Bangladesh-Sri Lanka reiterates strengthen ties with pragmatic approach

Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have reiterated their firm conviction to further strengthen the bilateral relations with a pragmatic and mature approach based on sovereignty, equality, friendship, trust and understanding for the mutual benefit of the people of the two countries.

Recognizing the threats to pluralistic societies arising from terrorism, violent extremism and radicalization, the two countries pledged to work together to counteract such challenges in both countries, the region and beyond.

This was stated while Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held bilateral talks with her visiting Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa today, said a joint communiqué released by the foreign ministry.

“The two leaders discussed all aspects of Bangladesh-Sri Lanka relations and also discussed contemporary international and regional issues of common interest,” said the joint communiqué marking the State Visit of Mahinda Rajapaksa.

At the invitation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Sri Lankan premier Mahinda Rajapaksa paid a State Visit to Bangladesh on March 19-20 to participate in the celebration marking the Birth Centenary of Bangladesh’s Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Golden Jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence.

The state visit signifies the fact that this is the first overseas visit undertaken by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa after assuming the premiership in August 2020.

Rajapaksa was accompanied by a high-level delegation comprising Minister of Education, State Minister for Regional Cooperation, State Minister of Money and Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, State Minister of Batik, Handloom Fabric and Local Apparel Products and State Minister of Rural Housing and Construction and Building Material Industries, Secretary to the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and senior government officials of Sri Lanka.

The joint communiqué said during the bilateral talks Rajapaksa appreciated the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for the effective handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Bangladesh.

He thanked for her government’s support of Covid-19 related medical accessories to Sri Lanka under the ‘SAARC Covid-19 Emergency Fund’. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also lauded her Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa for his exemplary leadership in successfully dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic in Sri Lanka.

Rajapaksa commended the tremendous socio-economic development in Bangladesh over the last decade under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

He also commended Bangladesh’s impressive economic growth even amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

He recognized Bangladesh’s global leadership in development and contribution to promoting peace, security and stability in the world while congratulating Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for leading the country towards graduation from LDC to a developing economy despite the challenges of the global pandemic.

The Sri Lankan premier thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Bangladesh government for their steadfast support in combating terrorism in Sri Lanka, and extending support to Colombo at international fora, including the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and other United Nations bodies and international organizations.

Rajapaksa appreciated Prime Minister of Bangladesh for her generosity in sheltering and providing humanitarian assistance to the 1.1 million forcibly displaced Rohingyas from the Rakhine State.

Both Prime Ministers reiterated the importance of the voluntary, safe, speedy, dignified and sustainable return of Rohingyas to their homeland.

While Sri Lanka provides home for displaced people in neighboring countries, Sri Lanka is committed to work in cooperation with UNHCR to address issues of concerns at all times, while abiding by all the approved legal frameworks and prescribed procedures.

Sheikh Hasina requested her Sri Lankan counterpart to support Bangladesh in resolving the Rohingya crisis.

The two leaders agreed to work towards setting up a joint institutional mechanism to facilitate bilateral cooperation in addressing radicalization, terrorism and shared security challenges,

“Bangladesh Prime Minister offered to share Bangladesh’s experience in countering terrorism and violent extremism through a ‘whole-of-society’ approach,” said the joint communiqué.

The two Prime Ministers emphasized the need for enhanced interaction and increased high-level exchanges including at the level of parliamentarians.

Both the leaders emphasized on reinvigorating the existing institutional mechanisms between the two countries including the Foreign Office Consultations (FoC), Joint Economic Commission (JEC), sectoral Joint Working Groups (JWGs), Joint Programmes or Work Plans as an important catalyst for further enhancing the overall bilateral relations.

In this context, the two leaders agreed to establish a Joint Consultative Commission for Comprehensive Cooperation to be headed by the Foreign Ministers of the two countries with a view to regularly overview the bilateral relations between the two countries.

Referring to the MoU on Economic Partnership signed between the two countries in moving towards a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the two leaders reiterated their commitment for an early conclusion of FTA for harnessing the available synergies of bilateral trade which is far below the potential and not commensurate with the political relations.

Meanwhile, as the first step towards FTA they agreed to work for a bilateral Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) beginning with a short list of products which could open up opportunities for an expanded trade, investments and tourism in future.

Noting the potential of mutually beneficial collaboration in Pharmaceutical sector, both Prime Ministers agreed to procure quality pharmaceutical products in greater quantities from Bangladesh and to facilitate, simplify and expedite the registration process for Bangladeshi pharmaceutical products.

The two leaders underlined shipping as one of the key areas with potential for mutually beneficial cooperation which should result in improved connectivity and open up further opportunities for bilateral trade between the two countries and beyond.

Observing that negotiations on the draft Coastal Shipping Agreement and the draft Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on the Feeder Services between Chattogram and Colombo are at an advanced stage, they agreed to conclude these early.

Bangladesh welcomed more Sri Lankan investment in sectors such as textiles, knitwear, linen, leather, pharmaceuticals, agro-based industries and steel & engineering, IT, education, health and hospitality.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister invited the Bangladesh business sector to seek out new opportunities available in Sri Lanka in the sectors of pharmaceutical, value added apparel, food processing, logistics, tourism and IT enable services.

Both leaders encouraged for early conclusion of the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement.

The two leaders recognized the potential for collaborative partnership between the private sectors of the two countries and underlined that investments from both countries could benefit through increased joint ventures, public-private partnerships.

Given both the countries’ experiences in apparel industries, the two leaders stressed on the follow up on the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding between Chattogram BGMEA Institute of Fashion and Technology and Sri Lanka Institute of Textile and Apparel.

In order to reap the benefits of wider economic partnership, the leaders also directed the respective concerned authorities for early conclusion of the agreement on customs cooperation between the two countries.

Referring to the accomplishment of the two countries as top IT services outsourcing destinations in the world, the two leaders agreed to encourage the industries of the two countries to use the respective competitive advantages and expertise in the field to further expand market competitiveness.

Recognizing the potential for cooperation in maritime affairs and blue economy between the two countries, the two leaders agreed to work together to explore new areas and innovative means to tap opportunities in developing the Bay of Bengal into a region of peace, growth and prosperity.

Bangladesh side expressed interest in obtaining support from Sri Lanka in deep sea fishing.

Recognizing the importance of enhanced air connectivity to promote people-to-people contact, tourism and trade, both sides agreed to initiate flight operation by Bangladesh carriers to Colombo at an early date to meet the growing demand of air traffic between the two countries.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister complemented Bangladesh’s advancement in agriculture sector and fresh-water fisheries and expressed interest to benefit from Bangladesh’s experience.

Sri Lanka Prime Minister appreciated Bangladesh’s leadership role in addressing the challenges of climate change as the Chair of the Climate Vulnerable Nations’ Forum (CVF) and invited Bangladesh to join the Colombo Declaration on Sustainable Nitrogen Management which was finalized in October 2019 in Colombo.

Bangladesh offered to share its knowledge, expertise and experience in disaster management and climate change adaptation capabilities with Sri Lanka.

Bangladesh proposed for signing of an MoU on Coastal Cruise Shipping for Tourism between the two countries.

Reiterating their commitment to multilateralism, the two sides acknowledged increased interaction and cooperation between the two countries on contemporary multilateral issues like climate change, disaster management, migration, health, peacekeeping, human trafficking etc. at the UN and other regional and international platforms.

The two leaders agreed to deepen cooperation in various sub-regional and regional cooperation mechanisms; and to work towards focused and result-oriented regional economic cooperation in BIMSTEC, SAARC and IORA.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa conveyed Sri Lanka’s support to the candidate from Bangladesh for the position of Regional Director of the WHO SEARO.

Rajapaksa extended an invitation to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to undertake a state visit to Sri Lanka in 2022 to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina accepted the invitation and expressed her willingness to join the celebration if situation permits.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)