Tri-nation connectivity dialogue looms

Dhaka is going to host a ‘brainstorming’ dialogue among Bangladesh, India and Bhutan this month to move forward the sub-regional connectivity and hydro power issues with Bhutan and Nepal via India.Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque on Tuesday said after this month’s tri-nation dialogue on April 16 or April 19, they would hold similar talks among Bangladesh, India and Nepal.
The dialogues were proposed during the second joint consultative meeting between Bangladesh and India in February in Dhaka.
The Secretary announced expected dates on Tuesday at a press briefing after the first consultations with his Bhutanese counterpart Yeshey Dorji who arrived in on Dhaka Monday on a three-day official visit.
The consultation was held under the aegis of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on Monday.
Secretary Haque said the meeting would be held at the technical level where both sides would explore ‘potentials and feasibility’ of hydro power sharing as well as connectivity between Bangladesh and Bhutan.
“The talks will be held back-to-back,” he said and added that the connectivity talks would be held either April 16 or 19 and the hydro power talks would be held just one day before.
He said the meeting would discuss on road link, air link, waterways, water management, hydro power and purchase of electricity between Bangladesh and Bhutan.
According to him, initially they would find out ways of connecting through roads with the landlocked Bhutan.
As Bangladesh is keen on getting electricity from Bhutan, the two secretaries in a joint statement noted the forthcoming trilateral consultations would give ‘a successful’ outcome.
Bhutan was the first country to recognise Bangladesh even before its birth on Dec 16, 1971.
The relationship received a boost in recent years with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit in November 2009.
With its below 1 million population, Bhutan’s current trade with the Bangladesh is about $ 30 million with Bangladesh’s export accounting for $20 million.
Secretary Haque, however, said the trilateral meeting would not be ‘a negotiation meeting on transit issues between the three nations, it is a non-binding discussion to explore the potentiality and review the feasibility’.
The joint statement welcomed the Commerce Secretary-level meeting last month and last year where two secretaries decided to form a Joint Working Group for finalising a Transit Agreement and its Protocols and formation of a Joint Committee to study the utilisation of the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade between Bangladesh and India for transportation of Bhutanese cargo.
Earlier Bangladesh offered Bhutan to use the Chittagong and Mongla ports as well as the Lalmonirhat and Syedpur airports.

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