Bhutan Tuesday assured power-deficit Bangladesh of extending cooperation in hydraulic sector where the land-locked Himalayan country has got huge potentials.
Visiting Prime Minister Jigme Y Thinley gave the assurance during the official talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her office.
Thinley also assured that as an upstream country Bhutan will protect the interests of downstream Bangladesh regarding free flow of river water.
After the talks Bangladesh and Bhutan signed an agreement on cultural exchange and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on cooperation in health sector.
The deals were signed in presence of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley.
Bhutanese Foreign Secretary Dasho Daw Penjo signed the two deals on behalf of his government while Health Secretary Hymayun Kabir and acting Cultural Affairs Secretary Suraiya Begum signed for Bangladesh government.
According to the agreement on cultural exchange, Bangladesh and Bhutan will exchange cultural delegations on regular basis.
Under the MOU on health cooperation, Bangladeshi doctors will be employed in Bhutan.
Briefing reporters on the outcome of the talks, PM’s press secretary Abul Kalam Azad said Sheikh Hasina requested her Bhutanese counterpart to consider Bangladesh in its future hydropower projects either as an investment partner, on equity sharing or direct purchaser of power.
About Bangladesh’s interests in flow of river water, Thinley said Bhutan is highly conscious about free flow of river water down stream through Bangladesh.
The Prime Minister said mighty river Brahmaputra has been recently prone to frequent flooding which has made it necessary for the two countries to regularly share data and arrange consultations among the water experts.
“I hope such cooperation will safeguard our development efforts, environment and eco-system, till an institutional mechanism is established for joint water management,” Hasina said.
Eulogizing Hasina for her “thoughtful and pragmatic” leadership, Thinley supported her proposal for introducing package tourism among Bangladesh, Bhutan and other neighboring countries in the region.
“The hills and valleys of Bhutan, and the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans with the golden beach of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, could attract tourists, even from among us,” she observed.
Hasina said if necessary, Bangladesh could also contribute skilled and semi-skilled workers in the required sectors in Bhutan.
About the climate change impacts on both the countries, Hasina said she always voiced the case of Bhutan and other LDCs in all climate change international meetings.
Hasina said Bangladesh and Bhutan could work for proper management of natural resources, biodiversity and ecology.
Observing that flow of Bangladeshi products to Bhutan has remained extremely low, Hasina said Bangladesh’s private sectors could be encouraged to export RMG to Bhutan.
Besides, Bhutan can also encourage Bangladeshi entrepreneurs to invest in Bhutan’s IT, agro-processing, education, hospitality and construction sectors, she said.
Hasina invited Bhutan to extensively use Chittagong and Mongla seaport for mutual benefits.
Thinley paid rich tributes to the memories of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He said like Bangabandhu, her daughter Hasina is also working for economic emancipation of the masses.
The government’s vision 2021 for digital Bangladesh has also earned appreciation of the Bhutanese PM.
Thinley told Hasina that her vision and development programmes have increased her popularity not only in Bangladesh but also other countries.
“You are very popular in Bhutan,” Thinley told Hasina.
The Bhutanese PM also recalled historic contribution of Atish Dipankar (980-1052), a Buddhist scholar hailed from Vajrayogini village in Bikrampur (Munshiganj) to spreading Buddhism and knowledge across the world.
Hasina expressed Bangladesh’s gratitude to Bhutan for its active role during Bangladesh’s liberation war in 1971.
She invited fourth King Jigme Singye Waangchuck to visit Bangladesh at his convenience.
The Prime Minister also invited Bhutan’s fifth King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Waanchuck to attend the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence on March 26 this year.
Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni, Health Minister Dr AFM Ruhal Haque, Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister Dr Mashiur Rahman and Ambassador at Large M Ziauddin were present.