Qatari Emir’s Visit To Dhaka Marks Beginning Of A New Chapter – OpEd


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 East’s commitment to this endeavor.

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 country’s 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 upcoming visit of Qatar’s Emir on April 22 is a clear example of the warm relationship between the countries. 

Recently, the relationship between Qatar and Bangladesh has reached a significant milestone, characterized by diplomatic advancements, enhanced defense cooperation, notable educational accomplishments, and robust economic development. Qatar acknowledged the significant transformation that has taken place in Bangladesh under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, indicating a shift in perspective. PM Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Doha in May 2022 was met with a warm welcome from Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, setting the stage for a more robust collaboration. Both countries engaged in a diverse discussion regarding energy collaboration, trade, investment, the welfare of Bangladeshi workers in Qatar, and broader concerns related to the Muslim Ummah.

The bilateral trade volume between Qatar and Bangladesh has seen substantial growth, indicating the increasing economic involvement between the two countries. Bangladesh’s 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 men’s suits, and non-knit men’s jackets. Although Bangladesh’s 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, Qatar’s 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. 

Qatar’s generous donation of $1.27 million in March 2023 to support Bangladesh’s 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 Qatar’s 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, Bangladesh’s 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 Emir’s visit is also politically important. Qatar has increasingly emerged as a key arbitrator among Middle Eastern nations. Given Qatar’s 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 Tamim’s visit to Dhaka.

Qatar has played a crucial role in providing aid and support to the Palestinian people, including humanitarian assistance, infrastructure development, and diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the conflict. Bangladesh also has a history of supporting the Palestinian cause and advocating for the rights of the Palestinian people at various international forums. Therefore, the Emir’s visit could serve as a platform for both countries to reaffirm their commitment to supporting the Palestinian cause and advocating for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both countries may explore avenues for collaboration and coordination to provide humanitarian assistance to Gaza, including medical aid, food supplies, and reconstruction efforts.

The Emir’s visit also presents an opportunity for Bangladesh to engage in meaningful dialogue on the Rohingya crisis. Qatar’s 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 Qatar’s Emir and the potential signing of numerous agreements and MOUs indicate 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 Qatar’s extensive diplomatic network, may result in joint endeavors to address shared concerns, ultimately bolstering their geopolitical sway.

Kamal Uddin Mazumder

Kamal Uddin Mazumder is a Security and Strategic Affairs Analyst.

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