Monday, April 17, 2017

Sheikh Hasina fourth visit to Bhutan


Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will be on a three-day state visit to Himalayan Kingdon Bhutan from April 18.

On the invitation of His Majesty The King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wang-chuck, the Bangladesh prime minister will tour the country.

While in Bhutan, the prime minister will sign several Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) and also attend the ground breaking ceremony of the Bangladesh embassy in Hejo, Thimphu. Bangla-desh gave land to build the Bhutanese embassy building in Baridhara diplomatic zone in 2014.

She will also hold bilateral meetings with the country's top leaders on the sidelines. Hasina will hold meetings with Bhutan's King, Jigme Wangchuck and Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay to discuss bilateral and regional issues. The prime minister's visit will have a focus on cooperation in transit, transshipment and hydro-power, official sources said.

Bhutan's Foreign Minister Damcho Dorji told local press that Bhutan and Bangladesh traditionally have enjoyed close and friendly relations that started since independence. Bangladesh prime minister's visit to Bhutan indicates the importance of the close relations between the countries, movers of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

During her fourth visit to Bhutan, Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the three-day International Conference on Autism and Neuro Developmental Disorders on April 19.

Saima Wazed Hossain Putul, member of WHO's expert advisory panel on mental health and chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on Autism, has taken initiatives to hold the conference in Thimphu.

The conference is being jointly hosted by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of Bangladesh and Ministry of Health of Bhutan with the technical support of Shuchona Foundation, Ability Bhutan Society and World Health Organization South-East Asia Regional Office.

Government leaders, policymakers, experts and activists from around the globe will discuss strategic viewpoints to spread awareness about autism at the conference.

Bhutan was the first country to recognize Bangladesh's independence in 1971 followed by India in December. Bangladesh established diplomatic relations with Bhutan in 1973 and established its resident embassy in the country.

His Majesty The Fourth King in 1974 came to Bangladesh on his maiden visit, and since then the leaders from both the countries visited each other's capital several times.

Hasina visited Bhutan in 2009, 2010, and then in 2015 on a private visit. His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen visited Bangladesh in 2013, followed by Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay's visit in 2014. The President of Bangladesh Abdul Hamid visited the country last year.

Bangladesh and Bhutan cooperate in areas of agriculture, human resource development, cultural exchanges, and also air services besides the annual consultation meetings at the foreign secretary level.Even at the regional level, the two countries held talks on water resources management and recently trilateral cooperation in hydropower, official source said.

At the multilateral forum, the two countries have been supporting each other at every international venue Bhutan has lend favorable support to Bangladesh at every election to many international organizations.

Hasina is scheduled to fly to Bhutan on a small Druk Air plane instead of flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines as the latter does not have a certified pilot who can handle Bhutan's sole Paro International Airport, one of the most challenging airports in the world.

Situated at 7,920ft from the sea level on the bank of the Paro River is surrounded by steep peaks as high as 18,000ft, the airport is considered as one of the most challenging airports in the world for landing and takeoff.The prime minister will come back home on April 21.

Published in The Asian Age, April 17, 2017

Saleem Samad, is an Asoka Fellow (USA), an award winning invetigative journalist and works as Special Correspondent with The Asian Age

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