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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Bhutan's Royal King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck during the meeting.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Bhutan's Royal King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck during the meeting.

Connectivity in Focus

Dhaka, Thimphu talk regional prosperity

WT24 Desk

Bangladesh and Bhutan on Tuesday put utmost importance to boosting regional connectivity expediting the process to materialise the BBIN initiative for bringing prosperity in the region alongside forging sub-regional water cooperation and tapping the huge hydropower potential, Agencies report.

These were discussed at the bilateral meeting between Bangladesh and Bhutan held at the Gyalyong Tshogkhang. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led the Bangladesh delegation while Bhutanese Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay led his country at the meeting.

Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque and PM’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters after the meeting while Bangladesh Ambassador in Thimphu Jishnu Roy Choudhury was present at the briefing.

Terming BBIN a major corridor for establishing connectivity in the region, the Prime Minister urged her Bhutanese counterpart to expedite the process for ratifying the agreement on BBIN addressing its environmental concerns.
In response, the Bhutanese Prime Minister said they are also committed in this regard. He said they are looking into the matter as how to address the environmental concerns to make the BBIN initiative effective. “Bhutan will take care of the matter with the spirit of BBIN once the environmental concerns are addressed,” Shahidul quoted the Bhutanese PM as saying.

The Bhutanese Prime Minister called for sub-regional water management jointly, especially with the three countries – Bhutan, Bangladesh and India.

While talking about the Bimstec, he said there is huge potential of the regional grouping. “We strongly support the Bimstec and through it sub-regional cooperation can further be strengthened,” added Tobgay.

The issues which came up prominently for discussions at the bilateral meeting include boosting trade and commerce between the two countries through forging connectivity.

Side by side, the Bhutanese Prime Minister put utmost importance to the bright potential of hydropower, saying, “Hydropower could be a ‘game changer’ in this region as once the initiative is implemented, power would be generated in Bhutan and then could be transmitted among the three countries.”

Sheikh Hasina reiterated her offer to Bhutan to use Chittagong and Mongla ports as well as Syedpur Airport for the increase of its trade and commerce.

Regarding tourism, the Bhutanese Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay said they will send a delegation to Bangladesh to asses how to establish a tourism corridor centring Cox’s Bazar and Kuakata and thus explore the potential.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina apprised Tobgay of her government’s recent initiative to declare March 25 as the ‘Genocide Day’, and sought support of Bhutan for getting its international recognition.

The Foreign Secretary said MoUs and agreements signed between the two will further facilitate trade and commerce and thus boost the bilateral ties.

He said since Bhutan is one of the countries which recognised Bangladesh on December 6, 1971, the two countries enjoy a special relation. To further cement this relation, Shahidul said, the Bhutan has offered to provide a piece of land to Bangladesh for building its own embassy building here in Thimphu.

Hasina underscored the need for striking equilibrium in the balance of trade between Bangladesh and Bhutan as it is now tilted in favour of Bhutan.

Tobgay also sought FDI from Bangladesh, especially in the ICT sector, saying Bangladeshi software companies have already made their footprint in Bhutan and their experience is good.

Responding to the Bhutanese Prime Minister’s request to address the delay in land customs at Burimari Land port to expedite the trade and commerce, Hasina assured that her government will take necessary steps in this regard.

Mentioning the establishment of Health Trust Fund by Bhutan marking the birth anniversary of 4th Bhutanese King, Tobgay sought support and cooperation of Bangladesh in this regard.

In reply, the Prime Minister said she will assist Bhutan in this regard.

About the scope of Bangladeshi doctors to work in Bhutan, Tobgay said once employed, the foreign doctors in Bhutan could get up to maximum $3,000 per month apart from their living expenditure. “If the Bangladeshi doctors get encouraged, they’ll have the scope of working here in Bhutan.”

The Bhutanese Prime Minister informed his Bangladesh counterpart that some 123 medical students of Bhutan are now studying in Bangladesh with either half or full scholarship, seeking extension of such facilities for Bhutanese students.

Hasina said special seats can be kept aside for the Bhutanese medical students wishing to study at Rangpur Medical College alongside other academic institutions of the country.

The Foreign Secretary said the Bhutanese Prime Minister expressed satisfaction over the renewal of the agreement on cultural exchange between the two countries. “Through it, the cultural exchange between Bhutan and Bangladesh will be expanded further,” he said.

When Sheikh Hasina raised the issue of fibre optic connectivity between Bangladesh and Bhutan via India, Tobgay proposed a discussion among the three countries to this end.

The Prime Minister also thanked her Bhutanese counterpart for organising an international conference on autism. Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, PM’s International Affairs Adviser Dr Gowher Rizvi and PMO Senior Secretary Suraiya Begum were, among others, present at the bilateral meeting.

Later, the Prime Minister attended a State Banquet at the Royal Banquet Hall hosted by the Bhutanese Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay.

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