SL and Bhutan’s first session of Foreign Office Consultations concludes

Tuesday, 17 November 2015 00:55 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The first session of the Foreign Office Consultations between Sri Lanka and Bhutan concluded in Colombo yesterday.  The Bhutan delegation was led by Foreign Secretary Tshering Dorji, while Ministry of Foreign Affairs Secretary Chitranganee Wagiswara 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. It may be recalled that the highlight of the visit was the gift of the Bo Sapling of the Sacred Sri Maha Bodhi in celebration of the 60th Birth Anniversary of the Fourth King of Bhutan.  

Discussions focused on further intensifying bilateral cooperation in the areas of education, health, aviation, tourism, hospitality, trade and economic cooperation, and cultural and 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 programs 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.  

A decision was taken to finalise a bilateral Air Services Agreement at the earliest paving the way for air connectivity between 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.  


The six member Bhutanese delegation included Ambassador of Bhutan to Sri Lanka Pema Choden, Ministry of Education Deputy Chief Program Officer Signye Dorji and senior officials of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Bhutan in Dhaka. Sri Lanka’s delegation included Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medicine Secretary Anura Jayawickrema, Ministry of Buddhasasana Secretary Wasantha Ekanayake, Ministry of University Education and Highways Addl.  Secretary Madhava Dewasurendra, Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation Addl. Secretary R.M.S.P. Ratnayake, Sir John Kotalawela Defence University Vice Chancellor Maj. General Milinda Peiris, as well as senior officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Industry and Commerce and the Sri Lanka Institute for Information and Technology.   Foreign Secretary Tshering Dorji will also call on Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and State Minister of University Education and Highways Mohan Lal Grero, during the visit.