Bangladesh and Bhutan yesterday stressed the need for boosting regional connectivity and expediting the process of implementing the BBIN initiative to bring prosperity in the region.
The issues were discussed at the bilateral meeting between Bangladesh and Bhutan at Gyalyong Tshogkhang in Thimphu.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led the Bangladesh delegation while her Bhutanese counterpart Dasho Tshering Tobgay led his country at the meeting, reports UNB.
Our diplomatic correspondent adds: Bangladesh and Bhutan yesterday inked five deals on avoidance of double taxation, agriculture, standardisation of goods, cultural cooperation and waterways connectivity.
Diplomatic sources said Dhaka allowed transit to Bhutan to use its waterways for transportation of goods imported through Chittagong and Mongla seaports.
The deals were signed at the Royal Banquet Hall of Gyalyong Tshogkhang after the official talks between the two countries. The two premiers witnessed the signing of the deals.
Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque and PM's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters after the meeting.
Terming the BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal) a major corridor for establishing connectivity in the region, Hasina urged the Bhutanese PM to expedite the process for ratifying the BBIN motor vehicles agreement addressing its environmental concerns.
Tobgay said his country was looking into the matter to see how it could address the environmental concerns to make the BBIN initiative effective.
The Bhutanese premier called for joint management of sub-regional water, especially with Bhutan, Bangladesh and India.
About the Bimstec, he said there was a huge potential of the regional grouping. “We strongly support the Bimstec and sub-regional cooperation could be further strengthened through it .”
About the importance and bright potential of hydropower, the Bhutanese PM said: “Hydropower could be a 'game changer' in this region. Once the initiative is implemented, power would be generated in Bhutan and then could be transmitted to the three countries.”
Hasina reiterated her offer of allowing Bhutan to use Chittagong and Mongla seaports as well as the Saidpur Airport for increasing its trade and commerce.
About tourism, the Bhutanese PM said they would send a delegation to Bangladesh to assess how to establish a tourism corridor centring Cox's Bazar and Kuakata and thus explore the potential.
Hasina apprised Tobgay of her government's recent initiative to declare March 25 as the “Genocide Day” and sought Bhutan's support for getting international recognition for it.
The foreign secretary said deals signed between the two countries would further facilitate trade and commerce and thus boost the bilateral ties.
Bhutan offered a piece of land to Bangladesh for constructing its own embassy building in Thimphu, he added.
Hasina urged Bhutan to strike a balance in bilateral trade as it was tilted in favour of Bhutan.
Tobgay also sought FDI from Bangladesh, especially in the ICT sector, saying that some Bangladeshi software companies already made their footprint in Bhutan and their experience was good.
Responding to the Bhutanese PM's request to address the delay in land customs at Burimari Land Port, Hasina assured that her government would take necessary steps in this regard.
About the scope for appointment of Bangladeshi doctors in Bhutan, Tobgay said foreign doctors in Bhutan could get up to $3,000 per month apart from their living expenditure. “If the Bangladeshi doctors feel encouraged, they'll have the scope for working in Bhutan.”
Tobgay informed Hasina that some 123 Bhutanese medical students were studying in Bangladesh with scholarships. He sought extension of such facilities for the Bhutanese students.
Hasina said seats could be reserved for the Bhutanese students at Rangpur Medical College and other academic institutions in Bangladesh.
The foreign secretary said Tobgay expressed satisfaction over the renewal of the agreement on cultural exchange between the two countries.
About the proposed fibre optic connectivity between Bangladesh and Bhutan via India, the Bhutanese PM proposed that a discussion be held among the three countries.
Hasina also thanked Tobgay for organising an international conference on autism.
Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, PM's International Affairs Adviser Gowher Rizvi and PMO Senior Secretary Suraiya Begum were present, among others, at the meeting.
Later, the Bangladesh PM attended a state banquet at the Royal Banquet Hall hosted by the Bhutanese premier.
FIVE DEALS SIGNED
An MoU was inked between the Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority of Bhutan and Bangladesh's Department of Agricultural Extension.
The two countries inked another MoU on the use of inland waterways for transportation of bilateral trade and transit cargoes.
The third MoU was signed between Bhutan Standards Bureau and Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI).
The two countries inked an agreement on avoidance of double taxation and prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.
Another agreement was signed between the two sides on cultural cooperation.
HASINA ACCORDED RECEPTION
The Bangladesh PM was accorded a gala reception by Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema at Tashichho Dzong, the Royal Palace, in Thimphu yesterday.
On her arrival at the Royal Palace in the afternoon, Hasina was received and later escorted into the palace by a cabinet minister and senior Bhutanese officials. She was later given a guard of honour.
The PM had an audience with the Bhutanese king and queen.
Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque and PM's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim told reporters that the PM spent some time with the king and queen exclusively.
PM's daughter Saima Wazed Hossain, Sheikh Rehana's son Radwan Mujib Siddiq Bobby and his wife and children were present.
ARRIVAL IN BHUTAN
A red carpet was rolled out as the Bangladesh PM arrived at Paro International Airport in Bhutan on a three-day state visit.
Bhutanese PM Tshering Tobgay and Bangladesh Ambassador in Thimphu Jishnu Roy Choudhury received Hasina at the airport. Two children presented bouquets to the PM.
At the airport, Hasina was given a guard of honour by a smartly turned out contingent of the Bhutanese armed forces. The PM took salute and inspected the guard.
From the airport, Hasina was taken to Hotel Le Meridien Thimphu.
The Bhutanese capital was decorated with flags of Bangladesh and Bhutan and large portraits of Hasina, the Bhutanese king and the country's PM.