Bilateral cooperation between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia is rooted deep in history, culture and religious bonds. For the past 37 years, both Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia have undertaken a journey of shared values that has led us to where we are — a journey of cooperation and mutual trust that has enhanced our bilateral ties, and a journey of friendship that has left an imprint in our hearts for now and for the years to come.
Bangladesh believes in religious harmony and tolerance and plays a vital role in maintaining peace in the trouble-prone parts of the world being the No. 1 contributor to the United Nations peacekeeping force. A vibrant democracy, Bangladesh is making sustained efforts to spread the message of tolerance, peace and moderation of Islam and in this regard strengthening cooperation with Saudi Arabia is crucial.
Saudi Arabia being the birthplace of Islam and home to Islam’s two holiest sites in Makkah and Madinah is the most revered country for the 150 million people of Bangladesh, of whom nearly 90 percent are Muslims. Saudi Arabia has a special place in the hearts of the people of Bangladesh and they always remember the contributions made by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and his government during “our times of need.”
Around 1.2 million Bangladesh nationals, working in the Kingdom feel proud to be a part of the development activities of the great country. The extents of bilateral relations that so happily exist between the two brotherly countries have endured the test of time.
Bangladesh’s relations with Saudi Arabia are multifaceted. Interactions between the peoples of the two countries date back to more than thousand years. Arab traders used to visit Chittagong port since the early days of Islam. Now is the time not only to reinvigorate these ties but also to explore possibilities of further expanding them to newer areas like investment, tourism, and cultural exchanges.
Over the last 37 years, Bangladesh-Saudi friendship has not only endured the vicissitude of time, but also been consolidated and prospered. There’s been good momentum of high-level exchanges and contacts, deepening our mutual trust. Especially during the last two years high level visits by ministers, parliamentarians, and senior officials from Bangladesh has increased significantly.
Bangladesh President M. Zillur Rahman visited Saudi Arabia from August 13 to 17 to attend the 4th Extraordinary Session of the Islamic Summit in Makkah at the invitation of King Abdullah. He led a 15-member delegation.
In 2012, there were as many as six ministerial visits from Bangladesh to Saudi Arabia. Ministerial level visits in 2012 include the Bangladesh Foreign Minister’s visits to Saudi Arabia in March and June, Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister’s visits to Saudi Arabia in February and June, and Education Minister’s visit in December.
During the visit of the Foreign Minister to the Kingdom on March 20-23, she had a fruitful and effective bilateral meeting with her counterpart Prince Saud Al-Faisal. The visit of the Foreign Minister was timely and effective to further enhance the existing bilateral relations. Moreover, the visit of the Expatriates’ Welfare Minister on February 22-28 added impetus to our bilateral relations in the field of manpower export from Bangladesh. The two sides reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations with special focus on cooperation in the field of human resources. Both the sides identified and acknowledged areas of mutual concern and were convinced that joint efforts would help overcome the existing challenges and broaden the horizon of cooperation.
The high level visit between the two countries in 2013 started with the visit of Kingdom’s Shoura Council chief Dr. Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Ibrahim Al-Sheikh, who led a 13-member delegation to visit Bangladesh on January 6-9. Bangladesh Minister for Cultural Affairs Abul Kalam Azad visited the Kingdom on March 11-14 to attend the opening ceremony of the yearlong celebrations to mark Madinah as the capital of Islamic culture.
Prince Alwaled Bin Talal, Chairman of the Kingdom Holding Co, and Princess Ameerah along with 16-member delegation visited Bangladesh on June 10 last year at the invitation of the Bangladesh government. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina conferred ‘Bangladesh Friendship Medal’ on Prince Alwaleed for his special contribution towards improving brotherly relations between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia during the daylong visit.
All these visits have added new momentum and generated greater enthusiasm to the existing close relations between the two countries. The exchange of the high-level visits also signify the intention of both the governments to encourage and maintain cooperation across all sectors between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia.
The recently concluded 10th session of Saudi-Bangladesh Joint Commission (JC) meeting on February 25-26 this year in Riyadh, which was the first JC meeting in almost five years, has provided further boost to our bilateral relations. The meeting provided a platform for multifarious engagement with the Kingdom in securing tangible benefits in terms of economy, trade, investment, education, culture, human resource development, manpower cooperation and other development cooperation.
Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia have signed several Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs)/Agreements to facilitate collaboration in diverse fields over the years. Bilateral relations particularly in the field of trade and commerce have received a fresh thrust after the recent signing of the Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement. Another agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments has been finalized and is expected to be inked shortly and this treaty would herald a new era in facilitating investments in both the countries. Saudi Arabia is one of Bangladesh’s longstanding development partners. Since formal recognition of Bangladesh by Saudi Arabia in 1975, bilateral relations between the two countries have grown steadily in depth and dimension. Beyond the ambit of political relations, cooperation between the two countries in economic fields has developed substantially. Saudi Arabia has been consistently extending financial and technical assistance to Bangladesh in various fields. Bangladesh has received economic assistance in various sectors including Rural Infrastructure Development, Health, Rural Electrification, Communication, Irrigation, Disaster/Post Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation in the form of grants and loans.
Bilateral trade between the two countries increased steadily over the last couple of years and there is a potential for further improvement in bilateral trade as the two countries have much to offer to each other. According to latest statistics, the annual two-way trade rose to $922.33 million in FY 2011-12 as against $869.56 million in the FY 2010-11. The Kingdom mainly imports ready-made garments (knits and woven), frozen food, dry food, fresh vegetables, various spices and curry powder, melamine items while it exports oil, petro-chemicals and fertilizers in large quantities.
Saudi investments in Bangladesh basically started with the establishment of Saudi Bangladesh Industrial and Agricultural Investment Company (SABINCO) in 1984 with its headquarters in Dhaka.
On February 27, 2013, a bilateral meeting at the ministerial level was held between the two countries on renewal of the Haj management agreement. After the meeting, Bangladesh State Minister for Religious Affairs, Advocate Shahjahan Miah and Saudi Haj Minister Dr. Bandar Al-Hajar signed the Haj agreement with the provision of 1,27,198 pilgrims to perform Haj from Bangladesh. On the other hand, a sizable number of Bangladeshis are working in the Kingdom contributing to the economic development of both the countries. The fraternal ties between the two countries are, therefore, continually nourished by both spiritual and material impulses.
These excellent relations between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia may be attributed to the fact that both countries share many common perspectives, values and commitments. Today there is contact between an impressive range of individuals and institutions in almost every sector of our two societies. Bangladesh hopes to build on the achievements of the past to set up a future of even closer cooperation and understanding both at the bilateral and multilateral levels between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia and their peoples to herald a defining moment of raising our relationship to a new pedestal in the coming years.
Source: Saudi Gazette