Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Visit to Qatar: From Energy to Trade Collaboration

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“I want to help you. Qatar will always come to help Bangladesh”.

– The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani

On March 5, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina requested more energy, notably liquefied natural gas (LNG), from Qatar to meet the demand for energy caused by the conflict in Ukraine. She made the proposal in a meeting with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, that was conducted at the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) in Doha alongside the United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDC5). According to Bangladesh’s foreign minister AK Abdul Momen, the country is now importing 40 containers worth of electricity, or 1.8 to 2.5 MTA. “We want your help. Bangladesh faces energy problems due to the Ukraine war. I want more…. I will renew the contract. I want more LNG,” the PM told. The Emir of Qatar replied by inquiring as to how much Bangladesh want. He was then informed that Bangladesh wants another MTA, which translates to 16–17 containers. Before she left Qatar, he promised to discuss it with the Bangladeshi prime minister in a meeting with his energy minister. This is a demonstration of the starting of a renewed cooperation in different domains.

The pandemic and the Ukraine war have affected the global supply chain and forced a discussion of the prices of all commodities, particularly petroleum. There are also a lot more justifications for the rationalization of the demands. First off, due to its rapid economic expansion and expanding population, Bangladesh is currently experiencing a rising demand for energy. For the next ten years, the country’s energy demand is anticipated to rise yearly, according to the Bangladesh Power Development Board. In order to meet its energy needs and support economic growth, Bangladesh must acquire new energy sources. Second, Qatar is among the biggest producers and exporters of LNG in the world. It possesses large natural gas reserves and is currently the top LNG supplier in the world. Due to its close proximity to Bangladesh, Qatar is an ideal LNG supplier for that nation. Third, as competition from other LNG producers, including those in the United States and Australia, grows, Qatar has been striving to increase the number of LNG customers it serves. As a result, Qatar is now looking for other markets, namely South Asia. Fourth, a large portion of Bangladesh’s energy requirements are currently met by imported oil. Bangladesh could lessen its reliance on imported oil and increase its energy security by diversifying its energy mix and moving toward greener energy sources like LNG.

Previously, Bangladesh signed a 15-year agreement with Qatar’s RasGas Co. to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) starting in 2018, as the South Asian country looks to the supercritical fuel to fill a domestic supply shortage for power generation. The agreement would be signed on September 25 in Qatar, according to Mohammad Quamruzzaman, managing director of the Rupantarita Prakritik Gas Co, a part of the state-owned oil business Petrobangla. Officials from Petrobangla said that under the terms of the agreement, RasGas would supply 1.8 million tonnes of LNG yearly for the first five years and 2.5 million tonnes annually for the following ten years. It was Bangladesh’s first LNG import agreement and will aid in addressing the nation’s domestic natural gas shortfall. The deal with the biggest LNG exporter in the world emphasizes South Asia’s development as a possible new consumer for the fuel. The agreement only covers 4 million tonnes of gas annually. Bangladesh consented to accept a 2011 Memorandum of Understanding with state-owned RasGas because it prefers to take in more spot cargoes amid a supply surplus that has decreased prices. On its website, Rupantarita Prakritik Gas stated in June that it was shortlisting suppliers for LNG spot cargoes starting in 2018.

The visit and the remarks of the Emir sparked discussions on the potential implications of an Energy Minister from Qatar meeting with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. The meeting could have significant impacts on the energy and economic sectors of both countries, as well as their diplomatic relations and regional stability.

One of the primary implications of the meeting is the potential for increased energy cooperation between Qatar and Bangladesh. As a major exporter of liquefied natural gas, Qatar could provide a significant source of energy for Bangladesh, which is experiencing growing demand for energy. This could lead to a more diversified energy mix for Bangladesh, which could help to reduce its reliance on a single source of energy.

In addition to energy cooperation, the meeting could also lead to an expansion of economic ties between the two countries. This could include increased trade and investment, beyond just the energy sector. Qatar could invest in Bangladesh’s energy sector, while Bangladesh could provide investment opportunities in other sectors, which could help to drive economic growth in both countries. The prime minister claimed that Bangladesh is establishing 100 economic zones and that several nations are investing there. She noted that Qatar can make investments in certain economic zones.

The meeting would have implications for diplomatic relations between Qatar and Bangladesh. By demonstrating a willingness to engage with Bangladesh on important issues, Qatar could strengthen its ties with the country and potentially enhance its regional influence. The meeting could also pave the way for enhanced regional cooperation between the two countries, which could include joint efforts to address common challenges such as climate change and regional security.

Another potential implication of the meeting is the opportunity for technological collaboration between Qatar and Bangladesh in the energy sector. This could include the sharing of best practices and the adoption of new technologies, which could help to improve the efficiency and sustainability of both countries’ energy sectors.

Besides, the meeting will have broader geo-political and regional implications. For example, it could indicate a shift in Qatar’s foreign policy towards South Asia, and impact the relationship between Bangladesh and other regional powers. Furthermore, the meeting could have domestic political implications for both countries. In Bangladesh, it could be seen as a positive step towards addressing the country’s energy needs, while in Qatar it could be seen as a demonstration of the Emir’s commitment to engage with other countries on important issues.

The meeting may lead to employment opportunities for citizens of both countries. This could include job opportunities in the energy sector, as well as in other sectors that may benefit from increased economic cooperation. The meeting could also facilitate cultural exchange between Qatar and Bangladesh, as officials from both countries could engage in discussions on a wide range of topics.

Finally, the meeting could have positive environmental impact, as it could lead to increased use of natural gas as a cleaner energy source, which could reduce the carbon footprint of Bangladesh. It could also have contributed to regional stability, as increased cooperation between Qatar and Bangladesh would help to promote stability in the South Asian region.

The meeting between the Emir of Qatar and the Prime Minister of Bangladesh certainly has far-reaching implications for both countries. It would lead to increased energy cooperation, economic ties, and diplomatic relations, as well as technological collaboration, and employment opportunities. Additionally, it would lead to broader geo-political and regional implications, as well as domestic political implications. Therefore, it is important to closely monitor the developments resulting from this meeting and assess its potential impact on both countries and the wider region.

– Syed Raiyan Amir is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

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