Nepal has expressed its keenness in using Bangladesh's waterways alongside airspace, three seaports and rail network to boost trade. Giving its consent in principle, Bangladesh has also shown interest in boosting its connectivity with the Himalayan country.
"Nepal is a landlocked country. We have agreed in principle to give permission to Nepal to use our waterways. But technical details will be discussed," said Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen while briefing the media about bilateral talks with Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Tuesday.
Momen also said various initiatives are underway to open and facilitate Bangladesh's cross-border transport link with the friendly-neighbour Nepal.
The two neighbouring countries discussed many issues relating to connectivity to transform Bangladesh into a gateway or multimodal connectivity hub for the whole of South and South-East Asia.
The same issues might dominate the bilateral talks with the visiting Bhutanese Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering.
The Bhutanese premier arrived in the capital on Tuesday to attend the celebrations of the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the golden jubilee of Bangladesh's independence. He will also sit in a bilateral meeting with his Bangladesh counterpart.
Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari left Dhaka yesterday after wrapping up a two-day state visit.
Four memoranda of understanding were signed between Bangladesh and Nepal.
Foreign Minister Momen said a Letter of Exchange (LoE) has been signed between the two countries to include the Rohanpur-Singhabad rail link point as an additional transit route to the protocol of the Nepal-Bangladesh transit agreement of 1976.
Bangladesh and Nepal signed the transit agreement in 1976 and identified six ports of calls for the movement of transport vehicles to and from Nepal.
The ports of call were Chattogram Port, Mongla Port, Biral (Pashchimbanga, India), Benapole, Banglabandha, and Chilahati.
Besides, three more MoUs on tourism cooperation, cultural exchange between 2022 and 2025 and sanitary and phytosanitary issues have been signed between the two countries by 2022-2025.
The foreign minister said during Sheikh Hasina's visit to India in 2010, it was announced that landlocked Nepal and Bhutan would be given access to Bangladesh's seaports.
Stating that Nepal is interested in using Chattogram, Mongla and Payra seaports, the foreign minister said the two countries have agreed to take forward the work of determining modalities in this regard.
Aside from using Bangladesh's inland shipping network, Nepal is also interested in establishing a direct air link between Syedpur Airport in Bangladesh and Biratgarh or Bhadrapur in Nepal. Bangladesh welcomed both proposals, Momen said.
"Nepal is a landlocked country. We have agreed in principle to give permission to Nepal to use our waterways. But technical details will be discussed," said Dr Momen.
"Apart from the existing routes, they are also exploring the possibility of incorporating some new routes with a view to implementing the BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement signed between Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan in 2015," the foreign minister said.
"Bangladesh and India have already agreed to sign the trilateral passenger protocol under the agreement. We hope that Nepal will soon give its consent."
Replying to a question in this connection, Shariar Alam, state minister for foreign affairs, said, "We got the consent in principle from Nepal and India. They are ready to sign the instrument. But the Bhutan parliament has not yet approved it. So, we three countries can proceed with the preliminary levels of the work. And, Bhutan might join later."
Dr Momen said, "Work on a preferential trade agreement (PTA) between Nepal and Bangladesh is now in the final stage. We hope the agreement will be signed soon."
He said the Bhutanese president also urged Bangladesh to import hydropower generated in Nepal
Lotay Tshering arrives as Bhutanese King's special envoy
Bhutanese Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering reached Dhaka on Tuesday morning on a state visit as a special representative of the Bhutanese King to join the celebrations of the golden jubilee of the country's independence and the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
This is Tshering's second visit to Dhaka after assuming office in November 2018.
Bhutanese Prime Minister paid tributes to the memory of martyred freedom fighters by placing a wreath at the National Memorial in Savar. Then, he paid glowing homage to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at his portrait on the premises of Bangabandhu Memorial Museum at Dhanmondi.
During his 3 days visit, the Bhutanese Prime Minister is scheduled to have a one-to-one meeting with his Bangladesh counterpart at the Prime Minister's Office before holding the bilateral talks.
The Bhutanese Prime Minister is scheduled to leave Dhaka on Thursday morning.