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Terrorism: Dhaka, Colombo to work together to address challenges in region, beyond

Recognising the threats to pluralistic societies arising from terrorism, violent extremism and radicalisation, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have pledged to work together to counteract such challenges in both the countries, the region and beyond.

To facilitate bilateral cooperation in addressing these complex, shared security challenges, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa agreed to work towards setting up a joint institutional mechanism.

Bangladesh Prime Minister offered to share Bangladesh’s experience in countering terrorism and violent extremism through a ‘whole-of-society’ approach, according to the joint communique issued on Saturday on the state visit of Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa thanked his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina and the government of Bangladesh for their steadfast support in combating terrorism in Sri Lanka, and in this context, for extending support to Sri Lanka at international fora, including the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and other United Nations bodies and international organisations.

He expressed the hope that Bangladesh will continue to stand in solidarity with Sri Lanka at the ongoing 46th Session of the UNHRC in Geneva.

Both the leaders emphasised 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/Work Plans as an important catalyst for further enhancing the overall bilateral relations.

They 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 overviewing the bilateral relations between the two countries.

The Bangladesh side would forward a draft of an MoU in this regard at the earliest.

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

Multilateralism

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.

They further agreed to share respective knowledge, ideas, innovation to effectively realise the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development and the SDGs.

The two leaders underlined the need for a prosperous, peaceful, stable, inclusive and sustainable South Asian region.

They agreed to deepen cooperation in various sub-regional and regional cooperation mechanisms; and 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.

Coastal Shipping Deal

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.

They also instructed for holding the next meetings of the JWG on Shipping and Shipping Secretary level talks at an early date to iron out the pending issues.

Given both the countries’ experiences in apparel industries, the two leaders stressed 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.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister thanked Bangladesh for hosting a sizable presence of Sri Lankan workers and professionals across manufacturing and service sectors making it one of the largest such presence of Sri Lankan professionals in the region.

The two leaders agreed to work towards facilitating easy movement for the nationals of both countries.

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

Both sides agreed to facilitate mutually beneficial investments in respective Special Economic Zones, Industrial Parks, Hi-Tech Parks, etc. by utilising the Memorandum of Understanding between the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) and the Board of Investment (BoI), Sri Lanka.

The two leaders agreed to request their respective central banks and other financial institutions to cooperate closely in investments, SWAPs and technical issues.

Maritime Affairs

Recognising 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.

The Bangladesh side expressed interest in obtaining support from Sri Lanka in deep sea fishing. The Bangladesh Prime Minister appreciated Sri Lanka’s leadership role in the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).

The Sri Lankan Prime Minister congratulated Bangladesh on taking over the chairmanship of IORA for the term 2021-2023.

Recognising 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.

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

They stressed the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding to foster comprehensive cooperation in agriculture through collaboration in agro-processing, agro-business, technological innovation, supply chain development involving private sector of the two countries in beneficial manner.

The 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.

The two leaders agreed to work together at the CVF for addressing the common challenges of climate vulnerabilities of both the countries.

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

Acknowledging the growing interaction among the peoples of the two countries, the two leaders agreed to deepen people-to-people contact and cultural exchange, particularly by utilising the Cultural Exchange Programme.

Noting the significant potential in tourism particularly regional tourism, the two leaders agreed to work for concluding an MoU on cooperation in tourism involving tour operators and other related hospitality sector stakeholders of the two countries and with special focus on joint investment in tourism, marketing and promotional activities, Buddhist circuit and private sectors.

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

They 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.

Covid-19 Management

Prime Minister Mahinda 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 Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa for his exemplary leadership in successfully dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic in Sri Lanka.

Both the leaders appreciated the consular and repatriation services extended to each other’s nationals during the pandemic.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina appreciated Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s pro-people leadership, initiatives to develop infrastructure and the vision to accomplish equitable socio-economic development of Sri Lanka.

She also appreciated his government’s efforts towards national unity, reconciliation and development. Both the leaders appreciated the institutionalisation of democracy in their respective countries.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa commended the tremendous socio-economic development in Bangladesh over the last decade and Bangladesh’s accomplishments in food self-sufficiency, poverty eradication, energy generation, agriculture, rural development, industrialisation, service sector, ICT, digitalisation, disaster management, women empowerment, climate change adaptation, infrastructure development, education, etc. under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

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

He recognised Bangladesh’s global leadership in development and contributions to promoting peace, security and stability in the world.

He also congratulated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for leading the country towards graduation from LDC to a developing economy despite the challenges of the global pandemic.

The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka appreciated the 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 the 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 neighbouring countries, Sri Lanka is committed to working in cooperation with UNHCR to address issues of concerns at all times, while abiding by all the approved legal frameworks and prescribed procedures.

Bangladesh Prime Minister requested the Sri Lankan Prime Minister to support Bangladesh in resolving the Rohingya crisis.

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.

Sheikh Hasina accepted the invitation and expressed her willingness to join the celebrations if the situation permits.

Source: United News of Bangladesh