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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Bangladesh-Bhutan ties to get new boost

BANGLADESH and Bhutan have inked five deals on avoidance of double taxation, agriculture, standardisation 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 attention from both sides in order to pace up the realisation 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 have elapsed since the signing of the treaty in June 2015. As roads agreement has immense potentials, in terms of ensuring connectivity, so Bhutan as a stakeholder nation must now run the extra mile for giving it an extra push to materialise it from its respective end.

It would have been quite a diplomatic feat if an agreement exclusively focusing on removing last hurdles of road connectivity could have been inked this time. However, we expect the Bhutanese government to ratify the BBIN agreement in its parliament as early as possible so to pave the way for reaping multilateral benefits. Concerning the signing of the waterways treaty, allowing Bhutan to use our waterways for transportation of goods imported through Chittagong and Mongla seaports should also economically benefit both countries. 

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 Memorandum of Understanding 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  Prime Minister's recent state visit to India. Given the growing demand for cheap energy at home all the three stakeholders should fast track the completion of this hydropower project. 

Lastly, our relation with the Kingdom of Bhutan has so far been pleasant and notably a historic one. Not to mention, it was the first country to have recognized Bangladesh as an independent and sovereign state. In spite of a smooth and friendly two-sided relation little has actually been realised as strong mutual partners.

Following the five deals inked at Thimphu, we now expect to see a more pro-active approach from our Bhutanese counterparts. The point in fact is that, both Bangladesh and Bhutan will have to come out of the box of symbolic good diplomatic relations and start working jointly to attain more tangible results to the benefit of both the nations.