President Mahinda Rajapaksa unveils the commemoration plaque after laying the foundation stone for the International Buddhist Centre in Merul Badda Temple, Dhaka yesterday.
By Sandun A. Jayasekera in Dhaka
Sri Lanka and Bangladesh signed five Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) following the official talks between visiting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed at the latter’s office — the highlight of the three day state visit of the Sri Lankan leader.
The MoUs, signed by Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L.Peiris and the Bangladesh ministers responsible for the respective subjects had focused on mutual cooperation to develop and expand trade, agriculture, vocational training, education, science and culture of the two countries.
The cooperation included that between the Export Development Board of Sri Lanka and the Export Promotion Bureau of Bangladesh, the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Ministry of Sri Lanka and the Fisheries and Livestock Ministry of Bangladesh and the Agriculture Research Council of Bangladesh and the Agrarian Research Institute of Sri Lanka.
There will be further cooperation on and expansion of Tertiary Education and Vocational Training and exchange of students between the two countries on the strength of another MoU signed yesterday.
During their official talks the two leaders exchanged views on international, bilateral and regional issues that affect the global community, and the common interests that manifest the excellent relations between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
President Rajapaksa emphasised the strengthening exchange of visits — including science, education and business delegations.
The two leaders agreed to work in tandem towards transforming their respective countries into middle income nations by 2016.
President Rajapaksa sought the support of Bangladesh to establish the BIMSTEC Secretariat in Colombo. Prime Minister Hasina informed him that arrangements would be made for an exposition of the Chittagong Hair Relics of the Buddha in Sri Lanka when Sambudhatwa Jayanthi is celebrated this year and also to establish a Bangladesh Buddhist Museum at Sri Dalada Maligawa, Kandy.
Prime Minister Hasina said trade links should be boosted further, with the creation of direct maritime and air links with Sri Lanka to uncap the trade potential between the two countries –especially through a Colombo – Dhaka air link and a Hambantota – Colombo — Chittagong maritime linkage.
The two, leaders discussed the issue of terrorism and measures to counter it, food security and cooperation in the shipping sector. President Rajapaksa drew the attention of Prime Minister Hasina to the benefits Bangladesh could have when Bangladesh uses Hambantota port for its commercial naval facilities and transshipment, as the use of Chittagong port for these purposes had proved expensive and less productive. The two leaders also agreed to establish air links between the two countries.
“President Rajapaksa assured to Prime Minister Hasina that his country would consider Bangladesh’s candidature as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Meanwhile, Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga said that new vistas for further cooperation in traditional fields and new frontiers had been opened and it was up to the people of the two countries to harvest the benefits. Mihin Air would start flights to Dhaka shortly, bringing the two countries closer, Mr. Weeratunga added.