Dhaka, Bangladesh
Talks capped with five accords

Bangladesh-Bhutan summit

Talks capped with five accords

Coop in cargo transportation, health, agriculture, tourism, admin training

News Desk A bilateral summit meet between Bangladesh and Bhutan Saturday yielded five accords on cooperation in water transit, health, agriculture, tourism, and public- administration training for mutual advances in these areas. Apart from waterway transportation between the two South Asian countries, there has been a multilateral-cooperation agendum for road and rail connectivity in the region linking Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal which has yet to be operational because of delays in ratifying the deal by Thimphu. The five instruments were signed capping official talks between Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering at the PMO in Dhaka. The two prime ministers witnessed the accord-signing ceremony. Both sides hope these instruments would enhance cooperation in cargo transportation, health services, agriculture, tourism and interaction between the Public Administration Training Centres of the two countries for exchange of faculty members as well as training and capacity building. Shipping Secretary Md Abdus Samad and secretary of the Ministry of Economic Affairs Dasho Yeshi Wangdi inked the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for operationalisation of an MoU on the use of inland waterways for transportation of bilateral trade and transit cargos. The MoU between the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of Bangladesh and the Ministry of Health of the Royal Government of Bhutan was signed by Health Division Services Secretary Md Ashadul Islam and his Bhutanese counterpart Dr Ugen Dophu. A third MoU between Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) and the Department of Agriculture of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests of Bhutan was initialed by Executive Chairman of BARC Dr Md Kabir Ikramul Haque and Bhutanese Ambassador Sonam Tobden Rabgye. Rector of Bangladesh Public Administration Training Center and Bhutanese Ambassador Sonam Tobden Rabgye signed the MoU between BPATC and Royal Institute for Management (RIM). And the fifth one was signed by Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation Chairman Akhtaruz Zaman Khan Kabir and Bhutanese Ambassador Sonam Tobden Rabgye for cooperation between Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation and the Tourism Council of Bhutan for promoting tourism. Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque later told the press that Bangladesh and Bhutan agreed in principle to work out ways of duty-and quota-free access of a number of their products to each other's market for mutual interests. "Bhutan has sought duty and quota free access of its 16 products to Bangladesh market, while Bangladesh has sought such access of its 10 goods to Bhutanese market during the official talks of the two countries held today," the Foreign Secretary said while briefing reporters after the talks at the Prime Minister's Office. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led the Bangladesh side at the talks, while the Bhutanese delegation was led by visiting Bhutanese Premier Dr Lotay Tshering. According to the foreign secretary, the premier told her Bhutanese counterpart that Dhaka would consider the matter of duty-and quota-free access of 16 Bhutanese products to Bangladesh market. "A positive discussion was held at today's talks and it's hoped that it will be done as the issue is in the discussion for a long time," Haque said. The issue, he said, was also discussed when the prime minister had visited Bhutan. The foreign secretary noted that the prime minister also said discussion on duty-free-and quota-free access of 10 Bangladeshi products would take place soon. "We assume that both sides agreed in principle and now it has to be worked out at the technical level," he said. Haque said issues related to trade, business, connectivity and health figured high in the talks. About the field of transit, he said, there is a big initiative called Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) initiative for road and rail connectivity in the region. The foreign secretary said though all countries signed the agreement, it is yet to be ratified by Bhutan's parliament. "The new Bhutan government said the bill regarding the initiative will be placed afresh at its Upper Senate for discussion and they are very much hopeful of passage of the bill," he said. The connectivity of the four countries will be strengthened further if the bill is passed by the Bhutanese parliament, he said. Haque described Bangladesh ties with Bhutan as "deep and historic" as Thimphu was the first foreign capital to recognize Bangladesh in 1971. "This relationship is deeper than any other relations and our ties have improved to a great extent over the years . . . the relations are being deepened and widened gradually," he told the journalists. Haque said the trade figures between the two countries increased after the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Bhutan in 2017, and since then, the people-to-people contact in the field of tourism has been boosted as well. He said the relations between the two countries are not only being deepened, the areas in different sectors like trade, commerce and tourism are also being widened. The foreign secretary said the two sides discussed the regional electricity trade as talks were already underway to produce hydropower in Bhutan and marketing that electricity in the region while Bangladesh was keen to invest in hydroelectricity in Bhutan. "The discussion is at the advanced stage and we hope an agreement to this end will be inked soon." The foreign secretary said a tripartite cooperation would be there when Bhutan-produced hydroelectricity would be marketed in India and Bangladesh. He said Bhutan also showed interest in hiring Bangladeshi specialist doctors to cater their medical-sector needs. Sheikh Hasina said she would personally look into the matter as cooperation between the two countries in the field of health sector was gradually increasing with increased quota for Bhutanese students to 15 from 10 in Bangladesh medical and nursing colleges. Haque said the Bhutanese prime minister highly appreciated Bangladesh's pharmaceutical industry. The Bhutanese prime minister, he said, also highly praised the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Lotay, himself a doctor, simultaneously appreciated Bangladesh premier's daughter Saima Wazed Hossain's huge contributions to addressing the issue of autism. PM's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim was present at the briefing. On his arrival at the Prime Minister Office at 10am, Sheikh Hasina received the Bhutanese Prime Minister at the Tiger Gate and then both leaders moved to the meeting room. The two leaders sat for tete-a-tete and then began the bilateral meeting. The Bhutanese Prime Minister arrived in Dhaka on Friday morning for a four-day official visit at the invitation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. (Inputs taken from agencies, media reports)

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