He concluded his four-day visit to Bhutan yesterday

Relations: The President of Bangladesh, Abdul Hamid, said hydropower is one of the sectors that holds the “greatest potential” for cooperation between Bhutan and Bangladesh, during his address to the joint sitting of Parliament yesterday.

The President expressed happiness that there has been some notable progress in hydro-power cooperation in the form of a tri-lateral hydro-power project among Bhutan, Bangladesh and India. “We need to take target-oriented actions for achieving tangible results in this area (hydro-power cooperation),” he said.

Bangladesh, along with India is set to invest in the 1,125MW Dorjilung hydropower project in eastern Bhutan. The Sheikh Hasina government of Bangladesh recently approved USD 1 billion for the project.

The trilateral cooperation will provide an opportunity for both the countries to diversify their energy markets. Bhutan is dependent on the Indian market for sale of its surplus power, as is Bangladesh for electricity import.

Another area that holds huge potential, the President said was regional connectivity. He expressed his happiness that the National Assembly recently passed the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal motor vehicle agreement.

“I hope this would go a long way in establishing seamless connectivity in the sub-region,” he said.

The President said the two countries are working towards concluding some other bilateral agreements or Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs), which he hoped would fulfill the aspirations the two countries share on specific sectors. With more and expanded bilateral engagements, he said the two countries can pursue more effectively their common goal of prosperity for their future generations.

The President said Parliament is the centre of democratic practices and that an independent parliamentary system holds the key to socio-economic development. “I would look up to your role as the people’s representatives,” the President, who also served as a Speaker, told the parliamentarians.

The President also offered good wishes to His Majesty The King and the members of the Royal Family.

“We are delighted about the birth of His Royal Highness The Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck. All our blessings are with Him. I also wish prosperity, long life, and happiness for all the members of the Royal Family,” he said.

During his stay here, the President said he had fruitful engagements with the Bhutanese leadership. He said the Buddhist landmarks of Bhutan symbolise the Bhutanese people’s quest for peace and happiness not only for themselves but also for humankind.

While being dynamic and entrepreneurial, Bhutan has retained its values, ethos as well as cultural diversity, richness and heritage. “Bhutan’s display of its distinctiveness is a strong assertion of its sovereignty,” the President said.

The President said Bangladesh is watching with admiration the guidance His Majesty The King is providing as a nascent democracy is marching ahead. He also recalled the seminal role The Fourth Druk Gyalpo had played in transforming the monarchy into a parliamentary democracy for a modern nationhood. “This is a rare example in the history of democracy,” he said.

The President said Bhutan occupies a special place in the hearts of the people of Bangladesh as Bhutan was the first country to recognise Bangladesh’s independence on December 6, 1971. Since then, he said bilateral relations have grown in depth and dimension based on mutual respect.

Highlighting his country’s socio-economic achievement, the President said it has been almost four decades since The Fourth Druk Gyalpo promoted self-reliance and progress in a fast changing world by creating Gross National Happiness (GNH).

He also said that the relationship between the two nations are multifaceted, encompassing a whole range of areas including hydropower, water resources management, connectivity, trade, commerce, education, cultural exchange, and tourism.

The President also talked about the July 1 terror attacks in Bangladesh. “I am saddened today in the wake of unfortunate deaths of some innocent people in Dhaka who were mercilessly killed by a group of miscreants,” he said. “I am grateful to His Majesty The King, the Royal Bhutanese Government and the people of Bhutan for showing solidarity with us in expressing deep sorrow for these unfortunate deaths,” he said.

He said the two countries must forge stronger partnership to work for the welfare and economic development of the people. “Let it be our steadfast endeavour. Long live His Majesty The King. Long live Bangladesh-Bhutan friendship,” he concluded.

Welcoming the President, Speaker Jigme Zangpo said the two countries share a common cultural and spiritual heritage dating back to ancient times and the start of bilateral relations between two nations since the independence of Bangladesh.

The Speaker said that Parliament and the people of Bhutan were shocked to learn about the terrorist attack in Dhaka, which claimed 22 innocent lives. He said that Parliament and people of Bhutan condemn the heinous act.

National Council Chairman, Dasho (Dr) Sonam Kinga expressed appreciation to the President for making a historic visit to Bhutan and addressing the Parliament. The Chairperson said that the two countries are now looking at the future where cooperation in energy and tourism are being explored with great optimism.

The President left the country yesterday following a four-day state visit.

MB Subba