Highlighting 50 Years of Diplomatic Relations

by BTM

Tue, 04 June 2024

Mr. A.K.M. Mohiuddin Kayes, Embassy of Bangladesh, Highlighting 50 Years of Diplomatic Relations

The Golden Jubilee of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and Bahrain will be celebrated on June 6. To mark this momentous occasion, Kristian Harrison sat down with the Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of Bangladesh, Mr. A.K.M. Mohiuddin Kayes, and discussed the last 50 years of co-operation whilst looking ahead to strengthening steadfast bonds in the coming years.

What is the history of cooperation between Bangladesh and Bahrain, and what are the key areas of this relationship? 
Bahrain was the first GCC country to establish diplomatic relations with Bangladesh on June 6, 1974 shortly after a meeting between the late Emir of Bahrain, Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, and our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman during the 1974 OIC Summit. The two brotherly nations are continuing to maintain excellent ties based on mutual trust and shared values under the able leadership of our Honourable Prime Minister, HE Sheikh Hasina and HM King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. 

The key areas of our cooperation are manpower, trade and commerce, agriculture, civil aviation, culture, people-to-people contact and more. 

How does the Bangladesh Embassy in Bahrain support the Bangladeshi diaspora residing in Bahrain? 
Since the Embassy’s establishment in 1983, we have been providing various consular as well as labour-welfare related services to the Bangladeshi nationals residing in the Kingdom in addition to seeking ways to further strengthen our diplomatic and economic ties with Bahrain. 

Most recently, during my tenure, we introduced free medical treatment services and more than 10,000 Bangladeshis benefited from this service so far. We also started providing free weekly legal consultations with Bahraini lawyers to ensure our citizens’ safety and rights. Moreover, we periodically organise mobile consular camps to make our services more accessible to our people, and we also began organising awareness-raising seminars in collaboration with various local ministries. 

I am also very happy to announce that we have commenced the construction of a Bangladesh School building in A’ali under the name of our Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, to provide quality education at an affordable price. Here, we would like to extend our deepest gratitude and appreciation to HM King Hamad for graciously donating the school plot and we also convey our heartfelt gratitude to HE Sheikh Hasina for funding the school building construction project. 

Mr. A.K.M. Mohiuddin KayesWhat initiatives or programmes does the Embassy undertake to promote cultural exchange and understanding between Bangladesh and Bahrain? 
We are constantly seeking new avenues to strengthen cultural ties. We have arranged several photography and art exhibitions throughout the Kingdom in collaboration with the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, National Council for Arts, and various art galleries in Bahrain. We also screened a biographical film of our Father of the Nation named Mujib: The Making of a Nation in a renowned cinema hall last year, where around 250 people, comprising nearly 100 foreign dignitaries, enjoyed the film. 

Most recently, in April, we celebrated Bangla New Year 1431 in a joyous atmosphere, where foreign dignitaries and other guests enjoyed our delicious Bangladeshi cuisine and our mesmerising cultural performances. Over the years, we have also partnered with the UN Bahrain team and all private schools in Bahrain to observe the International Mother Language Day on February 21 in a befitting manner. This year, we exhibited over 90 artworks drawn by schoolchildren from all over Bahrain.

Furthermore, we actively take part in various fairs throughout the year, particularly the International Embassy Bazaar, to showcase our traditional Bangladeshi products like jamdhani sarees, jute items, leather goods and teas. 

We are also working towards promoting the culture of Bahrain in Bangladesh as evidenced by our Visit Bangladesh programme, where several Bahraini journalists and other media personnel are provided with complimentary trips to Bangladesh to further bolster our commitment to enhancing cultural exchange.

What is the current estimate for the Bangladeshi population in Bahrain and in what ways does Bangladesh contribute to the workforce and economy of Bahrain? 
Approximately 150,000 Bangladeshis are living in Bahrain today, which makes us the second largest expat community in Bahrain. We have doctors, professors and engineers who are working at renowned hospitals, universities and other institutions. Some also own small and medium enterprises, including shops, restaurants, agencies and other private establishments. Of course, a majority of Bangladeshis here have blue collar jobs, particularly in the construction sector. 

The workforce and economy of Bahrain are being greatly benefited from skilled Bangladeshi expatriates. Our people have contributed immensely to the infrastructure of Bahrain and we are well regarded as very hardworking and trustworthy individuals. 

Could you provide insights into any recent agreements or collaborations between Bangladesh and Bahrain? 
We signed three important bilateral instruments in 2015. One is related to avoidance of double taxation; another is the promotion and reciprocal protection of investments; and the third one is Foreign Office Consultation, the first of which was held in 2022. Additionally, a few agreements and MoUs are currently in the pipeline to be signed in the next round of FOC in Dhaka and a number of high-level meetings between delegations have taken place. 

What are the current challenges or opportunities in enhancing bilateral relations, and how does the Embassy address them? 
Currently we are facing a challenge in getting necessary visas for Bangladeshis. However, the Embassy is pursuing a process to ease the obtaining of visas as we aim to encourage trade, business, investment, tourism and cultural exchange. We are also working towards having more high-level visits between the two nations, as we think this would foster stronger political, economic and cultural ties.  

Can you share any upcoming events or initiatives organised by the Embassy? 
We are going to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our diplomatic relations with Bahrain in a grand fashion at The Diplomat Radisson Blu Hotel, Residence & Spa. On this auspicious occasion, we will unveil a special logo of our golden jubilee in collaboration with the Bahraini side. We have already secured the messages from our Honourable Prime Minister and our Honourable Foreign Minister on this great occasion. In addition to this, we are planning to organise more awareness-raising seminars and trade fairs to strengthen our existing ties. 

How does the Embassy contribute to promoting tourism and investment opportunities in Bangladesh to Bahraini citizens and businesses? 
I met with the Minister of Industry and Commerce of Bahrain, HE Abdullah bin Adel Fakhro just last month, and he showed his keen interest for having more trade and investment opportunities between Bangladesh and Bahrain, particularly in the sectors of pharmaceuticals, ICT, green energy, agricultural and frozen products, ready-made garments, textiles, ceramics, jute products and leather goods.  

I am positive that once the visa issuance process for Bangladeshi nationals becomes much easier, the tourism and investment sectors of both countries will see an exponential increase. Our country is renowned for the longest natural sea beach in the world, Cox’s Bazar; the world’s largest mangrove forest, Sundarbans; eye-catching tea gardens in Sylhet; the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and our numerous scenic rivers which attract a large crowd of tourists each year. 

Do you have anything more to add? 
I would like to take this opportunity to thank HM King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister HRH Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, and the friendly people of Bahrain for their warm hospitality and creating a supportive environment to our expat community. 

To my fellow Bangladeshis in Bahrain, I would like to urge you all to uphold the positive image of our country by following the rules and regulations of Bahrain. Finally, I would like to thank the Bahrain This Month team for interviewing me for the latest edition of this wonderful magazine. 

May the friendship between Bangladesh and Bahrain live long!