BD-Qatar Strengthen Ties, Economic Collaboration, and Shared Global Concerns

129

On April 23, Bangladesh and Qatar solidified their partnership with the signing of ten cooperation agreements, including five agreements and five memorandums of understanding (MoUs), aiming to bolster their relations across various sectors and elevate their partnership to new heights. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Qatars Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani graced the signing ceremony, underscoring the significance of these agreements. Their meeting follows a series of engagements, including one-on-one discussions and bilateral meetings between Prime Minister Hasina and Amir Sheikh Tamim, as well as a meeting with President Mohammed Shahabuddin. Qatars Amir embarked on a state visit to Bangladesh upon the invitation of the Bangladeshi president and prime minister, highlighting the importance both nations place on their relationship. Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud bid farewell to Amir Sheikh Tamim as he departed for Kathmandu, Nepal, marking the conclusion of his 24-hour state visit.

Bangladesh and Qatar maintain a robust partnership characterized by a shared commitment to peace, stability, and global development. Rooted in their respective constitutional principles, both nations prioritize peaceful conflict resolution, non-interference in internal affairs, and cooperation with peace-loving nations, aligning closely with the charters of the UN and OIC. Their collaboration extends to various international issues, including support for Palestine, the Rohingyas, counterterrorism, climate action, gender parity, and the welfare of the Muslim Ummah. Notably, Qatar hosts the FIFA World Cup 2022, supported by Bangladeshi labor, which has seen a significant influx since 2012, particularly for infrastructure projects linked to this global event and Qatars Vision 2030. This cooperation also encompasses defense, cultural exchanges, and economic ties, including bilateral trade, investment, tourism, and education. Both nations are exploring opportunities to deepen cooperation through bilateral mechanisms such as foreign office consultations, joint working groups, and MOUs, aiming to further enhance their multifaceted partnership for mutual benefit and global prosperity.

Recent years have seen significant advancements in Bangladeshs relationship with Qatar, particularly concerning energy imports. Gulf Times reports a remarkable increase in trade volume between the two nations, soaring from approximately QAR 2.4 billion (about $659.34 million) in 2018 to roughly QAR 7.8 billion (approximately $2.14 billion) in 2023, representing a growth of over 200%. This surge is largely attributed to the active involvement of private sectors in both countries. Qatar serves as Bangladeshs primary supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG). In January 2024, QatarEnergy and US-based Excelerate Energy finalized a long-term agreement stipulating that Bangladesh would receive 1 million metric tonnes per year (MTPY) of LNG for a duration of 15 years, starting from January 2026.Manpower export from Bangladesh to Qatar commenced in 1976 when the Middle Eastern Arab State initiated infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, buildings, and hotels.In 2018, Qatar emerged as the third most significant destination for Bangladeshi labour, following Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. Approximately 76,500 Bangladeshi workers arrived in Qatar that year, comprising 10.43% of Bangladeshs total overseas employment. Over the past three years, Qatar has notably recruited around 280,000 semi-skilled and unskilled workers from Bangladesh, primarily for construction projects aimed at developing infrastructure for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and advancing their National Vision 2030. Presently, an estimated 420,000 Bangladeshi citizens are engaged in various sectors-government, semi-government, and private-in Qatar. Bangladesh initiated the dispatch of female workers to Qatar in 2013, with over 3,000 employed there by 2018, predominantly as domestic aides at the household level.

On April 23, 2024, the five agreements signed encompass collaboration in legal affairs between Bangladesh and Qatar, the advancement and safeguarding of mutual investments, the prevention of double taxation and fiscal evasion regarding income taxes between the two nations, maritime transportation, and the formation of a Joint Business Council (JBC) between the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI) and Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry (QCCI).

During the bilateral discussions at the Prime Ministers Office, both parties also discussed regional and global issues of shared concern, including the conflict in Gaza and the repatriation of the Rohingyas. Both leaders voiced profound apprehensions regarding the heightened tension and violence in the Middle East and urged global leaders to take decisive actions for a lasting resolution to the Palestinian issue.

Meanwhile, during their meeting at the Bangabhaban, President Mohammed Shahabuddin urged the Qatar Amir to consider investing in Bangladeshs Special Economic Zones (SEZs), highlighting the governments establishment of 100 SEZs for foreign investors. He emphasized potential investment opportunities in various sectors within the SEZs, such as agro-production, food processing, smart agriculture, and fertilizer production. President Shahabuddin also mentioned the comprehensive incentives and support available for Qatari investors, particularly in areas like petrochemicals, energy, machinery, IT, electronics, ceramics, agribusiness, and food processing. Expressing appreciation for Qatars hosting of around 375,000 Bangladeshi nationals, he encouraged the recruitment of additional semi-skilled and skilled workers, IT experts, professionals, and technicians from Bangladesh. Additionally, President Shahabuddin expressed gratitude for Qatars provision of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to Bangladesh and requested long-term energy assistance from Qatar.

Bangladesh and Qatars collaboration underscores their shared commitment to peace, stability, and global development, grounded in their constitutional principles and international affiliations. Their partnership extends across various domains, from supporting Palestine and the Rohingya to enhancing economic ties, cultural exchanges, and educational cooperation. Notably, the surge in trade volume and Qatars role as Bangladeshs primary LNG supplier signify the deepening of their economic relationship. The significant export of Bangladeshi labor to Qatar, particularly for infrastructure projects linked to the FIFA World Cup 2022 and Qatars Vision 2030, highlights the mutual benefits and challenges of their partnership. The signing of agreements and MoUs, coupled with discussions on regional and global issues, demonstrates the multifaceted nature of Bangladesh-Qatar cooperation and their commitment to further strengthening their ties for mutual prosperity and global peace.

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

Published in Daily Observer [Link]