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Nepal and Bangladesh - Strong relationship

By Kamala Sarup

Friday, 8 April 2005

Bangladesh and Nepal are close and friendly neighbors, and that the two countries have forged a relationship of mutual respect and trust, equality and cooperation. Nepal's relations with Bangladesh improved when an anti-Indian faction seized power in Dhaka in August 1975.

The turning point in Nepal-Bangladesh relations, however, occurred in April 1976 when the two countries signed four agreements relating to trade, transit, civil aviation, and technical cooperation. They also jointly issued a communication on maintaining close cooperation in the fields of power generation and the development of water resources.

Even Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia recently expressed the hope that India would facilitate the existing trade arrangement between Bangladesh and Nepal for its expansion through the "Banglabandha" land port. Bangladesh and Nepal agreed to facilitate land transit between the two countries. The transit agreement exempted all traffic-in-transit from transit duties or other charges.

Six points of entry and exit for the movement of Nepalese traffic-in-transit through Bangladesh's ports and territory were designated. In 1986 Nepal was also gratified when Bangladesh wanted to involve Nepal in the issue of distribution and utilization of water from the Ganges River. Nepal will not allow any anti-Bangladesh activity on its territory.

Bangladesh and Nepal, with different conditions, social systems and historical and cultural backgrounds, have witnessed sound and smooth progress of their bilateral relations. Bangladesh-Nepalese bilateral relations, featuring equal and sincere treatment, mutual support and friendship for generations, can be an example for relations between two countries.

Nepal will be Bangladesh’s reliable friend, neighbor and partner despite changes in international and regional situations. Nepal also hopes to continuously enhance people-to-people contacts and expand cooperative spheres with Bangladesh. Bangladesh has already enabled offer made to Nepal for using the Mongla port will definitely create a new opportunity for more economic interactions between Bangladesh and Nepal.

Bangladesh Ambassador H. M. Humayun Kabir recently gave a brief outline in Kathmandu about the bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Nepal and underscored the need for more creative and courageous steps to protect and promote the interest of smaller economies in the context of fast changing global structure.

Recently Ambassador of Bangladesh, Nepal H. M. Humayun Kabir said “Despite excellent bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Nepal, one is struck by the fact that over the years our economic relations remained at a less than desirable level. Consistent with the priority set for economic diplomacy by the Government of Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia, our effort over the last one- year has been to modify the direction and introduce new dynamism in our economic relations.

He further added "There are other relevant factors why Nepal should benefit from doing business with Bangladesh. I would mention four of them. First, proximity is an important factor to promote bilateral trade and other economic interactions between Bangladesh and Nepal. It reduces cost of transaction and consolidates bilateral relations. Second element is the complementarily of our economies, which should be explored effectively for our mutual benefit.

Thirdly, we face similar development challenges and we can learn from each other to utilize trade and other economic tools to address needs of our common people. Lastly, we have now an information infrastructure in place to facilitate easy flow of business information between Bangladesh and Nepal. We are in constant touch with Chambers in Kathmandu; we have opened a Bangladesh Business Information Desk at Birgunj Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

We shall soon set up a Bangladesh Business Information Centre at Morang Chamber of Commerce and Industry. With all these interactions, we do hope that bilateral business will pick up.

"In addition, economies are changing fast as well. Globalization and regionalization supported by revolution in technology have changed economic landscape and this inexorable process affects all of us. Trade alone may prove inadequate tool for ensuring progress and redressing inequality unless it is backed up by matching investment, transfer of technology and unhindered market access for products.

We would therefore urge Nepalese business community that while they explore business opportunities in Bangladesh they should not miss out on excellent investment opportunities there, which could multiply benefits. Bangladesh is a good investment venue, with variety of sectors to invest, such as cement, ceramics, electronics, electrical items, pharmaceuticals, fertilizer, food processing and garments, among others.

Export Processing Zones in Bangladesh are success stories". He further said "Tourism itself has emerges as a good business opportunity, indeed it is one of the fastest growing sector of economy in many countries, including in Nepal. Bangladesh is interested to work with Nepal in promoting bilateral and regional tourism. We do hope additional air services that may commence soon between Dhaka and Kathmandu will accelerate the process of cooperation in this regard.

Dhaka-Kathmandu Bus service may also positively contribute to this process. We hope that tour operators in Nepal will be able to work out some business deals with Bangladesh tour operators during the fair.

A fair amount of educational cooperation already exists between Bangladesh and Nepal and we want to expand it. It is our hope that private universities in Bangladesh, which now number more than 55, will be able to assist in this process".

He said. In fact, both Nepal and Bangladesh have worked closely together, be it in the SAARC forum or the non-aligned movement or the United Nations. Relations between Nepal and Bangladesh have been traditionally close and have reflected the links of history. Nepal continues to maintain very close and friendly relations with Bangladesh, which is an important maritime neighbor.

Kamal Siddiqui, Principal Secretary of Bangladesh's Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia and Co-convener of South Asian Commission for Poverty Alleviation, is a renowned economist of the region, recently said "I believe that there are many items, which can be traded between the two countries and to the mutual benefits of the two countries. Now we have got SAFTA framework and we have also bilateral framework.

We should develop lines of common interests between the two countries. Our Prime Minister Khaleda Zia is always committed for the better and friendly relations with Nepal. She is willing to support brotherly country Nepal in providing access to Chittagong and Mongla port. Our government is totally committed to improve the economic relations between the two countries and particularly in the field of trade. We have the best of relationship and it will improve further".

Commerce Minister Air Vice Marshal (retd) Altaf Hossain Chowdhury also recently said in Kathmandu "Nepal-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NBCCI) would act as a veritable bridge to deepen the understanding and increase interaction between the business communities of both the countries."The Government of Bangladesh encourages formation of such professional bodies and the message of Bangladesh' Prime Minister on this occasion demonstrates the clear commitment of her own and her government," he said. S.M. Shafiuzzaman, managing director of Hudson Pharmaceuticals and president of Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries, said that he was encouraged by the potentials of supplying quality drugs at reasonable price to Nepal.

"The two countries are very close and have brotherly relations. If we join hands, business for both can flourish," he said.

Nepal's relationship with Bangladesh is unique. Since the very beginning of the establishment of diplomatic relations, Bangladesh-Nepal relations were characterized by ties at the people's level. The relations have improved and the major stake in the relation lies in strengthening the border areas and in improving people-to-people contact and furthering economic relations and trade.