Monday, 17 January, 2022

Significance of Bangladesh PM’s Visit to the Maldives

Jubeda Chowdhury

Significance of Bangladesh PM’s Visit to the Maldives

Popular News

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina paid a six-day visit to the Maldives from December 22 to December 27, 2021. This visit was fruitful to strengthen the mutual ties between the two countries.  Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to the Maldives has great importance. Through this visit, efforts were made to expand trade and investment cooperation between Bangladesh and the Maldives, consolidate and expand Bangladesh's labour market, regularise irregular workers, and increase cooperation in health and education so that Bangladesh's service sector can expand. The linkage between Bangladesh and the Maldives in South Asia has become closer.

The Maldives is an island nation with about 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean. Bangladesh and the Maldives both are South Asian countries geographically.  Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and the Maldives in 1978, the two countries have been working together on various bilateral and international issues. As a friendly country, Bangladesh has always stood by the Maldives in various natural disasters and humanitarian crises. Especially in the post-tsunami period, Bangladesh stood by the Maldives with rapid humanitarian assistance in the drinking water crisis in Male. A significant number of Bangladeshis are working in the economically advanced Maldives among the South Asian countries. There are about one lakh Bangladeshis in this small country, which is 60 per cent of the total expatriate workers working in the country. Expatriate Bangladeshis work here in almost all fields including construction, tourism, marketing, communication and health sector. In recent times, a number of expatriate Bangladeshis in the Maldives have become undocumented. Many of them are taking advantage of the regularisation programme adopted by the Maldivian government in 2019.

On the second day of her visit on 23 December, two MoUs on Recruitment of Qualified Health Professionals and on Cooperation in the Areas of Youth and Sports Development and an agreement for the Elimination of Double Taxation with Respect to the Taxes on Income and the Prevention of Tax Evasion and Avoidance were signed. Apart from this, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the areas of Healthcare and Medical Sciences was renewed between Bangladesh and Maldives' health ministries. An agreement is to avoid double taxation. These are needed for both parties.

Last March, the President of Maldives came to Dhaka on the occasion of the birth centenary of Father of the Nation and the golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence. The country's Vice President Faisal Nasim recently visited Dhaka. During their visit, emphasis has been laid on connectivity between Dhaka and Male, the issue of direct shipping and direct flight between Chattogram and Male in particular. The recent visit of Bangladesh PM has accelerated the pace of the effort. A new potential for connectivity is waiting for both the Maldives and Bangladesh.

Since 2015, initiatives have been taken to sign an agreement between the governments of Bangladesh and the Maldives on the transfer of prisoners. The two sides then exchanged amendments to the draft agreement several times. A great initiative was taken to return 43 Bangladeshis held in local jails. This can be a significant gain for the Bangladeshi expatriate community in the Maldives. The initiative is really praiseworthy. But Bangladesh community should understand that they represent the country abroad. So, for ensuring the national prestige, every expatriate should abstain from doing any wrong which is contradictory to the host country. However, the two countries have expressed hope that the prisoner exchange agreement will resolve the issue and strengthen relations between the two countries.

Several agreements have already been signed between the two countries. In February this year, two agreements were signed to legalise illegal Bangladeshi workers in the Maldives, repatriate them, send new workers and develop the two countries' foreign services. The agreement was signed with the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare of Bangladesh and the Foreign Service Academy through the visit of Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdullah Shahid to Dhaka. Two MoUs were then signed on cooperation in sending human resources from Bangladesh to the Maldives and training of Bangladeshi and Maldivian diplomats. Later in the joint press conference, the foreign ministers of the Maldives and Bangladesh highlighted various aspects of the meeting, including the signing of two MoUs. Bangladesh also gifted 13 military vehicles to the Maldives as a token of friendship between the two South Asian nations.

On December 24, she spoke at a reception given to expatriate Bangladeshis living in the Maldives. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said that the government will take steps to solve the problems of Bangladeshis in the Maldives. On the other hand, she has announced that a state-flagged Bangladesh Biman flight will be launched between the two countries soon. This will further strengthen the bilateral trade and communication ties between the two countries.

In her address to the Maldivian Parliament, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called upon the country's public and private sectors to be Bangladesh's development partners. He said no country can improve alone. Covid-19 has taught us that there is no substitute for interdependence and experience sharing in the interests of a developed, secure, and prosperous world. We are reiterating the policy position of cooperating with fraternal neighbours in South Asia. We want the Maldives to stand side by side in the next 50 years of the development journey for mutual benefit.

Our national flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines is going to launch flights with the Maldives via Chennai. She hoped that the launch of the flight would further enhance the communication and tourism cooperation between the people of the two countries. The Prime Minister said direct flights between Bangladesh and the Maldives have increased with the launch of US-Bangladesh flights.

Sheikh Hasina said during the dialogue, they agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation between the two countries, especially in the fields of health, education, human resource development, youth and sports, fisheries, and agriculture. They also agreed to work together to address the challenges of climate change and the rapid repatriation of forcibly displaced Rohingya to Myanmar.

The Maldives has a lot of natural resources, including fish. Their tourist spots are world-famous. Maldives' blue economy is booming day by day. As a climate-vulnerable nation, the Maldives needs a proper climate adaptability management system. At present, the country's per capita income is more than 11 thousand dollars. But the Maldives lacks human resources. Bangladesh has human resources. Bangladesh is also a role model of dealing with climate adaptability management. There is no difference between the two countries in religious and social culture. For this reason, Bangladeshis in the Maldives can adapt very easily. They can benefit from taking more people Bangladesh. As a result, people-to-people contact and trade volume will be further strengthened.

According to the Prime Minister's call, if the two countries can become mutual development partners, the trade activities of the two countries will increase. At the same time, the Maldives can become one of the labour markets for Bangladesh. The Maldives and Bangladesh can gain by strengthening air and maritime connectivity and growing business ties. Bangladesh’s remarkable achievements are being praised by the international community. The Maldives can benefit from being partners in Bangladesh's development journey for ensuring mutual benefits. PM Sheikh Hasina’s visit has paved the way.


The writer is a freelance contributor