Bhutan yesterday assured Bangladesh of extending cooperation in the hydropower sector, in which the Himalayan country has huge potential.

Visiting Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley gave the assurance during the official talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her office.

Hasina requested her Bhutanese counterpart to consider Bangladesh in its future hydropower projects either as an investment partner on equity sharing or a direct purchaser of power.

Thinley also assured that as an upstream country Bhutan will protect the interests of downstream Bangladesh regarding free flow of common rivers.

Hasina also invited Bhutan to extensively use Chittagong and Mongla seaports for mutual benefits.

After the talks, Bangladesh and Bhutan signed an agreement on cultural exchange and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cooperation in the health sector.

The deals were signed in presence of Hasina and 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.

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 premier said the mighty Brahmaputra has recently been 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 until an institutional mechanism is established for joint water management,” Hasina said.

Eulogising Hasina for her “thoughtful and pragmatic” leadership, Thinley supported her proposal for introducing package tourism among Bangladesh, Bhutan and other neighbouring 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,” Hasina observed.

The premier said if necessary, Bangladesh could also contribute skilled and semi-skilled workers in the required sectors in Bhutan.

About climate-change impact on both the countries, Hasina said she always voiced the case of Bhutan and other Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in all international climate-change meetings.

Bangladesh and Bhutan could work for proper management of natural resources, biodiversity and ecology, she said.

Observing that flow of Bangladeshi products to Bhutan has remained extremely low, Hasina said Bangladesh’s private sectors could be encouraged to export apparels to Bhutan.

Besides, Bhutan can also encourage Bangladeshi entrepreneurs to invest in Bhutan’s IT, agro-processing, education, hospitality and construction sectors, she said.

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 premier.

Thinley told Hasina that her vision and development programmes have increased her popularity not only in Bangladesh but also in other countries.

“You are very popular in Bhutan,” Thinley told Hasina.

The Bhutanese premier also recalled historic contribution of Atish Dipankar (980-1052), a Buddhist scholar from Vajrayogini village in Bikrampur (Munshiganj) who spread Buddhism and knowledge across the world.

Hasina expressed Bangladesh’s gratitude towards Bhutan for its active role during the Liberation War in 1971.

She invited fourth King Jigmi Singye Waangchuck to visit Bangladesh at his convenience.

The PM also invited Bhutan’s fifth King Jigmi Khesar Namgyel Waanchuck to attend the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence on March 26 this year.

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, Health Minister AFM Ruhal Haque, Economic Adviser to the PM Mashiur Rahman and M Ziauddin, ambassador at-large, were present.

Source: The Daily Star – 12.01.2011