Bhutan-Bangladesh sign three MoUs and renew an agreement

Bhutan-Bangladesh sign three MoUs and renew an agreement

The State visit of His Majesty, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, to Bangladesh from March 25 to 28, 2024, at the invitation of the President of Bangladesh, His Excellency (HE) Mr. Mohammed Shahabuddin, has further strengthened the close ties between the two nations. The visit saw the two countries sign memoranda of understandings (MoUs) in three areas and the renewal of an agreement, apart from expressions of further cooperation in connectivity, energy and trade.

The MoUs signed were on Cooperation on establishment of a Burn and Plastic Surgery Unit in Thimphu and Health Cooperation; Cooperation on establishing Bhutanese Special Economic Zone in Kurigram, Bangladesh by Bhutan and the third on Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority of Bhutan and the Directorate of National Consumers Right Protection of Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, the agreement between Bhutan and Bangladesh on Cultural cooperation was renewed

Further, the two countries expressed satisfaction that annual intake of Bhutanese students for admission in MBBS in public medical colleges of Bangladesh has been increasing gradually. In order to further consolidate the existing momentum of cooperation, Bangladesh offered to increase the number of annual MBBS seats for Bhutanese students from 22 (twenty-two) to 30 (thirty).

The two nations also emphasized on strengthening the cooperation on capacity building between the Government officials of the two countries. As part of that, Bangladesh, offered 2 seats to the Bhutanese Foreign Service Officers every year at the Foreign Service Academy of Bangladesh – the Diplomatic Training Institute for capacity building.

The Foreign Service Academy also expressed to extend necessary assistance to Bhutan in setting up a Diplomatic Training Institute in Bhutan for Bhutanese diplomats. Bangladesh offered special training to 3 batches of 7-10 Bhutanese Officials each year in Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC).

The Bangladesh government also gifted electronic devices (tabs and laptops), made in Bangladesh “with a view to contributing to the capacity building and skill development for the government officials of Bhutan as a special gesture of goodwill and friendship.”

Meanwhile, the two sides expressed happiness on having signed the Agreement on the Movement of Traffic-in-Transit and its Protocol in March 2023 which will usher in new horizons for bilateral trade and connectivity. The Agreement and its Protocol will not only be phenomenal for bilateral trade but also work as a platform for paving the way for an interconnected South Asia.

The two countries also noted that regional and sub-regional connectivity are important means of economic integration and enhancing trade and commerce. They noted with satisfaction that the collaborative efforts between the two sides in connectivity through roads, rail, and waterways will strengthen bilateral ties as well as foster regional integration and economic growth in South Asia.

Satisfaction was expressed at the increasing trend in trade between Bhutan and Bangladesh in recent years and on the recent initiatives between the two countries for facilitating trade such as Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) – the first of its kind for the two countries, and Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for seamless use of the inland waterways of Bangladesh.

The visit also saw Bhutan conveying its appreciation to Bangladesh for offering the “Special Economic Zone” in ‘Kurigram’ in the northern part of Bangladesh, 190 kms from Gelephu, Bhutan. The Economic Zone will add a new horizon in the area of bilateral trade and investment between the two countries and also for achieving greater prosperity in the South Asia region.

The two governments underlined that power and energy sector provides an important area for cooperation. In this regard, both sides underscored the importance of strengthening subregional cooperation in the energy sector among Bhutan, Bangladesh and India.

There was also acknowledgement that regional cooperation is very important for shared peace and prosperity in the region. It was noted that the two countries should work together in the regional organisations like SAARC and BIMSTEC to ensure greater regional cooperation.

Satisfaction was also expressed at the growing trend of cooperation between the two countries in the area of health and education and the exemplary people-to-people contact between Bhutan and Bangladesh for decades. The two countries reiterated to further strengthen the people-to-people contact between Bhutan and Bangladesh by connecting the Himalayas in Bhutan with the longest sea beach in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

His Majesty The King left for Dhaka on March 25th 2024 and was accompanied by Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen and Their Royal Highnesses Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck, Gyalsey Ugyen Wangchuck, and Gyalsem Sonam Yangden Wangchuck, on the invitation of the President of Bangladesh, His Excellency Mohammed Shahabuddin. Their Majesties were warmly welcomed to Bangladesh by the President and First Lady, Dr. Rebeka Sultana. The President received His Majesty The King at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, and the armed forces of Bangladesh presented a Guard of Honour. Their Majesties were special guests at the celebration of Bangladesh’s Independence and National Day, on 26th March.

Upon arrival in Dhaka, Their Majesties visited the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum to pay tribute to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who is regarded in Bangladesh as the Father of the Nation. The foreign minister, His Excellency Hasan Mahmud, called on His Majesty The King.

Their Majesties then met with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina at the Prime Minister’s office. A series of Memoranda of Understanding and Agreements to enhance trade, cooperation and cultural exchanges between Bhutan and Bangladesh, were signed in the presence of Their Majesties and the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

In the evening, Their Majesties met with Bhutanese students studying in Bangladesh. His Majesty also granted an Audience to the staff of the Royal Bhutan Embassy in Dhaka.

On March 26th 2024, His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen visited the National Martyr’s Memorial in Savar, Bangladesh early morning for a ceremony to pay tribute to the martyrs of the 1971 War of Independence, and graced a celebration at the President’s official residence in the evening.

At sunrise, on March 26th 2024, His Majesty joined Bangladesh’s President Mohammed Shahabuddin and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the National Memorial in Savar, to lay wreaths at the National Memorial at sunrise. Following the ceremony, His Majesty The King planted a tree sapling at the National Memorial grounds.

In the evening of the day, His Excellency President Mohammed Shahabuddin received His Majesty The King at the Bangabhaban, the President’s official residence. President Mohammed Shahabuddin and First Lady Rebeka Sultana hosted a dinner reception at the Bangabhaban, which was joined by Her Excellency Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Earlier in the day, His Majesty The King visited the Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery.

While in Dhaka, Their Majesties and Their Royal Highnesses visited Jamuna State Guest House to spend time with Her Excellency Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her family. Her Excellency the Prime Minister and her family share close and personal ties to Bhutan- Her Excellency has visited Bhutan three times as Prime Minister, including, most recently in 2017. Bangladesh bestowed the Bangladesh Liberation War Honour posthumously to His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo in 2012, to honour His late Majesty’s support and friendship for Bangladesh’s independence and sovereignty.

On March 27th 2024, His Majesty The King visited Padma Bridge, and a Special Economic Zone in Araihazar, Narayanganj. His Majesty also met with business leaders in Bangladesh.

His Majesty traveled to Kurigram in the northern part of Bangladesh on March 28th, 2024, to view the site identified for the development of a Special Economic Zone for Bhutan. His Majesty then traveled to Gelephu by land via India.

His Majesty The King extended invitations to the Hon’ble President and the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh to visit Bhutan.

Meanwhile, Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen and Their Royal Highnesses returned to Bhutan on March 27th 2004.

By Staff Reporter, Thimphu