… following state visit by PM Sheikh Hasina

Wrapping up a three-day state visit, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina left the country yesterday. Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay, cabinet ministers, heads of the armed forces, and local government leaders saw her off at the Paro International Airport.

A joint statement from the two governments called the visit “highly significant as it reinforces the tradition of regular high-level exchanges between the two countries and upholds and strengthens friendship between Bhutan and Bangladesh”.

PM Sheikh Hasina received an audience with His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Queen. His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo also granted an audience to the visiting PM.

Their Majesties The King and Queen hosted a private dinner for PM Sheikh Hasina at Lingkana Palace, while Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay hosted a banquet in her honour.

The two PMs held discussions aimed at boosting bilateral relations and reaffirmed that relations between Bhutan and Bangladesh are friendly and reflective of a common aspiration for peace, collective prosperity and development of the region and beyond.

During the bilateral meeting, PM Sheikh Hasina recalled Bhutan’s invaluable support during Bangladesh’s Liberation War of 1971 and that Bhutan was the first country to recognise Bangladesh on December  6, 1971.

The two PMs recalled the strong historical ties of friendship and understanding that exist between Bhutan and Bangladesh, which was laid by His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo and the founder of Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

“The two leaders expressed satisfaction at the excellent state of bilateral relations and reaffirmed their commitments to further consolidate the bilateral relations for the mutual benefit of the two friendly neighbouring countries,” the joint press statement states.

Many areas of cooperation including hydropower, water resources, trade and commerce, connectivity, tourism, culture, education, health, ICT, and agriculture, were discussed.

The two PMs noted the expanding bilateral trade between the two countries and acknowledged its importance in further strengthening relations.

Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay thanked PM Sheikh Hasina for taking a number of measures including the opening of land customs stations namely Tamabil-Dawki and Nakuagaon-Dalu, Gobrakura and Koroitoli-Gasuaparaand, resolving duty exemption issues on lime stone powder, gypsum and calcium carbonate exports to Bangladesh.

The Bangladesh side also offered to export more products like ready-made garments, ceramics, pharmaceuticals, jute and allied products, leather goods, toiletries, and agricultural produce to Bhutan. The Bhutanese side agreed to facilitate the entry of these products.

The two PMs expressed their hope to sign the trilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Bangladesh, Bhutan and India for cooperation in hydroelectric power on the principles of the agreed regional framework when leaders of all three countries meet.

The two PMs expressed their hope for early operationalisation of the BBIN motor vehicle agreement.

The two sides also exchanged views on cooperation in other regional and international fora including BIMSTEC, SAARC and the UN, and noted the commonality of their views and positions on all major issues and agreed to continue to work together for greater peace, prosperity and development in the region and beyond.

Recalling the ancient cultural and people-to-people links between the two countries, both sides agreed to cooperate in the tourism sector to maximise its potential. The two sides agreed to encourage exchange of visits of representatives of the tourism industry led by senior government officials.

PM Sheikh Hasina commended the vision of His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo in instituting the Bhutan Health Trust Fund for the provision of free essential drugs and vaccines to the people of Bhutan. The Bangladesh side agreed to explore supporting the Fund.

Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay thanked the Bangladeshi government for providing opportunities for Bhutanese students to pursue higher education especially in medicine. PM Sheikh Hasina assured the continued support of Bangladesh to further enhance cooperation with Bhutan in education.

The two PMs agreed to explore cooperation in ICT, including sharing of internet redundancy and establishment of data centres.  The two PMs addressed the inaugural session of the International Conference on Autism and Neuro-developmental Disorders on April 19 in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen.

Bhutan gifted a plot of land measuring 1.5 acres to Bangladesh for construction of its embassy at the diplomatic enclave at Hejo, Thimphu. PM Sheikh Hasina unveiled the foundation stone for the embassy.

In 2014, Bangladesh granted Bhutan a 321.895 sq metre plot of land in the Baridhara Diplomatic Enclave, Dhaka for the construction of the Bhutanese embassy.

Bhutan and Bangladesh signed three agreements and four Memoranda of Understanding.  The agreements were for avoidance of double taxation and prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income, on cultural cooperation, and on allotment of land under the Hejo Samtenling Local Area Plan for construction of the Bangladeshi embassy.

An MoU on the use of inland waterways for transportation of bilateral trade and transit cargoes between the two countries was signed. This will provide connectivity with the Chittagong and Mongla ports.

MoUs were signed between the Royal University of Bhutan, Bhutan and Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development, Comilla, Bangladesh; Bhutan Standards Bureau and Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution, and Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority and the Department of Agricultural Extension.

PM Sheikh Hasina extended an invitation to Their Majesties The King and Queen to visit Bangladesh at a mutually convenient time. She also invited Lyonchoen to visit Bangladesh.

This is PM Sheik Hasina’s third visit to the country after she assumed power in 2009.

Bangladesh and Bhutan established diplomatic relations formally in April 1973.

Tshering Palden