Mar 20, Colombo: Sri Lanka Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held bilateral talks on Saturday at the Bangladesh Prime Minister’s Office in Dhaka.
The discussions marked by great warmth and cordiality reflecting the excellent bilateral relations and friendship that exist between the two countries focused on taking forward the economic, investment, trade, technology, agriculture and fisheries and political relations.
The two leaders discussed all aspects of Bangladesh-Sri Lanka relations and also discussed contemporary international and regional issues of common interest. They recalled the shared bonds of history, tradition, culture and multitude of other commonalities 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.
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 Mahinda Rajapaksa thanked Prime Minister 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 organizations. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa expressed the hope that Bangladesh will continue to stand in solidarity with Sri Lanka at the ongoing 46th Session of the UNHRC in Geneva.
The two Prime Ministers emphasized the need for enhanced interaction and increased high-level exchanges including at the level of parliamentarians. Referring to the formation of the Bangladesh-Sri Lanka Parliamentary Friendship Association, the two leaders agreed to revive the Association with newly elected MPs and encouraged the legislators to play catalytic role in deepening relations between the two countries.
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 / 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. Bangladesh side would forward a draft of an MoU in this regard at the earliest.
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.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that Sri Lankan students have the opportunity to study in Bangladeshi universities and invited Sri Lankan students to come to Bangladesh for higher education.
The two delegations also discussed the expansion of air services between the two countries and the promotion of tourism and trade.
Bangladesh agreed to provide with rice varieties suitable for the climate of Sri Lanka and to assist Sri Lanka in developing the country’s freshwater fisheries industry.
The two leaders also discussed ways to enhance the technical cooperation between the Central Banks of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Both countries agreed on measures to eradicate terrorism and curb human trafficking.
Following the bilateral discussions, six Memorandums of Understanding were signed between the two countries for strengthening youth development, agricultural research, exchange of professional knowledge, training of health nursing staff, international collaboration study and an interchange cultural program for 2021-2025.
The two leaders expressed their deep satisfaction at the signing / renewal of the following bilateral instruments:
a. Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh on Cooperation for Strengthening Youth Development.
b. Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Sri Lanka Council for Agricultural Research Policy and Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council.
c. Memorandum of Understanding between the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC) of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and the Directorate of Technical Education (DTE), Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh on Exchange of Documentation on Vocational Qualification.
d. Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh for Co-operation of Training of Bangladesh Nurses and Healthcare Workers in Sri Lanka.
e. Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Cooperation between Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies and Bangladesh Institute of International & Strategic Studies.
f. Cultural Exchange Programme between the Government of the People Republic of Bangladesh and the Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka for the Years 2021-2025.
The two leaders also directed the relevant offices of both sides to take immediate steps for due implementation and follow up on all bilateral instruments signed between the two countries.
Prime Minister Mahinda 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.