State of Qatar recognised Bangladesh as a sovereign State on 04 March 1974 following the 2nd OIC Summit held in Lahore in February 1974. Bangladesh opened its Diplomatic Mission in Doha on 25 June 1975. State of Qatar reciprocated by opening its Diplomatic Mission in Dhaka in 1982. Bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Qatar are based on mutual respect, shared values, common religious ground, shared culture and tradition. People to people contacts bolstered by more than four hundred thousand Bangladeshi workers who are highly appreciated as disciplined and hardworking is one of the dominant features of the bilateral relations. The relations have witnessed a visible progress in recent years through regular bilateral visits, increase of manpower export, substantive engagements, and common position on regional and international issues and close cooperation in the international arena to promote peace, stability and development.
The existing bilateral relations have been diversified to tap the potential sectors apart from the traditional manpower market. Bilateral relations are spanning across a broad range of sectors, including economic and technical cooperation, trade and investment, employment of Bangladeshi workforce in Qatar, defense-cooperation, education, tourism, culture and sports, and human resource development. In brief, Qatar and Bangladesh consider each other as brotherly countries and important development partners in materializing Bangladesh’s vision ‘2021’ and Vision 2041 and Qatar’s vision ‘2030’.
The first recorded maritime trade route in the world was between the Indus Valley Civilization and the civilization of Dilmun, which was located in Arab Peninsula. By 2000 BCE, Dilmun acquired a monopoly on trade between the Indian subcontinent and the civilizations of Mesopotamia. Records and historical artifacts demonstrate that traders from Dilmun stayed for extended periods in South Asia and vice versa. Goods not available in the Middle East, including cotton and spices, were acquired by merchants from Dilmun.
By the end of the first millennium CE, trade between Indian subcontinent and Arabia became the economic backbone of the Arabian peninsula. Relations between the Gulf region and Indian subcontinent grew even stronger during the British Reign, when they acquired a strategic-military component in addition to an economic one. By the mid-19th century, the British had come to dominate the subcontinent. British influence and control over Arab territory mostly flowed as a consequence of British needs to protect sea lanes. The British established a protectorate over Qatar and the other states. British affairs in Gulf Arab states were all administered by British officials in Indian subcontinent, and were garrisoned mostly by soldiers from Indian subcontinent under British command.
Bangladesh and Qatar, in case of international relations doctrine, focuses on the consolidation of peace and stability, as prescribed by their respective constitutions. It is based on the principles of encouraging settlement of international disputes by peaceful means, supporting the right of people to self-determination, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, and cooperation with peace-loving nations.
The two countries remain deeply committed to the charter of the UN and the ideals of the OIC in their common pursuit of peace, development and justice in the world. Both Bangladesh and Qatar hold common positions on Palestine issue, Myanmar Refugees issue, terrorism & militancy, climate change, disarmament and proliferation, gender parity and welfare of the Muslim Ummah. Bangladesh supports Qatar in hosting the ‘FIFA World Cup-2022’. Bangladesh and Qatar contribute significantly to UN Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding operations/activities and acts as mediators to bridge differences among the conflicting groups to establish peace, security and well-being of the people.
Bangladesh started exporting manpower for employment of temporary migrants to Qatar in 1976 when this Middle Eastern Arab State began to implement infrastructure projects including roads, breezes, buildings, hotels etc. However, manpower export from Bangladesh to Qatar got new momentum in 2012 when Qatar started to build football stadiums and other related infrastructures to prepare itself for the World Cup Football 2022 and to materialize its Vision 2030. The trend of manpower export from Bangladesh to Qatar and its prospects and challenges are as follows:
In 2018 Qatar has become the third largest destination for Bangladeshi manpower followed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. In 2018, approximately 76,500 . Bangladeshi workers arrived in Qatar which constitutes 10.43% of total overseas employment for Bangladesh. More importantly in last three years Qatar has recruited approximately 2,80,000 semi-skilled and less skilled workers from Bangladesh mainly for its construction projects aimed to develop infrastructures for the World Cup Football 2022 and to materialize their National Vision 2030. It is estimated that currently near about 420,000 Bangladeshi citizens are working in government, semi-government and private sectors of Qatar.
Bangladesh has started sending female workers to Qatar in 2013. In 2018 more than 3,000 female workers got their employment opportunities in Qatar. Almost all of them are employed as domestic aide in the household level.
Bangladeshi workers are working in various sectors of Qatar. Among them construction sector is the main sector. More than 80% of our male workforces are working in this sector. They are mainly less-skilled and semi-skilled workers. Apart from construction sector, Bangladeshi workers are employed in super shops, retail shops, tailoring shops, hairdressing shops, carpentry. Some of them also work as fishermen in fishing factor, as chefs in restaurants, as workers in agricultural farms and plantations, drivers in state owned enterprises, cleaners and foremen in Qatar Airlines and Qatar Airport. Moreover, a good number of Bangladeshis are working as domestic aides and house drivers. Several hundred Bangladeshi citizens are engaged in running their business and working as contractors and semi-contractors. However, a small number of Bangladeshis are working in defense forces and police. About 500 Bangladeshi are in white colour job working as engineers, teachers, bankers and doctors. However a good number of Bangladesh citizens are working as imams and muezzin in different masques of Qatar.
Qatar inaugurated two visa centres in Bangladesh, one in Dhaka and the other in Sylhet in December 2018 as part of Qatar’s efforts to facilitate and streamline procedures for bringing in expatriate workforce. These centres are supposed to provide services including fingerprinting for the expatriate worker, registration of vital data, conducting medical examinations, and signing of contract of employment, in order to ensure the facilitation of these procedures and the preservation and protection of the rights of the expatriate and the employer before travelling to Qatar as well as avoiding the return of the ineligible cases. This will help reduce waiting time to work upon arrival in Qatar. The Qatar Visa Centres will function in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Remittance from Qatar to Bangladesh has been gradually increasing over the years. In 2018 Bangladeshi expatriates living in Qatar have remitted 983.91 million US dollar (approximately one billion US dollar) to their family members whereas in 2017 they have sent 643.89 million US dollar. They have actually sent 53% higher remittance in 2018 compared to 2017. In last five years remittance from Qatar has become even more than double.
The bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Qatar amounted to around US$ 243.00 million in 2017-2018. Bangladesh mainly exports frozen food, processed food items, fruits & vegetables, tea, garments etc. to Qatar. Bangladesh mainly imports urea fertilizer from Qatar. Bangladesh imports 08 lakh metric tons of urea fertilizer from Qatar Fertilizer Company Limited (QAFCO) annually under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the two countries in October 2009. Bangladesh started importing LNG from Qatar under the long term agreement signed two years ago.
There is a huge trade deficit. The import of LNG from Qatar is likely to increase the gap. The blockade on Qatar has created an opportunity for the non-traditional suppliers to capture the market of Qatar. Mission has been trying to promote export of Bangladeshi products in Qatar. Mission organised a seminar on pharmaceutical products of Bangladesh in cooperation with the Doha Bank in 2017. Hon’ble State Minister for Foreign Affairs attended an Investment Seminar in September 2018 organised by the Bangladesh Forum Qatar in cooperation with the Embassy of Bangladesh. Gradually, Qatari investors and businessmen are knowing the business and investment potentials of Bangladesh other than the traditional area of manpower export. According to the data of Bangladesh Bank, export volume from Bangladesh to Qatar has increased to US$ 38.95 million in 2017-2018 from US$ 26.40 million in the previous year.
Mission are working in close cooperation with the Bangladesh Forum Qatar to organise a single country trade fair namely ‘Made in Bangladesh’ to further showcase business potentials of Bangladesh to the Qataris who traditionally have seen Bangladesh as labour sending country. Mission has also been working with Qatari authorities to facilitate business visa to increase business to business contacts.
Qatar Airways operates three flights daily from Doha to Dhaka. Biman Bangladesh Airlines also operates three flights weekly between Doha and Dhaka. Besides, two private airlines from Bangladesh have been operating their four flights a week between Dhaka and Doha. This has opened up an opportunity for the Qatari people to visit Bangladesh. An Agreement on Air Services between Bangladesh and Qatar is pending with Bangladesh side.
Defense cooperation between Bangladesh and Qatar has strengthened over time. Close cooperation in case of trainings, participation in the Military exercises, exchange of visits in different levels have further boosted the existing relationship. A total of 100 seafarers from Bangladesh Navy serve in Qatar under an agreement with Qatar.
An MOU on military cooperation between the Ministries of Defence of the two countries are under process.
The cultural cooperation between Bangladesh and Qatar is traditionally very sound. Renowned Qatari artists have been actively regularly participating at the Asian Art Biennale held in Dhaka since 1986. 04 Qatari artists participated at the 16th Asian Art Biennale held in Dhaka on 01-31 December 2014 and Qatari Artist Ms. Hessa Ahmed Kalla won the grand prize. A good number of art works from Qatar were also displayed during the Biennale. Two eminent Qatari artists Mr. Mohhamed Al Atiq and Ms. Nadia Abdulrahman Al-Mudahka participated at the 17th Asian Art Biennale held in Dhaka on 01-31 December 2016. A total number 06 artworks titled Speculations (No. 01-05) and Old House in Souq Waqif in Art Between (no. 06) from Qatar were displayed during the Biennale.
To strengthen the ongoing cultural cooperation between Bangladesh and Qatar, the Mission organized the first ever Bangladesh Cultural Fest in cooperation with Katara, the apex cultural body of the State of Qatar in May 2017. The Mission in cooperation with Katara and Bangladesh Forum Qatar organised ‘Bangladesh Festival’ from 19-25 March 2019 in connection with the celebration of 48th Anniversary of our Independence and National Day. An agreement on cooperation in the field of culture is under process.
Qatar has placed health and education on the top of the list to sustainably materialize its Vision 2030. Qatar organise two biennial flagship events on health and education namely World Innovation Summit on Health (WISH) and the World Innovation Summit on Education (WISE). Bangladesh makes regular representation at the two flagship events at senior level. Qatar hosts branches of a number of renowned universities. There are around one hundred Bangladeshi students studying in different universities of Qatar. Qatar Foundation extends cooperation in providing scholarship to two-three Bangladeshi students per year. Qatar Charity and the Qatar Red Crescent Society undertake humanitarian works in Bangladesh in the area of education and health.
However, knowledge and expertise sharing in education and health is an important area where the two countries will continue to work at. Two countries are yet to tap the full potential in these two important areas. An MOU in the fields of Education, High Education and Scientific Research between Bangladesh and Qatar is under process.
Foreign Office Consultation: Bangladesh and Qatar signed an MOU regarding the Foreign Office Consultation in 2005.
Joint Working Group (JWG) on Manpower Export: The first meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) between Bangladesh and Qatar was held in Dhaka on 3 March 2016. Secretary, Ministry of Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment Begum Shamsun Nahar led the Bangladesh team while the Qatari delegation was led by Additional Director General, Qatar Passport Department Brigadier Mohammed Ahmed M Al Atiq Al Dossary.
The Joint Committee on Investment: As per the agreed minutes signed on 27 May 2012 between the Hon'ble Foreign Minister of Bangladesh and the Assistant Minister for International Cooperation Affairs of Qatar, formation of Joint Working Committee on investment was agreed and the First Meeting of the Joint Working Committee was held in Doha in March 2013. A 6-member Bangladesh delegation was led by the Additional Foreign Secretary Ambassador Mustafa Kamal while the Assistant Minister for International Cooperation Mr. Sheikh Ahmed Bin Mohammed Bin Jabor Al Thani led the Qatar side. During the meeting, a host of issues including proposed MoU between two Central Banks, 1988 Labour Agreement and its 2008 Additional Protocol, Business & Commerce, Power, Petroleum & Gas and matter relating to civil aviation, etc. was discussed at the meeting.
A MOU between Qatar Central Bank (QCB) and Bangladesh Bank (BB): Bangladesh Bank and Qatar Central Bank signed an MOU in May 2017 during the visit of the Hon’ble Foreign Minister of Bangladesh to Qatar to enhance cooperation in the banking field, exchange of information, experience and training. HE Sheikh Abdullah Bin Saud Al-Thani, Governor of Qatar Central Bank signed the MOU on behalf of the Qatar Central Bank. Both sides agreed to explore investment opportunities in a number of prospective areas.
International Electronic Money Order Service between Bangladesh Post and Qatar Post: A four member delegation led by the Director General of Bangladesh Post Mr. Prabash Saha paid an official visit to Qatar on 23-27 November 2015. During the visit an Agreement on “International Electronic Money Order Service between Bangladesh Post and Qatar Post” was signed on 24 November 2015 in Doha, Qatar. Qatar Post’s chairman Mr. Faleh Mohammed Al Naemi and Director General of the Post Office of Bangladesh Mr. Prahosh Saha signed the agreement on behalf of their respective countries. Under this instrument, the Bangladeshi Expatriates would be able to quickly send their hard-earned money to any post office of Bangladesh through Qatar Post at a cheaper rate compared to the existing money exchanges in Qatar.
Qatar now has the Vision 2030, which offers Bangladesh to look at new areas of engagement with Qatar. Similarly, Bangladesh’s Vision 2021 (of emergence as a Middle Income Country) and the Vision 2041 (of emergence as a developed country) promises Qatar to consider Bangladesh as a fast-growing economic opportunity to invest in beneficial terms. Bangladesh’s positioning within the global supply chains and some of the key global value chains, fulfilling incremental demand for quality infrastructure would merit consideration.
Bangladesh’s opening up to the region around through newer forms of connectivity and cooperation matrix is leading to newer economics as well which should also merit attention of the actors in government and private sector in Qatar. Clearly, it is a time when both countries are opting for transformation of respective economies. In spite of the diverse levels of economic development, there is yet room and opportunities in areas like trade, finance, investment, education, agriculture, defense where both countries can engage through so many new forms and modalities that many other countries are engaging.
It is time to consider new platforms or ways to get the range of private actors of the two countries e.g. much beyond conventional economic forum and see the possibilities of engagement in mutually beneficial terms. The ultimate objective is surely to strengthen the bonds between the two peoples further, which would elevate the bilateral relations to greater heights. Bangladesh stands ready to form deeper collaboration with the people and the government in Qatar beyond the existing matrix and to contribute to the other’s transformative Vision.