Analysis

Nepal and Bangladesh: Bilateral ties for development and prosperity

Nepal-Bangladesh

Kathmandu, 29 March (2019) – Inaugurating the third Nepal-Bangladesh Business Forum (NBBF), in Kathmandu on Thursday Minister of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation Barshaman Pun Ananta has said that Bangladesh is going to be a huge market for Nepal’s hydropower.

The recent energy exchange-related Memorandum of Understandings signed between the two countries has provided the reason for this optimism, he said.

Minister Pun was speaking at the programme jointly hosted by Embassy of Bangladesh and Asian Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs (AIDIA).

Other speakers in the programme also stressed on the need of enhancing bilateral ties for prosperity of the region.

Mashfee Binte Shams, Ambassador of Bangladesh to Nepal, highlighted that both Nepal and Bangladesh are going through social, economic and cultural transformation. “Hence, working together in this process will be fruitful for both the countries. Bangladesh is ready to work closely with Nepal on hydropower development and energy trade,” Ambassador Shams said.

Sunil KC, Founder of AIDIA, traced a brief history of NBBF summit which was first conceived and organized its first edition back in 2016. He also stressed on the AIDIA’s contribution for paving way for the billion dollar investment in hydropower in Nepal.

KC also highlighted the significance of Double Tax Avoidance Agreement with Bangladesh, making it easier for investors and promoting trade and commerce.

In the first session entitled ‘Strong Media Cooperation for Enhancing Bilateral Ties’, the session chair highlighted the importance of media cooperation for strengthening bilateral ties.

Madhu Raman Acharya, Former Foreign Secretary, painted the picture of Bangladesh’s progress from a basket case due to its poverty and undeveloped nature to an economic role model. He also explained how the bilateral relation between Nepal and Bangladesh has become stagnant and not moved beyond the aspired transformation. He also stressed on the increasing need towards the further bilateral business cooperation.

Acharya also said that Nepal and Bangladesh need to focus on the soft diplomacy vis-à-vis agreements, methodologies and trilateral cooperation. Media could play a key role in enhancing public diplomacy, he said.

Narayan Wagle, Editor-in-Chief at Kantipur Daily, claimed that people-to-people relation and communication with Bangladesh and Nepal is next to null. He corroborated his claim by saying that “there are no permanent media correspondents of Nepal in Bangladesh and vice versa.  He also suggested for initiatives like bilateral media forum for regular interactions and better understandings of primary issues in bilateral relations.

Enamul Hoque Choudhary, Editor-in-Chief at Daily Sun, Bangladesh, said that 48 years have passed since Bangladesh became independent and but bilateral relationship between Bangladesh and Nepal has not reached new heights. “Why are diplomats not focusing on media cooperation?” he asked.

“It is disappointing to learn that Nepal and Bangladesh have yet to form regional bilateral relation,” he said. He also shed light on the importance of facilitating further exchange of culture, people, intellectuals and businessmen and having a balanced relationship between both the countries.

Madan Lamsal, Chief Editor at New Business Magazine, stated that Nepal should learn from the success story of Bangladesh and it is very important to take India on board for moving forward. “Lack of strong trilateral relation including India will lead us nowhere and we have learnt this lesson from the past,” he added.

Sama Thapa, Associate Editor at AP1 Television moderated the session.

The second session was entitled ‘Expanding Multimodal Connectivity for Mutual Economic Growth’.

Madhusudan Adhikari, Secretary, Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, stressed on the imperative of building mutual trust for enhancing bilateral transport, transit and trade.

Dr. Golam Rasul, Chief Economist, ICIMOD, accentuated the importance of connectivity in prosperity and diversification of connectivity as strategic assets. He also highlighted that trade volume between Nepal and Bangladesh is minimal and effective transportation infrastructure can enhance bilateral trade.

Inland waterways connectivity between Nepal-India and Bangladesh can be a real booster for trade and commerce, he added. Dr. Rasul also said Nepal should benefit from Mongla port.

Dr. Surya Raj Acharya, Spokesperson at Bibeksheel Sajha and infrastructure expert, said that utilizing diversity and minimizing geographical distance between countries is a must. He also stressed on institutional and software connectivity besides physical connectivity.

“The countries are naturally closer but manmade institutions have been creating the distance. For closer cooperation, there is the need of institutional reform,” he added. He seconded Madan Lamsal by saying that trilateral cooperation between Nepal, India and Bangladesh can be beneficial to all three countries.

Keshab Sharma, Deputy Director General, Department of Roads, said that road connectivity infrastructure between Nepal and Bangladesh is progressing and Mongla and Chittagong port should be utilized to the maximum.

He also stressed on the importance of including China in Nepal-India-Bangladesh connectivity initiative.

Laxman Bahadur Basnet, Former Executive Director, Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Board, said that connectivity is heart and soul of economic growth.

Mr Shyam KC, Research and Development Director at AIDIA, moderated the session.

Published on 29 March 2019

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