PM’s Bhutan visit: A step to regional inter connectivity

PM’s Bhutan visit: A step to regional inter connectivityPrime Minister Sheikh Hasina has laid the groundwork for greater connectivity in this region during her three-day state visit to Bhutan. PM agreed to allow the land-locked Bhutan to use Chittagong and Mongla ports to get in connected with Bangladesh and other countries. It’s no doubt that it will open up further opportunities of bilateral trade between the two countries.
In total, the PM Sheikh Hasina and her Bhutanese counterpart, Tshering Tobgay signed six agreements and MoUs, which indicate that the ties between the two countries are going to be more cordial in the coming days. Apart from allowing Bhutan, our neighbour to the north, it is a step in the right direction for both the countries to improve ties through the signing of deals relating to agriculture, export and import of goods, quality control of goods and avoidance of double taxation.
The two leaders recognized the importance of BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal) Motor Vehicle Agreement for regional connectivity and expressed their desire towards an early implementation of the agreement. They also welcomed the proposed Trilateral Memorandum of Understanding between Bangladesh, Bhutan and India for cooperation in the field of Hydroelectric Power on the principles of agreed regional framework.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has unveiled the floor plan for a new Chancery building of the Bangladesh embassy in Bhutan. It is worth to mention that Bangladesh and India are the only countries to have resident embassies in Bhutan.
Bhutan and Bangladesh have actively cooperated in the field of flood control. Bangladesh also extended support to Bhutan following the 2009 earthquake. Bangladesh offers one scholarship to the Royal Bhutanese Army for a course at the Bangladesh Defence Services Command and Staff College.
Bangladesh and Bhutan have inked five deals on avoidance of double taxation, agriculture, standardization of goods, cultural cooperation and waterways connectivity during just concluded Bangladesh Prime Minister’s visit to Thimphu.
Among the five deals, it is undeniably the connectivity issue that relatively merits more realization of the other four. Particularly, the Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) could not be implemented even though a year and half has elapsed since the signing of the treaty in June 2015.
Furthermore, at the regional and trilateral level, the two countries had jointly held talks about water resource management at source following cooperation in hydropower projects. Specifically Bangladesh, Bhutan and India had recently come up with a MoU for Bangladesh to invest in the 1,125 MW Dorjilung project aimed to transport the power through India to Bangladesh.
The Prime Ministers of Bangladesh and India also mentioned this in their joint statement during Bangladesh’s Prime Minister’s recent state visit to India. Given the growing demand for cheap energy at home all the tree stakeholders should fast track the completion of this hydropower project.
It is perceived that the four countries motor vehicle agreement can act as a precursor to cooperation in the fields of connectivity, energy, trade and ICT. Indeed, for quick economic and development of a region, the need for a multilateral platform cannot be overemphasized and the BBIN, as an organization, can play this role for this region.
Once the agreement is finally materialized, it would offer cheaper travel cost. And the truth is, in Bangladesh, the port authorities of Benapole, Burimari, Akhaura and Tamabil have taken all necessary preparations for transporting goods from India, Bhutan and Nepal under the agreement.
PM Sheikh Hasina and Bhutanese PM Tshering Tobgay also welcomed the proposed Trilateral MoU between Bangladesh, Bhutan and India for Cooperation in the field of Hydroelectric Power on the principles of agreed regional framework. They expressed the hope that this MoU could be signed at an occasion when leaders of all three countries would meet next.
The Bhutanese PM thanked PM Sheikh Hasina for taking a number of majors including opening of Land Customs Stations namely Tamabil-Dawki and Nakuagaon-Dalu, Gobra Kura and Koroitoli-Gasuapara and resolving duty exemption issues on Limestone Powder, Gypsum and Calcium Carbonate export to Bangladesh which will further enhance bilateral trade with Bangladesh.
Bangladesh also offered to export more products such as ready-made garments, ceramics, pharmaceuticals, jute and allied products, leather goods, toiletries, agricultural products produced to Bhutan. The Bhutanese side agreed to facilitate entry of this production into its market. They also agreed to further promote trade and investments between the two countries.
Mahmud Rahman is frelance contributor