Dhaka::Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Nepalese President Bidya Devi Bhandari have both emphasised connectivity for smooth and wider interactions and engagements between the two countries.
“With a view to enhancing the connectivity networks, we can add more flights to the existing Kathmandu-Dhaka route and also connect our major regional cities like Syedpur of Bangladesh and Biratnagar of Nepal by air,” Bidya Devi said.
“Likewise, linkages of Nepal’s rivers with those of India and Bangladesh will help develop waterways.
“Connectivity can be improved and the cost of transport and trade can be reduced. Upgrading roadways and developing railways and their linkages can also contribute meaningfully to this process. In this context, I am happy to state that the process of including Rohanpur as a port of call for promoting bilateral trade through railway transit is moving ahead,” she added.
Both Hasina and Bidya Devi were speaking at the National Parade Square on Monday, the sixth day of the 10-day programme arranged marking the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the golden jubilee of independence. “Banglar Mati, Amar Mati” was the theme of Monday’s programme where the Nepalese head of state was the guest of honour.
Noting that Nepal and Bangladesh are rich countries in terms of natural and human resources, history, civilisation, culture, and so on, the Nepalese president said proper utilisation of these valuable resources would be catalytic in transforming the development landscape, creating prosperity, and ensuring happiness for the people.
“We have been cooperating to enhance trade, transit, energy, connectivity, tourism, education, culture, and people-to-people relations. We are actively engaged in promoting our common interest at multilateral forums through mutual support and cooperation. We need to advance our partnership in these areas,” she said.
She also said the volume of bilateral trade at present is moderate with enough scope for expansion, while Nepal has an increasing trade deficit with Bangladesh.
“We need to minimise the trade deficit in order to make trade beneficial for both countries. The elimination of trade barriers, the development of infrastructure, and easy market access could significantly boost our trade relationship.”
Bidya Devi said the two countries had already signed a memorandum of understanding on expanding cooperation in the power sector.
“Nepal’s hydropower and Bangladesh’s natural gas can be the game changers for our development needs. For our energy trade, it is imperative to strengthen trilateral cooperation among Nepal, Bangladesh, and India,” she added.
Stressing connectivity, Hasina said, “Cooperation between Bangladesh and Nepal in affairs of trade; road, rail, and air communications; power and energy, particularly hydropower; tourism, and water management is increasing day by day. We have already signed the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (VBIN) agreement. As a result, mutual cooperation among the countries will be revamped.”
As the current president of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, Hasina said Bangladesh has been urging world leaders to take immediate steps to combat climate change.
Referring to the launching of the Global Centre on Adaptation’s Bangladesh office last year, the premier said work had begun on tackling the effects of climate change in South Asia.
Hasina said countries in the Himalayan basin are prone to natural disasters, such as earthquakes, cloudbursts, avalanches, landslides, and flash floods.
“We can temporarily protect ourselves through adaptation, but the process will fail to provide sustainable protection unless the current trend of climate change is restricted.”
Terming Bangabandhu a revered leader, the Nepalese president said he had won the hearts of the people of Bangladesh and attained the goal of creating a new nation.
“As an excellent orator, organiser and crusader, Bangabandhu won the hearts and minds of the people of Bangladesh,” she said.
As the chief guest of the programme, President Abdul Hamid said, the progress and welfare of a nation is ensured when the government and political parties work in the interest of the public with honesty and sincerity.
“A new chapter in the politics of the country will begin if we can assist the poor in meeting their basic needs,” he added.
Bidya devi arrived in Dhaka on Monday morning on a two-day visit as the third South Asian leader to attend the ongoing twin mega celebrations and take forward the growing bilateral relations. President Hamid received her with a bouquet at Dhaka airport at 10:17am.
She then went to Savar to pay rich tributes to the heroic martyrs of Bangladesh’s Liberation War. She paid homage by placing a wreath at the National Martyrs’ Memorial.
Later, Hasina paid a courtesy call on her at the Intercontinental Hotel in the capital in the afternoon. Hasina’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters after the meeting.
The Nepalese president highly praised Hasina for her dynamic leadership, saying, “You [Hasina] are a much inspiring leader in the world.”
“I am your admirer,” she said.
Bidya Devi told Hasina that Bangladesh could be a role model for women’s participation in national development tasks.
She said her country wants meaningful cooperation with Bangladesh.
The Nepalese president thanked Hasina as her country got prompt support from Bangladesh when they needed fertiliser. She also thanked the Bangladesh premier for offering Nepal the opportunity to use Chattogram and Mongla ports and Syedpur airport.
Bidya Devi stressed the need for enhancing connectivity among the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) member states.
Mentioning that both countries face adverse impacts of natural disasters, she said Bangladesh and Nepal could ensure the maximum use of their respective resources to face calamities.
Hasina emphasised mutual cooperation in the fields of trade and commerce and the signing of the preferential trade agreement (PTA) between the two countries.
“It will be beneficial for both countries if the PTA is signed,” she opined.
She also advocated for strengthening connectivity among the BBIN member states as it would boost trade and commerce in the region.
Hasina said a hydroelectric power plant could be set up using the water resources of Nepal with joint cooperation of Bangladesh, India, and Nepal.
The Nepalese president also held talks with President Hamid at Bangabhaban and also attended the state banquet hosted by him in her honour. She met Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen at a city hotel.
The Nepalese president is scheduled to leave Dhaka this afternoon.
Meanwhile, Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering is due to arrive today while Indian Premier Narendra Modi will visit Bangladesh on 26 March.