After years of parleys, an estimated 2,415 Rohingya refugees are finally going to be repatriated. A working group will sit in two months to work out a timeline for the repatriation, official sources confirmed.
The trust building consultation between Bangladesh and Myanmar has started to make a thaw, remarked Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque.
The crucial eighth Foreign Office Consultation (FOC) between the two countries was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the capital Dhaka on multi-disciplinary agenda on Sunday.
A seven-member Myanmar delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister, U Thant Kyaw, is now in Dhaka on a five-day official visit.
During the day-long trust building meet on Sunday the 10-member Bangladesh team was led by Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque.
At the talks Bangladesh pressed for immediate repatriation of the 32,000 documented Myanmar nationals (Rohingya) languishing in two camps managed by United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cox's Bazar for more than two decades.
Myanmar officials, after a hectic negotiation, agreed to repatriate 2,415 'verified citizens' only among the total 32,000 Myanmar nationals living in Bangladesh.
Ethnic clashes in Myanmar's Rakhine province forced thousands of Muslim Rohingyas to flee into Bangladesh. This has been one of the main irritants in Dhaka-Naypyidaw relations.
Myanmar does not acknowledge the refugees as their nationals and instead registered them as "Bengali". The meeting focused on the border issues, bilateral trade, coastal shipping, civil aviation, energy exploration, exploiting marine resources, multi-modal connectivity, and natural gas export through pipeline.
Bangladesh made a proposal for a framework arrangement on trust and development between the two neighbouring countries which include nine issues. Security coordination, border management, development, trade and shipping are among such issues, the Foreign Secretary said.
The Myanmar officials expressed the view that they would study the umbrella proposal and would give their feedback soon.
The meeting made a decision to develop a multi-modal connectivity to increase trade, commerce and tourism between two countries.
It resolved on the issues of exchange in knowledge management of agriculture, livestock and fisheries. Cultural exchange and tourism were also discussed, officials said.
Regarding the porous Bangladesh-Myanmar border and border management issues, the meeting discussed Coordinated Border Management Plan (CBMP) and decided to have a land demarcation survey and hold regular border talks to defuse tensions, they added.
Myanmar officials agreed to supply piped natural gas to Bangladesh to vitalise the energy-starved industrial zone in Chittagong. The gas-fields in Arakan province are managed by energy giant Daewoo, a South Korean company.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will meet Myanmar's President Thein Shen on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly at the end of this month in New York.
It is expected that President Shen will also finalise a date for a state visit to Bangladesh.
The next FOC will be held in Myanmar capital Naypyidaw by the middle of next year at the foreign minister level.