Sri Lanka and Bhutan have decided to finalize a bilateral Air Services Agreement at the earliest paving the way for air connectivity between the two countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said this week. The decision was taken at the first session of the Foreign Office Consultations between Sri Lanka and Bhutan concluded in Colombo this week.
The Bhutan delegation was led by Tshering Dorji, Foreign Secretary, while Ms. Chitranganee Wagiswara, Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs led the Sri Lanka delegation. The Consultations were convened following the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding signed during the visit of the Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay in April 2015.
A six member Bhutanese delegation which included Ambassador of Bhutan to Sri Lanka Pema Choden, Signye Dorji, Deputy Chief Programme Officer of the Ministry of Education and senior officials of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Bhutan in Dhaka. Sri Lanka’s delegation included Anura Jayawickrema, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medicine, Wasantha Ekanayake, Secretary, Ministry of Buddhasasana, Madhava Dewasurendra, Addl. Secretary, Ministry of University Education and Highways, R.M.S.P. Ratnayake, Addl. Secretary, Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, Maj. General Milinda Peiris, Vice Chancellor of Sir John Kotalawela Defence University, as well as senior officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Industry and Commerce and the Sri Lanka Institute for Information & Technology.
The discussions focused on further intensifying bilateral cooperation in the areas of Education, Health, Aviation, Tourism, Hospitality, Trade & Economic Cooperation, and Cultural & Religious Cooperation. The field of education was extensively reviewed, and it was agreed to provide more opportunities for Bhutanese students to pursue educational and professional development and training at various higher education and technical institutions in Sri Lanka. Currently around 200 Bhutanese students pursue the MBBS and other programmes in Sri Lanka.
The parties also agreed on the need to explore opportunities to enhance trade and economic cooperation. Both sides agreed to work within the existing regional framework of SAARC such as SAFTA and SATIS as well as BIMSTEC and to establish stronger links between Chambers of Commerce of Sri Lanka and Bhutan.
It was also agreed to deepen cooperation in the field of health. Sri Lankan doctors and academics in the Medical education were invited to work in Bhutan while the Bhutanese side requested to explore the possibility of Post-graduate training for Bhutanese doctors in Sri Lanka. Matters pertaining to the regional and international cooperation, including SAARC and BIMSTEC, were also extensively reviewed.