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Bilateral ties with Qatar set to reach new heights

Published : Tuesday, 23 April, 2024 at 12:00 AM  Count : 333

Bilateral ties with Qatar set to reach new heights

Bilateral ties with Qatar set to reach new heights

There has been a notable shift in the diplomatic landscape of the Middle East in recent years, with regional states increasingly engaging in dialogue and cooperation, expanding beyond the traditional energy sector to embrace investment, manufacturing, and high-tech industries. The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and war-like situation has played a major role in driving this change, leading governments in the MENA region to explore more efficient foreign policy strategies. States have been emphasizing stability more and actively seeking economic, trade, and investment opportunities that benefit all parties involved, rather than getting caught up in ideological disputes and proxy conflicts. The recent visits and deals are concrete evidence of the Middle Easts commitment to this endeavour.

Bangladesh has consistently maintained a welcoming stance towards the Middle East in its foreign policy decisions since gaining independence. The Gulf Region has played a significant role in shaping the countrys foreign policy, evident through collaborative efforts in trade, commerce, culture, and strategic alliances. Bangladesh has effectively utilized multilateral diplomacy to enhance its connections with the Middle East, as demonstrated by various factors such as trade relations, labor migration, remittances, and participation in peacekeeping missions. The visit of Qatars Emir on April 22 is a clear example of the warm relationship between the countries.

The bilateral trade volume between Qatar and Bangladesh has seen substantial growth, indicating the increasing economic involvement between the two countries. Bangladeshs export dynamics with Qatar have shown a consistent upward trend, mostly because of the increased export of diverse items like knit t-shirts, non-knit mens suits, and non-knit mens jackets. Although Bangladeshs exports to Qatar had a modest beginning in 1995, they have since achieved a remarkable yearly growth rate of 21.2%, culminating in a value of $89.43 million in 2022. Similarly, Qatars exports to Bangladesh surged to $2.739 billion during the same year. The significant increase in trade volume highlights the growing significance of Qatar as a commercial partner for Bangladesh and vice versa.

The cooperation between Bangladesh and Qatar in the field of energy makes a significant contribution to the improvement of the ties between the two countries.Qatar has committed to bolstering economic ties by offering essential infrastructure to support the expansion of liquefied natural gas (LNG) production.In June 2023 a significant agreement was reached, with Qatar committing to provide an extra 1.5 million tonnes of LNG per year to Bangladesh over the next 15 years. These moves, aim to enhance energy stability for Bangladesh amidst the prevailing global uncertainty, underscores the crucial role of Qatar as a dependable energy partner.

A significant achievement was accomplished as a defense cooperation agreement was signed in March last year, allowing for the deployment of 1,129 members of the Bangladeshi armed forces to Qatar. This move not only strengthened the defense relationship between the two countries but also facilitated direct collaboration between their defense forces, leading to increased cooperation in security affairs.

Qatars generous donation of $1.27 million in March 2023 to support Bangladeshs education sector highlights its dedication to promoting equal and easily accessible education for all. The funds are intended to provide opportunities for 650,000 out-of-school children at the primary level, highlighting Qatars strong commitment to focus on investing in the development of human capital in Bangladesh.

The visit highlights the significant value that both countries attach to their bilateral relations. During the visit, Bangladeshs priority will be on enhancing trade and investment for future growth and collaboration. The agreements prepared for signing include the promotion of trade and investment, exchange of prisoners, elimination of double taxation, and mutual cooperation on customs. The potential MoUs to be signed after the summit conference include the export of manpower from Bangladesh to Qatar, cooperation in religious issues, involvement of Qatari institution Mawani in port management, cooperation in higher education, and training of diplomats.

The Qatari Emirs visit is also politically important. Qatar has increasingly emerged as a key arbitrator among Middle Eastern nations.Given Qatars active involvement in international affairs, particularly in the Middle East, and its significant humanitarian efforts, the recent conflict between Iran and Israel and the situation in Gaza are going to be the topics of discussion in Sheikh Tamims visit to Dhaka.

The Emirs visit also presents an opportunity for Bangladesh to engage in meaningful dialogue on the Rohingya crisis. Qatars commitment to supporting the Muslim Rohingya community aligns with its values and humanitarian efforts. This support not only aids in facilitating repatriation but also positions Qatar to play a more assertive role in international forums such as the ICJ. In 2023, Qatar participated in the High-Level Meeting on Rohingya Refugees in Bangkok, represented by HE Director Ali bin Shaheen Al Kaabi from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Qatar has engaged in discussions with ASEAN nations and supports development projects in Rohingya camps in Bangladesh. The visit signifies an opportunity to deepen collaboration with stakeholders, potentially catalyzing impactful strategies to address the evolving needs of Rohingya refugees.

The upcoming visit of Qatars Emir and the potential signing of numerous agreements and MOUsindicate a deepening of diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and Qatar. As both countries strive to expand their collaboration, they may also aim to utilize their partnership to exert influence in regional and international forums. The growing significance of Bangladesh on the global stage, along with Qatars extensive diplomatic network, may result in joint endeavors to address shared concerns, ultimately bolstering their geopolitical sway.

The writer is Security and Strategic Affairs Analyst







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