The 8th round of Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) between Bangladesh and Myanmar has been held this morning in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dhaka. Foreign Secretary Mr. Md. Shahidul Haque led a 14 member Bangladesh delegation to the consultations, while his counterpart Deputy Foreign Minister of Myanmar, H.E. U Thant Kyaw led a 7 member Myanmar delegation.
Understanding the utmost importance of having the best of neighbourly relations, Bangladesh and Myanmar pledged to begin a new era of partnership based on trust and confidence for stronger economic ties and stability along the common borders. These were categorically stated by both delegations, which reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral political, economic and security cooperation between the two countries.
Bangladesh side proposed to form a Joint Committee to exclusively deal with the issues of repatriation of refugees and undocumented Myanmar nationals in Bangladesh. Myanmar side agreed to start working of the formation of a Committee within two months for the repatriation of the already verified Myanmar refugees and their offspring.
The two sides agreed to address jointly and comprehensively the entire range of trans-boundary crimes, including illegal trafficking in persons, narcotic drugs and arms. Both the governments assured upholding of their policy of ‘zero tolerance’ against the use of their respective territories by any person or group for subversive activities against the other. The two sides also agreed to intensify regular interactions between the two border forces as well as civil administrations of the bordering districts of Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Bangladesh side broached the idea of such an arrangement on trust and cooperation between the Government of Bangladesh & Myanmar. Bangladesh side underscored the need for an umbrella framework to address multilayered, multi-dimensional relations. Two sides agreed to remain engaged at various levels among the Ministries of Home Affairs to address issues related to drug traffiquing, human traffiquing , arms and other transnational crimes.
Both the countries also acknowledged the importance of multi-modal physical connectivity among them. Bangladesh proposed to explore all possible options for connectivity between the two countries. Myanmar side expressed its willingness to consider them. On the establishment of direct coastal shipping link, the two sides agreed to conclude the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) at the earliest. The meeting made an announcement for renewal of the Cultural Agreement for five years which expired in 2012. Both sides appreciated the present level of defence cooperation between the two armed forces and expressed their commitment to enhance collaboration in allied sectors.
It was decided that, two separate joint working groups would be formed to address Agriculture and ‘fisheries and livestock’ issues. Two expert teams from Myanmar would soon visit Bangladesh to explore collaboration. The meeting also discussed about cooperation under the regional framework like BIMSTEC and BCIM. The two sides agreed to hold the first round of the meeting of Joint Commission at the level of Foreign Ministers in Dhaka in early 2015. During that visit, pending agreement on Promotion and Protection of Reciprocal Investment and Supplementary protocol to the Agreement (1966) demarcating the fixed boundary in the Naaf River are expected to be signed.
The meeting ended in a high note of optimism with common resolve to take the relations to a newer height. The meeting also decided to hold the next round of FOC in Myanmar at a mutually convenient time.
Myanmar Deputy Foreign Minister later paid a courtesy call on the Hon’ble Foreign Minister Mr. Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, MP at latter’s office. Expressing his deep satisfaction over a successful conclusion of the 8th FOC, the Foreign Minister recalled his recent visit to Myanmar on the occasion of the ASEAN Regional Forum ( ARF) and opined that, it is high time that the existing bilateral relations between two friendly neighbours would be taken to a new height in both depth and dimensions. Foreign Minister Ali reiterated his invitation to the Foreign Minister of Myanmar to visit Bangladesh.