'Nepal has an increasing trade deficit with Bangladesh. We need to minimize the trade deficit in order to make trade beneficial for both the countries'
Nepali President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Monday said connectivity is essential for smoother and wider interactions and engagements between Bangladesh and Nepal.
"Connectivity can be improved and the cost of transport and trade can be reduced," she said.
The Nepalese President was addressing as guest of honour on the theme of "Nepal-Bangladesh Relations and Bangabandhu's Birth Centenary" at a program at the National Parade Ground in Dhaka.
President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina were also present at the celebrations, marking the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and 50 years of Bangladesh's independence.
The volume of bilateral trade between the two countries is now moderate with enough scopes for its expansion, she said.
"Nepal has an increasing trade deficit with Bangladesh. We need to minimize the trade deficit in order to make trade beneficial for both the countries," said the Nepali president.
Elimination of trade barriers, development of infrastructure, and easy market access could significantly boost the trade relationship, she said.
Energy is another important area for the expansion of cooperation between our two countries.
"The two countries have already signed an MoU on cooperation in power. Nepal's hydropower and Bangladesh's natural gas can be the game-changers for our development needs. For our energy trade, it’s imperative to strengthen trilateral cooperation among Nepal, Bangladesh, and India," said Bidya.
With a view to enhancing the connectivity networks, the Nepali president said the two countries can add more flights to the existing Kathmandu-Dhaka sector and also connect by air major regional cities like Syedpur of Bangladesh and Biratnagar of Nepal.
Likewise, linkages of Nepal's rivers with that of India and Bangladesh will help develop waterways, Bidya said.
Upgrading of roadways and development of railways and their linkages can also contribute meaningfully to this process, said the Nepali President.
'I'm happy to state that the process of including Rohanpur as a “Port of Call” for promoting bilateral trade through railway transit is moving ahead," she said.
Bidya Devi said Nepal and Bangladesh are rich countries in terms of natural and human resources, history, civilization, culture, and so on.
Proper utilization of these valuable resources will be catalytic in transforming our development landscape, creating prosperity and happiness for our peoples, she said.
"We’ve been cooperating to enhance trade, transit, energy, connectivity, tourism, education, culture, and people-to people relations," she added.
The two countries are actively engaged in promoting common interest at multilateral forums through mutual support and cooperation. "We need to advance our partnership in these areas," President Bidya said.
Given the natural beauty, rich historical and archaeological sites and cultural heritages of the two countries, both Nepal and Bangladesh can enormously benefit from the expansion of mutual cooperation in the tourism sector, she said.
"Bangladeshi tourists can relish Nepal's snow-capped mountains, lush green valleys, rich biodiversity, and the visit of important historical, archaeological and cultural sites. Likewise, Nepali tourists can visit beautiful sea beaches, mangrove forest, and cultural and historical sites of Bangladesh," said Bidya.
Currently, a significant number of Nepali students have been pursuing higher education in Bangladesh, especially in the medical and engineering fields.
Similarly, Bangladeshi students are studying in Nepal in Buddhism, pharmacy, and other fields.
"Enhancement of quality education, including providing required support to the students, will help further expand bilateral cooperation in this sector," she said.
Both Nepal and Bangladesh have been adversely affected by the impacts of climate change.
The highlands of Nepal and the lowlands of Bangladesh have been bearing the huge brunt of the climate crisis without being a cause for it.
"Nepal's Himalayan ice is getting melted and the sea level of the Bay of Bengal is rising. It has resulted in environmental catastrophes like floods and droughts, with erratic climate. In order to address this problem, we need to strengthen bilateral cooperation, including mobilizing international support," President Bidya said.
Nepal 7th country to recognize Bangladesh
Nepal was the seventh country to recognize Bangladesh.
Bangabandhu also expanded the reach of Bangladesh to the international community during his short period of leadership of the country after independence, said the president.
As the president of Nepal, it is her first visit to Bangladesh which she termed a beautiful country.
"On my private visit, I have already been here before. During this period, I have found a lot of progress taking place in Bangladesh in terms of economic activities, development works and the enhancement of the people's living standard," she said.
In recent years, the president said, Bangladesh has successfully lifted a large population out of poverty through rapid economic growth and this trend is ongoing.
"I feel happy to witness these positive changes taking place in our friendly country and the life of its people," she said.
For a long time, Nepal and Bangladesh have continued to enjoy close, friendly and cooperative relationships.
"Geographically, our two countries are only a short distance away from each other. This geographical proximity, similar culture, tradition, mutual support and goodwill have firmly knotted the bilateral ties," she said.
Nepal-Bangladesh relations have continued to grow ever since the establishment of the diplomatic relations on April 8, 1972.
The Nepali president said exchange of high-level visits has contributed to elevate the bilateral relationship to a new height.
"President Hamid had visited Nepal in November 2019 and now I am here. Exchange of visits both at government and people's levels has significantly been increased," she said.
"I’m very happy to know about the rapid development taking place in Bangladesh in accordance with Bangabandhu's vision of Sonar Bangla (Golden Bangladesh). As a close friend, Nepal would like to see continued economic progress and development of Bangladesh," she said.