Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday laid emphasis on fully tapping the potentials of bilateral trade and investment between Bangladesh and the Maldives.
“Despite opportunities, we couldn’t yet fully tap the potentials of bilateral trade and investment,” she said while delivering her joint press statement at the Presidential Office in Male.
Hasina also reemphasized the necessity of a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) between the two countries and a bilateral investment protection arrangement for mutual facilitation of investment.
The Prime Minister mentioned that she had a detailed discussion with Maldivian President Solih on promoting bilateral trade, investment, and connectivity.
It is Hasina’s first-ever bilateral visit to the Maldives, though she had come here earlier for the SAARC Summit.
Hasina termed 2021 as a landmark year for Bangladesh-Maldives bilateral relations. “We had the honour of commencing our celebrations of the birth centenary of our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Golden Jubilee of our Independence in March this year with the presence of President Solih in Bangladesh,” she said.
The PM said the Vice President of the Maldives visited Bangladesh in November, followed by bilateral consultations between the two countries. “Earlier in February, we also had the opportunity to welcome your Foreign Minister in Dhaka, and now I am here,” she said.
“We reviewed the progress made so far on our earlier decisions and found the outcome satisfactory. Following the official talks, we witnessed the signing of some bilateral instruments. We also witnessed handing over 13 Military Vehicles by our Government to the Maldives government as a goodwill gesture,” Hasina said.
She mentioned that both agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation, especially in Health, Education, Human Resources Development, Youth and Sports, Fisheries, and Agriculture.
“It is a matter of great satisfaction that Bangladesh has accepted the Maldives' proposal for recruiting health professionals from Bangladesh; vis-s-vis, we’ll create opportunities for specialised postgraduate medical courses for Maldivian students.”
Both the leaders noted with satisfaction that the direct air connectivity between Bangladesh and Maldives has been enhanced through the commencement of flights by Bangladeshi airlines US-Bangla.
“Our national carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines, is also thinking of introducing flights on Dhaka-Male route. With direct flights, we hope, people-to-people contacts and exchange of tourism will be increased,” she said, adding both the countries also reviewed the possibility of establishing a direct shipping line.
The Prime Minister went on saying, “As the welfare of our own people is one of our priorities, consular and community issues were featured prominently in our discussions. “We also discussed the regularization of undocumented Bangladeshi nationals whose substantial contributions to both economies.”
She mentioned that the Bangladesh government has decided to facilitate visas on arrival for Maldivian nationals in the context of the improved situation of the current Pandemic. “We also discussed our cooperation in multilateral fora, support for each other candidatures, and cooperation in countering terrorism.”
Hasina said they both agreed to work together to face the challenge of climate change and the early repatriation of forcibly displaced Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar.
“As Bangladesh completes its first half-century journey as an independent nation and looks ahead to transforming itself into a modern, prosperous and developed economy by 2041, fulfilling the dream of our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for a 'Golden Bangladesh', we look forward to partnering with the Maldives in the areas of our commonalities for the benefit of our two peoples,” she added.