Bangladesh, Maldives to work together to attain security in Indian Ocean region

Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina visits static guard of honour at Velana International Airport, Maldives on 22 December 2021PID

Bangladesh and the Maldives have agreed to address and counter the threats posed by organised crimes, piracy, narcotic and human trafficking, through multilateral and regional for a, including Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), in the quest of attaining security, stability and peace in the Indian Ocean region.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina and president of the Maldives Ibrahim Mohamed Solih agreed on the importance of working together bilaterally, regionally and internationally in combating the rising menace of terrorism, violent extremism and radicalisation, according to a joint communiqué issued on Thursday.

Both leaders emphasised that the regional organisations such as South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has an important role to play in promoting regional cooperation in many areas, particularly in combating the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The Bangladesh side highlighted that the country has assumed the chairmanship of IORA for the first time, since October 2021 and sought the support of the Maldives for working together towards greater maritime safety and security in the Indian Ocean region.

President Solih congratulated Bangladesh and assured it of Maldives’ cooperation in this regard.

Solih thanked Sheikh Hasina for the generous gift of military vehicles, acknowledging the goodwill and friendship extended to the Maldives by the government of Bangladesh.

President Solih reaffirmed Maldives’ support to Bangladesh on the issue of the Forcibly Displaced Myanmar nationals.

The president added that the Maldives continues to condemn in the strongest terms, the atrocities committed against the Rohingya Muslim community in Myanmar and remain in solidarity with the Rohingya people.

Solih further commended prime minister Sheikh Hasina and the government of Bangladesh for graciously hosting the displaced Rohingya community, offering them protection and shelter, and her efforts to facilitate their peaceful and dignified repatriation to their home country.

President Solih and prime minister Hasina reiterated their commitment to promoting and protecting human rights in all fora.

They also agreed to extend all possible support to the candidacies floated by either country in various international organisations including the United Nations. Both leaders reiterated their commitment to promote human rights.

At the invitation of president Solih, prime minister Sheikh Hasina is now on a state visit to the Maldives, says the joint communiqué shared by the foreign ministry.

Sheikh Hasina is accompanied by a high-level delegation, including foreign minister AK Abdul Momen, expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment minister Imran Ahmad, health and family welfare minister Zahid Maleque and senior officials of the government of Bangladesh. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina was accorded a ceremonial welcome in Malé.

Both the leaders agreed that connectivity in all its forms is crucial to promote tourism and trade; and also stressed the early launching of the direct shipping link.

They welcomed the launch of flights between Dhaka and Malé by US Bangla Airlines, noting this will boost people to people contact and trade opportunities between the two countries.

Appreciating the enormous contribution made by the Bangladeshi expatriates to the socio-economic development of Maldives, president Solih stressed that a large number of Bangladeshi workers still remain undocumented and vulnerable to exploitation.

Both leaders noted the importance of regularisation and recognised the urgency of the early conclusion of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on “Cooperation in Matters Relating to Migrant Workers” and instructed their respective authorities to institute the modalities to expedite addressing this issue.

President Solih thanked prime minister Sheikh Hasina for the assurance of reinstating an on-arrival visa for Maldivian travellers to Bangladesh.

He also requested her to facilitate long-term student visas for Maldivian students for the complete duration of their studies.

President Solih and prime minister Sheikh Hasina highlighted the importance of multilateralism and underscored their commitment to work together at the United Nations and other multilateral fora on issues of global concerns.

He thanked Sheikh Hasina for the support extended to the candidature of Abdulla Shahid, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Maldives for the Presidency of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Hasina congratulated president Solih on the assumption of the Presidency by Abdulla Shahid and wished success in delivering his ‘Presidency of Hope’.

Both leaders expressed their concern on the climate emergency, noting that the effects of climate change directly and negatively impact the livelihood and wellbeing of people in island nations and low-lying coastal states like the Maldives and Bangladesh.

President Solih applauded prime minister Sheikh Hasina on her leadership as the Chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum.

The two leaders agreed to intensify their combined efforts in addressing the climate emergency, and proposed to enhance cooperation and exchange of knowledge between the two countries on climate change adaptation and disaster management.

On conclusion of the official talks, the two leaders witnessed the exchange of the following bilateral instruments between the two countries: MoU on the recruitment of health professionals, renewal of the MoU on cooperation in the areas of healthcare and medical sciences, MoU on youth and sports development, agreement on the avoidance of double taxation.

Prime minister Hasina thanked president Solih for the warm welcome and gracious hospitality extended to her and members of her delegation during their stay in Maldives.

President Solih reiterated Maldives’ request to enhance cooperation between the two countries in the areas of health, higher education and human resource development.

He thanked prime minister Sheikh Hasina and appreciated the willingness of Bangladesh to assist the Maldives in these areas, through increased opportunities for higher education in multiple fields, including vocational training and internships for medical students.

The two leaders directed their respective officials to coordinate to work out the details in this regard.

Both leaders were delighted to note that an increasing number of Maldivian students are choosing Bangladesh as one of their preferred destinations for higher studies.

President Solih requested to expand the scope of higher education facilities for Maldivian students.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina welcomed the proposal and informed that the Bangladesh government would be happy to extend specialised post-graduation courses and internships for the Maldivian medical professionals.

Both leaders noted with satisfaction the adoption of the calendar of activities (2022-2023) of the Cultural Exchange Programme (2022-2025) signed in March 2021 by both countries.

Both leaders also noted that the countries have been culturally linked for more than 800 years and stressed on collaborating further in the sphere of culture and heritage to make this bond stronger.

Sheikh Hasina offered to assist the Maldives in the areas of agriculture and information & communication technology, where Bangladesh possesses substantial expertise. In exchange, president Solih offered transfer of knowledge in fisheries and pelagic fishing.

Both the leaders also noted the need to promote sustainable governance of the ocean and environmental resources and proposed to collaborate on Blue Economy Initiatives of both the countries.

Considering the significant proportion of youth in both countries, Solih and Hasina noted the importance of creating an enabling environment with opportunities to fulfil their aspirations.

Solih welcomed Hasina’s initiative for the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) and to hold commerce secretary-level meetings to discuss trade related issues in detail at the earliest.