The Bhutanese King’s Visit to Bangladesh: Paving the Way for Strong Economic Cooperation Between Two Nations

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The recent visit of the Bhutanese King to Bangladesh highlights the strong and lasting friendship between these two nations. For more than 50 years, these nations have cultivated a unique bond, based on mutual esteem and historical importance. Bhutan has the unique distinction of being the first country to officially recognize Bangladesh as an independent nation. Since then, Bhutan, a country nestled in the majestic Himalayas, and Bangladesh, a land blessed with numerous rivers that flow through its plains merge into a unique nature of friendship. Now, with both nations commemorating the ongoing bond between them, the recent royal visit has brought a fresh perspective to their bilateral relations. With its profound impact, the visit has forged new avenues for collaboration across various sectors, laying the foundation for unparalleled economic growth between Bangladesh and Bhutan.

Fostering Diplomatic and Developmental Bonds: Bhutanese King’s Visit to Bangladesh

The recent four-day visit of Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck to Bangladesh marks a significant milestone, being the first state visit by a foreign dignitary following Bangladesh’s recent elections. This visit serves as a poignant reaffirmation of the enduring bonds of goodwill and friendship that have bound these nations together for years.

Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Bangladesh and Bhutan 2024 

Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) Sectors/Description
Establishment of Special Economic Zone in Kurigram This MoU aims to facilitate the establishment of a special economic zone in Kurigram, Bangladesh, which will provide opportunities for investment and economic development.

Setting up Burn and Plastic Surgery Unit in Thimphu This MoU focuses on establishing a burn and plastic surgery unit in Thimphu, Bhutan, aimed at enhancing healthcare services and facilities in the region.
Technical Cooperation on Consumer Rights This MoU involves technical cooperation between Bangladesh and Bhutan on consumer rights, aiming to strengthen consumer protection mechanisms and promote fair trade practices.
Renewal of MoU on Cultural Exchange This MoU involves the renewal of an existing agreement on cultural exchange between Bangladesh and Bhutan, promoting mutual understanding and appreciation of each other’s cultural heritage.

A standout outcome of the visit is the strengthening of bilateral relations through strategic cooperation agreements. Both nations have pledged to enhance their diplomatic ties by focusing on skill development in Foreign Service. Bangladesh’s initiative to offer training opportunities for Bhutanese diplomats underscores its commitment to grooming future diplomatic leaders, fostering mutual understanding, and fortifying regional cooperation. Moreover, Bangladesh’s offer of specialized training in agricultural research underscores a mutual dedication to advancing sustainable development and ensuring food security. Through such endeavors, Bhutan stands to gain from Bangladesh’s expertise, fostering a culture of collaboration and knowledge exchange.

Furthermore, both parties have recognized the potential for collaboration post-Bhutan’s graduation from the Least Developed Country (LDC) status. They acknowledge the need to address challenges and maximize benefits for their respective populations. Bhutan’s potential to generate a remarkable 25,000 megawatts of hydropower, coupled with Bangladesh’s plan to construct a burn unit in Thimphu.

King Jigme’s visit has brought new energy to the economic relations between Bangladesh and Bhutan

Economic Dynamics: Bhutan-Bangladesh Trade Relations

Over the past decade, Bhutan and Bangladesh have fostered a robust trade partnership, yielding consistent growth and reciprocal advantages. Commencing with modest exports from Bangladesh to Bhutan in the fiscal year 2015-2016, bilateral trade has witnessed a substantial surge. Notably, Bangladeshi exports to Bhutan have demonstrated remarkable expansion, with demand for Bangladeshi goods in the Bhutanese market reaching its pinnacle at 22.1 million USD in the fiscal year 2022-2023. Conversely, imports from Bhutan to Bangladesh have shown fluctuations over time, peaking in the fiscal year 2019-2020. Intriguingly, Bangladesh emerges as a pivotal export destination for Bhutan, securing second place after India. Bangladesh has consistently maintained a trade surplus with Bhutan, underscoring its competitive edge and the superior quality of its exports. This surplus signifies a positive trade relationship, with Bangladesh reaping the benefits of exporting diverse goods to Bhutan. The substantial value of exports from Bhutan to Bangladesh underscores Bangladesh’s significance as an export market for Bhutanese goods. This highlights the mutually beneficial trade relationship between the two nations, as Bhutan leverages Bangladesh’s market access to broaden its export base and enhance its economic prospects.

Financial Year Export to Bhutan (in Million USD) Import from Bhutan (in Million USD)
2022-2023 9.67 36.49
2021-2022 9.55 30.66
2020-2021 6.89 38.25
2019-2020 4.36 40.90
2018-2019 7.56 49.90
2017-2018 4.38 32.30
2016-2017 3.21 33.13
2015-2016 4.74 21.60

Bhutan’s Top Import Market 2023 

Rank Country Value In Nu.
1 India 85,137,698,666
2 China 6,882,315,888
3 Singapore 5,513,307,927
4 Thailand 1,767,096,886
5 Hong Kong 1,603,265,869

Bhutan’s Top Export Market 2023 

Rank Country Value In Nu.
1 India 27,913,238,633
2 Bangladesh 5,029,419,097
3 Italy 1,525,370,367
4 Nepal 714,380,529
5 China 297,588,514

The evolving trade relationship between Bangladesh and Bhutan underscores the robust economic partnership between the two nations and the promising prospects for future collaboration. As both countries explore avenues for trade cooperation and investment, there exists significant potential to fortify bilateral ties and unearth new avenues for economic growth. With a foundation grounded in trust, mutual respect, and shared objectives, Bangladesh and Bhutan are well-equipped to navigate the evolving global economic landscape together, fostering prosperity and advancement for their respective nations.

Bridging Borders: Bangladesh-Bhutan Relations Pave The Way for Regional Economic Connectivity  

In a bid to bolster economic collaboration amidst global uncertainties, the recent visit of Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck to Bangladesh has sparked optimism for enhanced regional economic connectivity. This visit is viewed as a pivotal step towards fortifying economic relations, not only between the two nations but also within the broader South Asian region. Against the backdrop of prevailing economic challenges, the royal visit symbolizes a renewed commitment to cooperation, offering a pathway towards mutual growth and resilience.

Furthermore, it has laid the groundwork for increased regional cooperation, particularly through initiatives like the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) corridor, which holds immense potential for facilitating smoother trade and investment flows across borders. Of significant note is the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Bangladesh, specifically tailored to attract Bhutanese investors.

These zones serve as focal points for innovation and competitiveness, fostering the exchange of goods and services while enhancing market accessibility, thus fueling economic expansion. Moreover, collaborative efforts between Bangladesh and Bhutan aimed at diversifying export portfolios and tapping into emerging markets present untapped economic opportunities for both nations. These agreements not only streamline transportation of goods but also foster economic cooperation, laying the groundwork for regional economic integration

To summarize, King Jigme’s visit has brought new energy to the economic relations between Bangladesh and Bhutan, providing a ray of hope during difficult times. Through the power of their shared dreams and a commitment to working together, both nations have the opportunity to connect across borders, drive economic development, and create a stronger and more prosperous future for the entire region.

– S. M. Saifee Islam is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

Published in Dhaka Tribune [Link]