Bangladesh and Bhutan signed five bilateral instruments to augment cooperation on inland waterways, health, agriculture, tourism and public administration training during the prime minister’s four day state visit to Bangladesh.

The signing took place after official talks between Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering at the Prime Minister’s office (PMO) in Dhaka on April 13.

During the Bangladeshi Prime Minister’s visit to Bhutan in 2017, a memorandum of understanding on Use of Inland Waterways for Transportation of Bilateral Trade and Transit Cargoes was signed between the two countries.

This is expected to facilitate commercial operation of vessels plying between the two countries and avoid unnecessary hindrance.

However, with the signing of the standard operating procedure (SOP) on April 13, Lyonchhen said that the first goods consignment would soon leave for Dhaka via the waterways.

Use of waterways is expected to reduce the transportation cost by five times.

The SOP shall apply to all related public authorities, shipping companies, business firms and vessels involved in transportation of cargoes using riverine routes and seaports of Bangladesh.

Four different routes from the seaports of Chittagong, Mongla, Payra and Narayanganj to Daikhawa in Bangladesh have been identified with the scope of new routes or discontinuation of existing routes depending on convenience in future.

The SOP also stated that multimodal mode of transport consisting of water, rail and road depending on the convenience of the transportation may be used.

It mandates the two countries to recognise the standards and certification issued by the respective competent authorities. The two sides have also agreed to standardise customs and export procedures.

Shipping secretary of Bangladesh, Md Abdus Samad and economic affairs secretary, Dasho Yeshi Wangdi signed the SOP for the operationalisation of a memorandum of understanding (MoU).

The secretaries of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of Bangladesh and Ministry of Health, Bhutan also signed a MoU for collaboration in the health sector. Bangladesh agreed to send about 23 specialists to Bhutan and has also increased the quota for Bhutan students from 10 to 15 every year.

Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (Barc) and the agriculture and forest ministry, Bhutan also signed a MoU. Ambassador Sonam Tobden Rabgye and the executive chairman of Barc, Dr Md Kabir Ikramul Haque signed the MoU.

Bangladesh Public Administration training centre and the Royal Institute for Management (RIM) also ventured into another MoU to facilitate collaboration in human resource development. Tourism Council of Bhutan and Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation also inked a MoU to explore possible areas of cooperation in tourism.

Tshering Dorji | Dhaka