Bangladesh-UAE Relations Moving Towards Partnership
Both countries have common aspirations and there exists a large scope for working together according to Mohammed Abu Zafar, Bangladesh Ambassador to the UAE
Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are at their 50th year as the twins were born in the propitious year of 1971. It also appears that the two countries are born to march together. Bangladesh has already embarked on celebrating the 50th anniversary of its independence through a yearlong festivity while the UAE has recently unveiled its yearlong programme of fête from next month.
On this auspicious occasion, I extend heartfelt congratulations to fellow Bangladeshis residing in the United Arab Emirates while we are celebrating the golden jubilee of our independence and the birth centenary of Father of the Nation. By the same token, I take this opportunity to express our warm greetings to the government, their highnesses the rulers and the brotherly people of the UAE on the occasion of their marking 50 glorious years of its establishment.
Both our countries are chalking out programmes to jointly celebrate this momentous occasion.
I also have the honour to recall with the deepest gratitude the greatest Bangali of all times Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the founding father of the UAE the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the architect of Bangladesh-UAE bilateral relations, which is based on shared faith, culture, tradition and common aspirations. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made his historic visit to the UAE in March 1974 and the two founding fathers laid the foundation stone of our bilateral relations during that visit. Our relations reached a new level by way of the ten-day historic visit of Sheikh Zayed to Bangladesh in 1984. Since then, our ties and cooperation have steadily expanded and deepened in almost all areas. Over the last decade high-level visits, meetings and engagements between the two countries, particularly that of Hon'ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has raised the bilateral ties to a new historic level. There now exists an excellent understanding amongst top leaderships, which will pave the way for the development of sector-wise partnership in the days ahead.
Bilateral trade has posted significant growth over the years with last year's bilateral trade of around Dh1.2 billion while the UAE has emerged as the fifth largest investor in Bangladesh with over Dh2.5 billion of investment. The UAE is one of the long-standing development partners of Bangladesh with the provision of economic assistance, mostly project loans. Within the framework of the existing trade agreement, our missions in the UAE are exploring every scope for further expansion of bilateral trade and economic cooperation. In this regard, Bangladesh eyes the UAE market with products like readymade garments (RMG), pharmaceuticals, jute products, fabrics, home textile, bicycle, plastic products, processed food, furniture etc. All indicators show that bilateral trade could reach the $2 billion level by 2024.
Bangladesh offers the most liberal investment policy in South Asia to attract foreign direct investments in Economic Zones, Special Economic Zones and High-Tech Parks. I'm pleased to note that there is a growing interest in the UAE investors for their investment in various sectors of Bangladesh like power and energy projects, establishing of UAE-Bangladesh economic zones, developing ports, agro-processing, and other industrial and service sectors.
Bangladesh always attaches great importance to its relationship with the UAE. The Bangladeshi workforce and infrastructural companies contributed significantly to the initial development phase of the UAE in the mid-1970s and have continued to contribute to the development of today's high-income, innovative UAE. Being the second-largest destination of Bangladeshi expatriates the UAE now hosts over a half of one million general workers along with a significant number of professionals like doctors, engineers, university professors, accountants, IT experts. Bangladeshi expatriate workers are in high demand here for their sincerity, honesty, hard work, commitment and law-abiding nature. The expatriate Bangladeshis have nowadays emerged as the cornerstone of Bangladesh's bilateral relations with GCC countries including the UAE and the annual inward remittance currently over $18 billion, as an important pillar of the country's economy. Some Bangladeshi entrepreneurs and businessmen who are also running big construction companies, large perfumery, SMEs like supermarkets and steel workshops etc. are contributing to the economy of the UAE.
There are a number of agreements and legal instruments as well as cooperative frameworks in place to further bolster bilateral cooperation, economic and cultural relations between our two countries. Taking into account the challenges facing our two countries from Covid-19 and climate change and the opportunities they offer new areas are being marked for developing close cooperation and partnership. Currently, Bangladesh Missions are mapping opportunities in the areas of food security, agricultural research and innovation, climate change mitigation and adaptation and ICT besides nurturing the growing defence cooperation in the areas of training, joint exercise, maritime operation, security as well as the regular exchange of visits between high-level defence officials and regular participation of Bangladesh in defence exhibitions.
People-to-people contact has increased significantly between the two countries thanks to the excellent cooperation in civil aviation, which plays a seminal role in this area by way of operating more than 10 direct flights every day by the designated airlines from both ends. Cultural exchange programmes are also taking place on a regular basis between the two countries. Philanthropic activities by charitable organisations and funds of the UAE at the government and private level in Bangladesh continue to strengthen close relations between our two countries.
Both the countries are also working very closely on regional and international platforms including the UN, NAM, OIC and IORA, and other forums as both the countries maintain almost similar position on most of the global issues. Bangladesh has also positioned itself as an active, responsible and contributing member of the international community, as best manifested through our lead contribution to UN Peacekeeping Operations, climate change negotiation, implementation of Sustainable Development Goals and so on.
Both the countries were born with the common aspiration for being a prosperous country along with the visions of their respective founding fathers. Thanks to the UAE founding father and the incumbent visionary leaders, the UAE has already achieved many milestones. Today, I sincerely commend the UAE leadership for its stellar development over the last 50 glorious years while laying its vision for the next 50 years. The government and the people of Bangladesh join me in wishing them all success in their endeavours.
At the same time, following the pathways to realising the dream of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the visions of Hon'ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Bangladesh, today Bangladesh has become a development-miracle, an economic bull of South Asia, model for women empowerment and social inclusion, a land of humanity and a land of promise and prosperity. Today's Bangladesh is a changed Bangladesh with sound economic fundamentals and social indicators. Several mega projects including Padma Bridge, Metrorail, Elevated Expressway, Tunnel under Karnafuli River, Rooppur Nuclear Power Project, Maheshkhali-Matarbari integrated development project, construction of 100 special economic zones and more than two dozen Hi-tech and IT parks etc. would be operational in the coming years. Bangladesh has sent a satellite (Bangabadhu Satellite I) on the earth's orbit while ensuring access to electricity for 99 per cent of the country's 165 million population.
Under the visionary leadership of the Hon'ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh has already made its way to a developing country disproving the political pundit's prognosis about Bangladesh being a case of a bottomless basket. My country has put in place the strategy necessary and the determination for taking off as a prosperous high-income country-the Sonar Bangla as dreamt by Father of the Nation at its 70 in 2041 following the Vision 2041 and Delta Plan 2100.
Today, I heartily call upon distinguished entrepreneurs, industrialists and business leaders to take a close look at our development trajectory with comparative advantage and join us in our arduous but surmountable journey towards a prosperous country. It's our expectation that the UAE will stay beside us as a twin in the next stage of ourjourney.
May the Bangladesh-UAE friendship live forever!
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