AK Abdul Momen

The plan for getting hydroelectricity from Bhutan and Nepal through Indian territory could not be materialised for years due to bureaucratic processes, foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said on Wednesday. 

‘The proposal for a trilateral hydroelectric grid involving Bhutan, India and Bangladesh has been on the table for many years. All have assented to it. But things have been caught in bureaucratic processes,’ he said at a press briefing in  Dhaka on the outcome of a meeting between prime ministers of Bangladesh and Bhutan.

There is another plan for getting hydroelectricity from Nepal through India, the foreign minister said, adding, ‘These things would not happen unless India agrees to engage in it.’ 

Bangladesh has also been in bilateral discussions for launching a hydroelectric project in Bhutan with provisions for transmission facilities through India as a part of a move for using green energy, he said.

Bhutan is also in discussion with Bangladesh for getting road, rail and river transit through India to expand trade through Chattogram and other seaports, Momen said, adding that prime minister Sheikh Hasina agreed on the matter and asked officials for preparing standard operating procedures for launching the inter-state waterways first.  

The feasibility of allowing rail connectivity to Bhutan through the recently-launched Chilahati-Haldibari rail tract with India for passenger services would also be assessed, he said.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina and her Bhutanese counterpart Lotay Tshering discussed the matters in a meeting at her office in Dhaka.

Hasina also agreed to a Bhutanese proposal to get connected with the second submarine cable in Bangladesh for internet connectivity at reduced fees, Momen said.

Like her previous meetings, Hasina will raise these matters in her talks with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in Dhaka on March 27, he said.

Bangladesh also agreed to grant Bhutanese students multiple entry visas for up to five years to facilitate their study in Bangladesh, said the minister.

Bhutan’s PM was on a three-day official visit to join the celebrations of the golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence and the birth centenary of the country’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

He addressed a gathering at the national parade ground hosted for the celebrations.

Lotay Tshering also called on president Abdul Hamid at Bangabhaban on Wednesday, when the president said the two countries could explore new areas of cooperation, including, information and communication technology, agriculture, horticulture, tourism and fisheries, to enhance trade and investment.

Bhutan is the first country that recognised independent Bangladesh in December 1971.

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