Bhutan, Bangladesh to deepen cooperation in all sectors

Following the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Kuensel’s Tshering Palden asked Ambassador of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Jishnu Roy Choudhury about the implications of the visit on the relations between the two countries. Excerpts from the interview.

How has PM Sheikh Hasina’s recent three-day state visit to Bhutan strengthened relations and areas of cooperation between the two countries?

Visit at the apex level always help to strengthen the relationship between the two countries; Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has personal relations with His Majesty The King and Royal Family Members and also the elected Government of Bhutan. And this relationship is based on mutual respect and admiration. So the state visit of Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will help to further deepen cooperation between two countries in all sectors.

During PM Sheikh Hasina’s visit, there were some discussions on the Bangladesh Bhutan India Nepal Motor Vehicle Agreement (BBIN MVA). What are Bangladesh’s views on Bhutan’s concerns about endorsing the BBIN MVA? 

Bangladesh is in favor of regional or sub-regional connectivity. In case of BBIN MVA other than Bhutan, the rest of the three countries already ratified it. Bangladesh thinks that if Bhutan ratifies, Bhutan’s concern (infrastructure, environment, security and others) could be easily addressed during protocol and the other countries including Bangladesh would be supportive of it.

Bangladesh is looking to invest USD 1 billion in the hydropower sector in Bhutan. What progress has been made in seeing the tripartite finalized and signed?

Bangladesh is always ready to have clean energy from Bhutan as energy is one of the prerequisites for all development activities and for that Bangladesh has expressed her willingness for investment. For tripartite project, discussion among the parties is required to reach an understanding, which is going on between the three countries. I hope we will have a good outcome in near future.

There are many other areas of cooperation and collaboration yet to be explored between the two countries. What are some areas that Bangladesh would like to see more collaboration in with Bhutan?

Bangladesh and Bhutan can explore cooperation in the field of information technology, energy, healthcare (diagnostic and treatment). Moreover, Bangladesh and Bhutan need to enhance their collaboration in the field of agriculture, education, trade and tourism.

Besides hydropower, what other areas in Bhutan is Bangladesh considering investing in?

Other than public, private sector in Bangladesh is also thriving now. Bangladesh is presently allowing private sector to invest outside in some areas. Our businessmen are showing interest to invest in IT, processed food, intermediate pharmaceutical products, and health sector among others.

If you could share some details on the progress of the ongoing discussions regarding the third Internet gateway for Bhutan through Cox Bazaar. How is this likely to impact Internet connectivity in Bhutan in terms of reliability and costs?

During the visit of Hon’ble information and communications minister of Bhutan, two ministers and relevant officials discussed this issue and a team constituting technical experts of two countries for study and report. The team gave their findings to the authorities for the next course of discussion. The proposed connectivity will be provided through submarine cable broadband line, which will definitely ensure reliability and being relatively cheaper would help reduce per unit cost.

 

Bhutan and Bangladesh share some similar goals, for instance, on seeing a more interconnected region and on climate change. How important is it that these goals are achieved and how can they be achieved? 

Your question itself is reflecting the importance of these goals. Bhutan is champion in preserving proper environment; Bangladesh is also committed on the same subject. Connectivity enhances people to people contact, facilitates trade and thus, improves the quality of life of the common people. Bangladesh and Bhutan are working bilaterally and regionally in improving the interconnectivity of the region and also working in the international fora to adopt environment friendly measures, which itself reflects the importance placed in these issues.

Four Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) have been signed during this visit. Could you tell us when they would be implemented and what are some likely programmes under these MoUs?

Four MoUs and also two agreements have been signed during this visit. Avoidance of double taxation following the appropriate process will be implemented very soon; Incase of standardization, BSTI of Bangladesh and BSB of Bhutan can implement by observing their procedure in a short course of time. For the implementation of the MoU on Inland Waterways for cargo movement and for it to move forward, it would be required to be discussed with our good friend India. To implement these MoUs, respective authorities of the two countries would set the appropriate programmes and take necessary actions.

Any other comments you would like to add? 

Bhutan and Bangladesh are good friends and Bhutan’s staunch support provided during our liberation war is something I would like to commemorate with utmost respect. I believe Hon’ble Prime Minister’s recent visit to Bhutan would increase the willingness and ability between the two countries to work together for the betterment of our people and our economy.

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