Published:  02:24 AM, 08 April 2021

Dhaka-Kathmandu relations: Prospects expressed in celebrations

Dhaka-Kathmandu relations: Prospects expressed in celebrations President Abdul Hamid receives his Nepalese counterpart Bidya Devi Bhandari at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on March 22, 2021.

Nepalese President Bidya Devi Bhandari visited Bangladesh during celebrations. She spoke at National Parade Ground and her speech is significant to understand the height of the relation between the two countries as well as in the BBIN region.  Nepalese President Bidya Devi Bhandari said connectivity was essential for smoother and wider interactions and engagements between Bangladesh and Nepal. "Connectivity can be improved and the cost of transport and trade can be reduced," she said.

The Nepalese President was addressing as a guest of honor on the theme of "Nepal-Bangladesh Relations and Bangabandhu's Birth Centenary" at a program at the National Parade Ground.President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina were also present at the twin mega celebrations, marking the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and 50 years of Bangladesh's Independence.The volume of bilateral trade between the two countries is now moderate with enough scope for expansion, she said.

We know that Bangladesh is providing the use of Mongla-seaport and Saidpur airport, at the same time transit through India is also going on. These are helpful for the expansion of trade.  Elimination of trade barriers, development of infrastructure, and easy market access could significantly boost the trade relationship, she said.

Energy is an important area for the expansion of cooperation between our two countries. "The two countries have already signed a MoU on cooperation in power. Nepal's hydropower and Bangladesh's natural gas and other resources can be the game-changers for our development needs. For our energy trade, it's imperative to strengthen trilateral cooperation among Nepal, Bangladesh, and India," said the Nepalese president.It is known that already power projects are being implemented by Nepal and India jointly.

To enhance the connectivity networks, the Nepalese president said the two countries can add more flights to the existing Kathmandu-Dhaka sector and also connect by air major regional cities like Saidpur of Bangladesh and Biratnagar of Nepal.Likewise, linkages of Nepal's rivers with that of India and Bangladesh will help develop waterways, Bidya Devi said.

It is mentionable that waterways of Bangladesh and India are being used.Upgrading roadways and the development of railways and their linkages can also contribute meaningfully to this process, she said."I'm 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 said.

It is evident from the above description that the president discussed in detail regarding connectivity, trade, transportation, and BBIN.Bidya Devi also said Nepal and Bangladesh are rich countries in terms of natural and human resources, history, civilization, culture, and so on.It is known that we share civilization, culture, and our languages are originated from the Indo-Ariyan system.Proper utilization of these valuable resources will be catalytic in transforming our development landscape, creating prosperity and happiness for our peoples, she said.

"We've been cooperating to enhance trade, transit, energy, connectivity, tourism, education, culture, and people-to-people relations," she added.We know, There are significant developments in those field in last more than one decade. Given the natural beauty, rich historical and archaeological sites, and cultural heritage of the two countries, both Nepal and Bangladesh can enormously benefit from the expansion of mutual cooperation in the tourism sector, she said.

"Bangladeshi tourists can relish Nepal's snow-capped mountains, lush green valleys, rich bio-diversity, and the visit of important historical, archaeological, and cultural sites. Likewise, Nepali tourists can visit beautiful sea beaches, the mangrove forest, and cultural and historical sites of Bangladesh," said Bhandari.Currently, a good number of Nepali students have been pursuing higher education in Bangladesh, especially in the medical and engineering fields. Similarly, Bangladeshi students are in Nepal studying Buddhism, pharmacy, and other fields.

Bangabandhu also expanded the relations of Bangladesh to the international community during his short period of leadership of the country after independence, said the Nepalese president.In recent years, the Nepalese president said Bangladesh has successfully lifted a large percentage of the population out of poverty through rapid economic growth and this trend is ongoing.

Until 2014, the bilateral trade was in favor of Nepal, but with a fall in the export of lentils from Nepal, an eventual trade deficit was observed. There was an export of NPR 954 million and an import of NPR 5.29 billion in 2019-2020. The two have done well in the joint-ventures set up of Nepal-Bangladesh Bank Limited. The IFIC Bank (Bangladesh) has 40.91 percent shares, and it is one of the biggest FDIs from Bangladesh in Nepal. While the progress is slow, the two economies hold the potential to grow cooperation in years to come.

With a growing industrial base, Bangladesh has emerged as an energy-hungry nation. Nepal is among the top investment destinations for Bangladesh for the purchase of 9,000 MW electricity by 2040. It has already pledged USD 1 billion for Sunkoshi II Hydroelectricity Power Plant with 1,110 MW capacity and Sunkoshi III with 536 MW capacity.

During the Nepal Investment Summit in 2017, PRAN-RFL a leading company of Bangladesh pledged USD 2.4 billion for the food and infrastructure sectors in Nepal. Nepal could also become a net energy provider to Bangladesh, using the Indian transmission lines for the border trade, which India had already agreed upon.

Other than trade and investment, Nepal and Bangladesh can join hands together with Indian railways and waterways authorities in the trilateral agreements for the rail and waterways development in the sub-region. It will allow better connectivity with the aim of easy, free movement for cost-effective trade.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's recent commitment to support Nepal with the supply of 50,000 MT of Urea in a critical shortage period shows goodwill between the two countries. Therefore, firm commitments with a great desire in enhancing our bilateral ties with a much better and more hopeful future shall be the way forward.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina shared her vision of fostering friendship in South Asia to optimize utilization of natural resources, alleviate poverty and work together to tackle the challenges of climate change.The PM said a large number of people in South Asia are still living below the poverty line and many are still going to bed every night with hunger. "Many are deprived of the minimum necessities of life," she said in her speech in National Parade Ground.

It is possible to alleviate poverty in South Asia by ensuring optimum utilization of natural resources, the prime minister said while addressing the twin celebrations of Mujib Borsho and the golden jubilee of Bangladesh's independence at the National Parade Square on the sixth day of the 10-day state program.

Dhaka and Kathmandu signed four Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) to enhance cooperation between the two countries in different areas including tourism, sanitation, cultural exchange, and railways link. President M Abdul Hamid and his Nepalese counterpart Bidya Devi Bhandari witnessed the MoUs signing ceremony. There are MoUs with Maldives, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka during celebrations.We hope connectivity and cooperation between two countries, in the BBIN region, as well as in South Asia will be enhanced further.

The writer is an academic, former ambassador, leader-student action committee 71 and freedom fighter.

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