Sun, 19 May 2024
The Daily Ittefaq

The upcoming visit of the emir of Qatar to Bangladesh: Ushering in a new chapter in bilateral partnership

Update : 22 Apr 2024, 18:47

The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, has revealed his plans to visit Dhaka on 22 April 2024. This signifies a significant milestone, as an Emir from the influential Middle Eastern country is set to visit Bangladesh for the first time in nearly two decades. Following a discussion between the Qatar Emir and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, it is expected that approximately 10 agreements and memorandums of understanding (MoUs) will be signed. These agreements encompass a wide range of areas, including fuel, export of human resources, trade and commerce, and defence cooperation. 

Recent developments indicate a growing partnership between Bangladesh and Qatar. The foundation for enhanced cooperation was established through the signing of a long-term LNG import agreement in June 2023. This was further strengthened by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's productive visit to Qatar in May 2023, where she actively participated in the Qatar Economic Forum and held meaningful bilateral discussions. 

This positive development was driven by Qatar's commitment to support Bangladesh's media industry at the Islamic Conference of Information Ministers in February 2024, along with discussions on military cooperation at the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference in March 2024. The meeting between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Qatar's Premier and Foreign Minister, Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani, at the 2024 Munich Security Conference further solidified diplomatic ties. 

The current status of the partnership between Qatar and Bangladesh

The relationship between Bangladesh and Qatar has experienced substantial progress in different areas, demonstrating a deepening of diplomatic, economic, and strategic ties between the two nations. It has already gone beyond the traditional prism of oil and remittance. Leaders from Bangladesh and Qatar have transformed the relations over the past decade, thanks to the crucial leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. In June 2023, a major agreement was reached, as Qatar pledged to supply an additional 1.5 million tonnes of LNG annually to Bangladesh for the next 15 years. A deal was made to address Bangladesh's power generation supply shortage, highlighting the importance of Qatar as a reliable energy ally for Bangladesh.

The export dynamics between Bangladesh and Qatar have demonstrated a steady and positive trajectory. The value of Qatar's exports to Bangladesh experienced a remarkable surge, soaring from $259k in 1995 to an impressive $1.18 billion in 2022. In 2022, Qatar experienced a notable increase in its imports from Bangladesh, reaching a total of $89.43 million. In the same year, Qatar experienced a significant increase in its exports to Bangladesh, reaching a total of $2.739 billion. The noticeable surge in trade volume underscores the increasing importance of Qatar as a commercial partner for Bangladesh and vice versa. 

A recent agreement has been signed, further solidifying defence ties between the two nations, and showcasing their ongoing collaboration. A deal has been struck to send 1,129 Bangladeshi armed forces personnel to Qatar. This initiative seeks to enhance the collaboration between defence forces and generate socio-economic advantages for the personnel involved. Qatar's significant contribution of $1.27 million to bolster Bangladesh's education sector underscores its commitment to advancing equitable and readily available education for everyone. The fund aims to create educational opportunities for 650,000 children who are currently not attending school at the primary level. This initiative aligns with the development goals of both countries.

The upcoming visit and its importance

The upcoming visit is of great importance to both Bangladesh and Qatar, signalling a new turning point in bilateral partnership. It represents a strong dedication to strengthening bilateral relations and promoting mutually beneficial cooperation in different sectors. As the leaders from both nations gather, ready to discuss matters encompassing defence, energy, human resources, maritime, and air connectivity, the visit's agenda sets the stage for strengthening bilateral partnership and forging a path towards mutual prosperity. At the forefront of the agenda is the Defence Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which marks a significant milestone in military collaboration. 

Through the engagements of Bangladesh armed forces and sharing strategic insights, this agreement aims to strengthen regional security and build long-lasting trust between the two countries. Additionally, the Energy MoU represents a strong commitment to ensuring energy stability for Bangladesh. It aims to achieve this by providing liquefied natural gas (LNG) and developing essential energy infrastructure. As Bangladesh navigates the complexities of the global energy landscape, this agreement represents a strong dedication to addressing Bangladesh's energy needs and promoting sustainable development. Just as important is the Manpower Sector Cooperation MoU, which reflects mutual dedication to protecting labour rights, enhancing working conditions, and promoting skill development for Bangladeshi workers. 

By prioritising the well-being of our workforce, this agreement sets the stage for increased economic empowerment and societal advancement. In addition, the Maritime Cooperation MoU highlights our shared commitment to strengthening maritime security and promoting port development. By working together to protect our maritime interests, we have the potential to open up exciting opportunities for trade and prosperity between our nations. At long last, the Air Connectivity Agreement brings hope for enhanced air connectivity between Bangladesh and Qatar, making travel smoother and promoting cultural exchange.

The visit will also highlight a determination from both sides to strengthening partnership and cooperation in regional and international forums, with a particular emphasis on working together to address global challenges like climate change and counterterrorism. In addition, the recent military cooperation agreement between Bangladesh and Qatar sets the stage for strengthened defence and security collaboration. 

This could involve joint exercises and intelligence sharing to tackle shared security concerns in the region. Qatar's investment in Bangladesh's education sector creates opportunities for the establishment of educational partnerships, student exchanges, and collaborative research projects, which promote the growth of human resources and encourage innovation. The growing trade between the two nations offers the potential for increased economic cooperation, such as expanding trade portfolios and exploring investment opportunities. This could ultimately lead to enhanced economic growth and more employment options.

Finally, the potential for Free Trade Agreements (FTA) and Preferential Trade Agreements (PTA) will strengthen economic relations, allowing Qatar to utilise its expertise in sectors such as energy to pursue investment prospects in Bangladesh. Cooperation in the energy sector, specifically in LNG supply agreements and renewable energy sources, offers the potential for addressing Bangladesh's energy needs and fostering sustainable development. In light of the recent developments of Bangladesh-Qatar bilateral cooperation, it is evident that this summit holds great importance in terms of enhancing the ties between the two nations in multifarious sectors – from energy to trade to defence. This visit has the potential to yield long-term and fruitful outcomes for mutual gains, while also promoting mutual understanding and trust.

Nahim Razzaq is a Member of the Bangladesh National Parliament and a member of the Standing Committee on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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