Diplomacy: Bangladesh is willing to protect Bhutan’s interest in relation to the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) sub-regional cooperation group, which last year signed an agreement that allows cross-border movement of vehicles.

However, Bhutan wants special treatment from the other member countries due to its small population.

While the government wants Bhutanese vehicles to move freely in Bangladesh and Nepal, it has requested cargo  vehicles from the two countries to halt at the Bhutanese border.

Bangladesh’s foreign minister, Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, who was on a bilateral visit to the country from May 12 to 15, said he was aware of the concerns. “We will take care of Bhutan’s interest. And I’m sure India would be aware of them too,” he said.

He expressed satisfaction that the sub-regional cooperation was making headway and that implementation of the motor vehicle agreement would be a milestone.

The three other countries have ratified the agreement. Bangladesh hopes Bhutan also will ratify the agreement.

The foreign minister said the good relations enjoyed by Bhutan, India and Bangladesh was a result of the wisdom of The Fourth Druk Gyalpo, who he said put Bhutan’s relations with its neighbours in the “right perspective”.

“His Majesty The Fourth King not only thought for the people and the country but also put the relations with neighbours in the right perspective,” he said.

During the visit, he flew to the Punatsangchhu hydropower project site in a helicopter and drove through the tunnel road there.

He recalled his stay in Bhutan as the ambassador from 1986 to 1990 when there weren’t many cars in the capital.  “My wife and I are pleasantly surprised to see a new Bhutan,” he said.

The foreign minister hadn’t visited Bhutan since 1990. Bhutan’s economic progress, he said, has exceeded his expectations. “I see a huge change. Bhutan is booming,” he said.

The foreign minister met with his Bhutanese counterpart, Lyonpo Damcho Dorji and discussed issues of mutual interest. The two countries believe that cooperation in hydropower development will take the bilateral relation to a new height.

A country of 160 million, Bangladesh is not only keen on buying power from Bhutan but also wants to invest in hydropower projects.

He said Bangladesh is providing training for Bhutanese peacekeepers. It’s also looking at increasing the number of seats for Bhutanese students in medicine and other areas of studies.

“We have to take this cooperation forward,” he said.

MB Subba