Bangladesh–Bahrain Bilateral Relations

Diplomatic Relations

Bangladesh and Bahrain enjoy excellent relations based on identical values, shared perceptions and common traditions. We have an unfailing record of mutual support and cooperation at all international forums including the United Nations.

The political commitment to the close relationship has been translated into action through bilateral agreements covering economic, technical, and cultural cooperation. Conclusion of further agreements in the areas of trade & investment, customs & taxation, and air services etc. strengthening and expanding the relations between our two countries further.

Relations between the two friendly countries have continued to grow since establishment of diplomatic relations following Bahrain’s recognition of Bangladesh in 1974. Bangladesh and Bahrain have maintained an excellent record of mutual support and cooperation at the United Nations and other multilateral forums both on substantive and electoral matters. Bangladesh established a resident Mission at the Ambassador level in Bahrain on 28 February 1983.

Bangladesh opened resident Embassy in Bahrain on 28 February 1983. Prior to that, we maintained diplomatic relations with Bahrain through concurrent accreditation from UAE. Although Bangladesh has been maintaining a resident Mission in the Kingdom for 23 years now, Bahrain had not even considered appointing a non-resident Ambassador or an Honorary Consul in Bangladesh.

The then Prime Minister Khaleda Zia paid an official visit to Bahrain from 8-9 August 1992. The then Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina attended the funeral of Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the Emir of Bahrain, on 6 March 1999. While two successive Prime Ministers, a DPM and a number of Cabinet Ministers from Bangladesh visited Bahrain in the past two decades, there has been no high level bilateral visit from Bahrain to Bangladesh.

A three member Bahrain Defense Force delegation led by Lt. Colonel Salman Essa Bin Hindi, Director and Head of Officers and Soldiers visited Bangladesh from 9-13 June 1991 to explore areas of defence cooperation in view of the situation obtaining in the region. A two member delegation headed by Mr. Yousif Abdullah Humood, Head of International Affairs, Ministry of National Finance and Economy visited Bangladesh on 28 October 2000, to finalize bilateral agreements in preparation for the visit of His Highness the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain ( which was subsequently postponed due to the situation obtaining in the subcontinent).

Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus came to Bahrain at the invitation of His Highness the Crown Prince in early February 2007. During the visit, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Dr. Muhammad Yunus, Managing Director of Grameen Bank and Dr. Fatima Al Balooshi, Minister for Social Development. Under the MOU, the Grameen Trust would extend technical cooperation and other necessary support for setting up of the proposed the Family Bank, in replication of the Grameen Bank.

Bangladesh received several ministerial and other high level officials from Bahrain on multilateral visits. A Bahraini delegation led by the Director of Political Affairs Ambassador Ali Ibrahim Al Mahrooj, attended the 14th Islamic Foreign Ministers’ conference in Dhaka in December 1983. Another delegation led by the Minister of Finance and National Economy, Mr. Ibrahim Abdul Karim attended the 9th Annual meeting of the Board of Governors of the Islamic Development Bank in February 1985. In September 1999 the First Vice-Chairman of Shura Council went to Bangladesh to attend the Asian Parliamentarians Conference for Peace and Co-operation in Dhaka.

Bilateral Agreements

The following two agreements were signed by the Prime Ministers of the two countries on 8 August 1992 during the visit of the then Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

The Bilateral Air Services Agreement

A Code Sharing Agreement was signed between Bangladesh Biman and Gulf Air in Dhaka on 15 March 2006. Under the arrangement, Biman suspended its own operations in Dhaka-Bahrain sector in April 2006. The Gulf Air has since been operating 6 direct flights in Bahrain-Dhaka sector, and 5 flights via other Gulf destinations per week. A Bilateral Agreement on Air Services was finalized and initialed during the visit of a delegation led by Secretary, Civil Aviation and Tourism from 22-24 April 2006. The Agreement is expected to be formally signed soon.

Agreements under Negotiation

An Agreement on Convention on Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income has been finalized and is awaiting signature.

An Agreement on Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investment is currently under negotiation.

Economic and Commercial Relations

Bangladeshi exports to Bahrain included frozen food, agricultural products, chemical products, Jute goods, other products like melamine, garment, fabric etc. In 2003-2004 Bangladesh exported goods worth of US $ 2.21 Million compared to US $ 3.58 million in 2004-2005. On both occasions the Mission achieved the target set by EPB. In 2005-06, Bangladesh posted US $ 2.97 million in the first six months. Our exports dwindled to almost nothing with the discontinuation of Biman flights in the sector.

As Bahrain imports virtually all its needs, there is considerable potential for Bangladesh to make a niche in the Bahrain market. An aggressive marketing campaign for selected products is requested to curve a share in this market. Bangladesh can explore ceramic, furniture, fabrics, flora and fauna, top soil, leather products etc to Bahrain.

In 2005, Bahrain’s import from 130 countries was worth at US $ 7.83 billion while it exported goods worth US $ 11.17 billion to 90 countries. Most of its domestic consumption needs are provided by the imported products and services.

The consumption level in Bahrain is high because of high purchasing power (per capita income of US $ 20,500 as of 2005). In addition, geographical proximity allows the goods to be moved out from Bahrain easily across the border to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and UAE. The size of the market is thus much larger than it appears from the country’s geography and population.

Exportables from Bangladesh are likely to have a access to Bahrain because of lower import duties and simpler procedures. Bangladesh might have good prospects in garments and textiles, pharmaceuticals, ceramics, porcelain, melamine articles, leather and jute goods, flora and fauna, top soil, agro-items like plants, bird, poultry feeds, automobile batteries, etc in Bahrain market.

Investment

Bahraini investors are keeping their focus on investing in Bahrain’s throbbing, advanced economy in the areas of banking, insurances, stocks and equities, real estate, travel and tourism and other value added service sectors. A large number of foreign firms are also investing in Bahrain in various sectors. Bahrain has emerged as a major financial centre with some 375 financial institutions having a total operating capital of US $ 170 billion in 2005.

There is currently no investment from Bahrain to Bangladesh. A Bangladeshi garments industry named Kimia Garments had an investment of US $ 25 million and about one thousand workers. The industry was closed on 26 August 2006 after operating for six years due to loss of competitiveness.

Human Resources

Bangladesh has surplus human resources in a wide range of professions and expertise. Non-resident Bangladeshis including expatriate workers send valuable foreign exchange to Bangladesh as remittance. Overseas employment contributes to Bangladesh’s socio economic development by contributing to the expansion of employment opportunities and earning of foreign exchange.

It is gratifying for Bangladesh to be able to provide necessary human resources to the Kingdom of Bahrain as it realizes rapid economic growth and industrial expansion. The Government of Bangladesh appreciates the employment opportunities extended to its nationals by the Kingdom. A total of 92,643 Bangladesh nationals left for Bahrain over the past two decades (BMET, February 2007). Records of departure from Bahrain (return to Bangladesh and shifting to other countries) not being available, it is estimated that about 90,000 Bangladeshis are currently living and working in Bahrain.

Bangladeshis represent the second largest expatriate community in Bahrain. They are working here as engineers, police and other security personnel, doctors, teachers, financial experts, accountants, business management officials, hotel management and chefs and service staff, salesman, bakers, mechanics, plumbers, masons, carpenters, tailors, hairdressers, construction workers, cleaners, drivers, and domestic aides. Bangladeshis own or run about two hundred grocery shops/ cold store, internet call shops and small restaurants and saloons etc. centred in Manama, Muharraq, Hamad Town and east Rifa. Their contribution is recognized by the Government and the people of the Kingdom.

Since 2004, the Government put a ban on overseas employment of Bangladeshi women as housemaid. The ban was imposed with effect from 5 October 1998 Bangladeshis having employment abroad as housemaid prior to the ban are allowed to continue in their job, visit Bangladesh and return to their overseas employment. Exception to the ban may be made by the Government under special consideration.

Bangladeshi workers generally enjoy good reputation as honest, decent, hard-working, committed, amiable and disciplined people.