Sun, 07 May 2023
As part of Bahrain This Month’s special ‘UK in Bahrain’ feature to celebrate the coronation of HM King Charles III, we sat down with the British Ambassador to Bahrain, His Excellency Roderick Drummond, to discuss this historic event and the state of his current ambassadorial term which will end later this year.
What are your priorities as the British Ambassador to Bahrain?
I believe that I have three significant baskets in which I gather my goals. The first is prosperity; working together on shared relations between Britain and Bahrain. The others are shared security between the two nations and looking after British nationals and the community here. We have a very diverse collaboration with Bahrain and things really are in a very positive space at the moment.
How do you see the current state of relations between the United Kingdom and Bahrain, and what steps are being taken to enhance these relations further?
We have had some very good high level visits recently, such as the visit of the UK Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, for the Manama Dialogue, with more planned in the next couple of months. Chief of these is His Majesty King Hamad attending the coronation of HM King Charles III in early May, for which we’ll also be holding a big celebration here in Bahrain. So, it's going to be a really positive last few months for me in the Kingdom.
King Charles III has visited Bahrain on a number of occasions and has a strong personal relationship with the Kingdom’s top leadership. How do you think this familiarity can contribute to the relationship between the two Kingdoms, which stretches back 209 years?
It's absolutely at the heart of it. I'm very privileged to be part of some of the exchanges between the royal families. There’s a real deep friendship between both sides and shared interests in so many different fields, whether that's sporting or charitable work or environmental consciousness. There's a lot of private discussion and collaboration, which I think is very positive and forward-looking. It is interwoven with our 209-year relationship, and it helps make it warmer and stronger.
Do you have a message for our readers on the occasion of the historic coronation of King Charles III?
The transfer of office has happened already, automatically upon the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. However, the symbolism of a coronation is important in the life of any nation because it then enables the monarch to show the values and the causes that are important to them. Many of the events which will unfold over the weekend of the coronation will highlight areas that His Majesty is engaged in, such as the environment, small island developing states and the Commonwealth. I think it may surprise people with how modern and 21st Century-focused it is rather than just pageantry.
How many British nationals are currently residing in Bahrain? What are some of the key industries that they are involved in?
There are approximately four to five thousand, which is a mixture of those who are here permanently and those who are semi-permanent working across the Eastern Province. They are employed in most professional fields you can imagine, whether that’s education, accountancy, law, medicine, engineering, architecture and more.
What are the current trade figures between Bahrain and the UK? How do you believe these figures can further be enhanced?
We’re in a really positive trajectory. In my time here alone, trade in terms of goods and services in both directions has doubled to a value of GBP2.6 billion. That exemplifies the shared prosperity goals that we have with Bahrain. Britain has interest in the huge infrastructure projects that are due to happen soon, such as the Bahrain Metro and the future Causeway, whilst education links are expanding rapidly with new schools and university associations. Furthermore, science and technology is going to be a major area of growth as Bahrain embraces its net zero goals and starts work on decarbonisation and transitioning to greener energy use in Bahrain over the coming decades, an area in which British firms have strong expertise.
How has Brexit impacted the UK's relationship with Bahrain and the wider Gulf region?
It has actually been a net benefit here in Bahrain. It has enabled us to just push on with our bilateral collaboration and we are pressing ahead with a free trade agreement. Bahrain is playing a very positive role in that and recently facilitated three rounds of negotiations with the GCC over the last six months, which are making real progress. A progressive deal will open up even more avenues for trade and investment in both directions, particularly opportunities for Bahraini businesses in the UK and vice-versa.
What initiatives have been undertaken to promote cultural exchange between the two countries?
I have witnessed numerous British orchestras, jazz bands and theatre groups coming here, whilst Bahrainis have performed in the UK too. One of the real joys for me here is that Bahrain is a very cultural place. It's somewhere that really appreciates other cultures whilst maintaining a very rich culture itself.
How do you view the UK’s role in regional security and stability?
We have a very strong security partnership with Bahrain, most obviously in areas including the Royal Navy support facility here, which is fantastic and enables us to work with partners and covert operations across this whole region. Of course, we do this in partnership with all of the Gulf navies and our American cousins. Every time you see a shipment of narcotics seized on the high seas, or a merchant ship is supported, that is part of the working together that comes through Bahrain. We also work very closely on cybersecurity and helping improve the resilience of the IT infrastructure in Bahrain, which is constantly under threat. Both countries trust each other, and with this security partnership we are able to then move forward in areas such as Visa arrangements.
Your tenure in Bahrain will end later this year. Could you summarise your experience in Bahrain for us?
Both my wife, Yasmin, and I have really enjoyed our time here, which was blighted only by the wretched COVID-19 virus, which curtailed things for a period. Nonetheless, it has been an absolute joy to be here as ambassador. It's a place that really takes you to its heart very quickly and we felt at home almost instantly. We have made a lot of friends who I hope will be friends for life and have never felt any barriers. People have been so kind and helped us through any difficulties and answered all questions we may have had. I commend the lucky man who is going to take over from me because I am sure he will have a lot of fun and contribute a lot to this important role. It is truly one of the best jobs I can imagine, so thank you Bahrain for having us!