective, and timely initiatives taken by the respective governments.
Dr Tshering expressed gratitude to the Prime Minister and the government of Bangladesh for the support rendered to Bhutan during the pandemic, including the provision of medical supplies.
The two Prime Ministers expressed happiness that both Bhutan and Bangladesh are well on track to graduate from the club of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in 2023 and 2024 respectively despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Both sides expressed satisfaction at the recent signing of the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA).
They, however, noted that bilateral trade has been severely affected by the pandemic and that all-out efforts must be made to overcome the setbacks.
The two Prime Ministers emphasized holding the Commerce Secretary Level Meeting (CSLM) and Foreign Office Consultation (FOC) as soon as possible, and amend the SOP on the use of inland waterways, and finalise the Protocol to the Transit Agreement on a priority basis.
The two leaders emphasised the need for enhanced private sector cooperation, for which the Chambers of Commerce should come up with innovative ways of doing business.
They also encouraged importers and exporters of Bangladesh and Bhutan to use the riverine route for the transport of goods as a viable alternative to road links.
As a special gesture of goodwill and friendship, and as part of the celebrations of 50 years of Bhutan’s recognition of Bangladesh, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina decided to provide Bhutan internet bandwidth at a friendly rate.
Following up on the decision taken during Prime Minister Tshering’s visit in April 2019, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed happiness at the fact that a total of 19 physicians and surgeons have joined various hospitals in Bhutan, and are serving there with good reputation.
They expressed happiness that an increasing number of Bhutanese students are choosing Bangladesh as their preferred destination for undergraduate studies, particularly in medicine.
Bangladesh agreed to increase the number of annual MBBS quota seats for Bhutanese students from 15 (fifteen) to 20 (twenty).
It has also been decided that Bangladesh will issue multiple entry visa to Bhutanese students for full duration of their study subject to the validity of their passports.
The Prime Ministers viewed that the cultural cooperation between the two countries should be further strengthened in order to promote people-to-people contact, and that, in commemoration of the 50th year of our friendship, the two countries should exchange cultural delegations.
Dr Tshering 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.
He extended invitations to the Hon’ble President and the Prime Minister of Bangladesh to visit Bhutan.