Asia News Network
The state visit to Bangladesh was a homecoming of sort for Bhutan's Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering, who spent 10 years in two medical colleges there.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina received the Prime Minister at the Hazrat Shahjalal international airport in Dhaka yesterday and presented a guard of honour.
After his visit to National Martyrs’ Memorial, Bangabandhu Memorial Museum and BIMSTEC Secretariat, Lyonchhen headed to Bangladesh College of Physicians and Surgeons (BCPS).
He was speaking at the same hall where he gave his final examination and only four of the 50 fellows completed the course successfully, Dr Lotay Tshering being one. “I have sweated in this hall,” he said. “Ten years in Bangladesh was a very critical part of my life. It taught me how to become a good human being.”
The atmosphere in the hall turned emotional when Lyonchhen shared an incident about receiving a phone call from one of his professors when he was a general surgeon in Mongar. He narrated the incident in fluent Bengali.
The prime minister said that he immediately drove for three days to reach Phuentsholing and got on a bus to Dhaka to meet his professor. “In Buddhism, we believe that we owe respect and gratitude to our teacher not only in this life but the next one too,” he said.
Dr Lotay Tshering said he is aware of the standards of BCPS and looks forward to collaborate with medical colleges and institutions in Bhutan.
That Bhutan is the first country to recognise Bangladesh’s independence and the two countries have tremendous goodwill has become a cliché, said Dr Lotay Tshering.
“I don’t beat around the bush. I like to cut things straight because I am a surgeon,” he said.
If Bhutan and Bangladesh were to benefit each other from the economic progress the two countries are making, the prime minister said that a positive people-to-people collaboration is inevitable.
However, he said that Bangladesh’s export is valued at US$ 36B and with Bhutan it is only US$ 4M. “We are landlocked but our minds are open,” he said. “Trade do not need passports.”
The Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) and Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) signed an MoU to institute a joint business council yesterday.
However, Dr Lotay Tshering said that an MoU is not enough if there is no commitment and follow through. “From Bhutan’s side, we will assure to follow through because the new government believes that private sector needs to open up,” he said.
Both countries, the prime minister said are on the verge of graduation from LDC status and conventional aid is declining. He said that it is timely to move from aid to trade.
During the forum for business delegates, private industry and investment advisor to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Salman F Rahman said that trade between the two countries is still small compared to the potential. This, he said could be harnessed if the private sector could work together as there is a great complementarities in interest and trade destination.
On the issues of Bhutanese consignment trucks being delayed at the land customs stations, he said the government is already advised to expand the infrastructure, addressing this issue sooner.
This, he said is in the interest of Bangladesh because there are many mega projects coming up and need of construction materials including boulders is immense.
Cross border trading of electricity is one area of interest for the Bangladeshi business delegates. The secretary of economic affairs ministry said that the new Indian guidelines of cross border power trading allows transmission through India and it could be pursued trilaterally. The trilateral cooperation in developing a hydropower project in Bhutan, he said is also progressing well.
Multimodal connectivity, industry linkages, use of ports and inland waterways, joint venture in hydro and agro processing are some of the areas of cooperation the FBCCI identified.
“We hope to see robust trade between the two countries,” the vice president of FBCCI, Md. Muntakim Ashraf said.