Diplomatic DiaryFeatured

Kuwait and Bangladesh enjoy excellent relations

Staff Report

Ahead of his departure from Kuwait following a highly successful four year tenure, Ambassador of Bangladesh H.E. Major General Md Ashikuzzaman accorded an exclusive interview to The Times Kuwait, during which he spoke at length about the strength of relations between Bangladesh and Kuwait in various fields and on multiple levels.

He began by expressing his sincere gratitude and gratefulness to Almighty Allah “for keeping me physically and mentally fit to discharge my duties and responsibilities as Ambassador of Bangladesh to the brotherly State, Kuwait. Alhamdulillah. I am also thankful to all the former Amirs, Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers and present Amir His Highness Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah and His Highness the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister and all the brotherly people of Kuwait for hosting me and my family with utmost care and honor.

“I began my tenure in Kuwait in August 2020 when COVID-19 was in full swing. At that time major challenges were to continue the Consular Services and bring back the stranded Bangladeshi from the country. Within that environment, we did our best with the full support of the Kuwait Authority. Simultaneously I tried to strengthen further our existing diplomatic relations through political, public, cultural, and economic diplomacy, as well as through interpersonal relations.

“On the eve of my departure I extend my wholehearted appreciation to all, especially my respected and beloved friends of the diplomatic corps, my friends from all the media for rendering excellent love, affections, support and cooperation to me in discharging my duties and responsibilities. For us it has been an outstanding learning session, knowledge sharing, experience gathering, wonderful memories and excellent opportunities for social and family interactions. We will cherish our stay in Kuwait forever. Thank you very much to you all. We are leaving behind many friends and well-wishers with happy notes.  “

Lauding the growing bilateral relations in all fields, the ambassador stated: “Since the establishment of diplomatic relation in 1974, Bangladesh and Kuwait have been enjoying excellent bilateral cooperation in a wide range of areas including political, economic, export and import, trade and investment, manpower, agriculture, education, tourism and defense sectors.

“During my tenure I have tried to maintain and develop these relations further. Besides supporting each other’s requests in different international committees, Kuwaiti authorities supported us in financing the running case in ICJ for Rohingyas, the forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals in Bangladesh. We signed an agreement with Kuwait Fund for funding a bridge project. We signed an agreement with the Health Ministry for bringing medical staff from Bangladesh, and from 2022 more than 600 nurses have been working in Kuwait and many recruitments are in the process. Our proposal for bringing domestic maids is in their active considerations.

“We have also made huge engagements in the field of arts and cultural events and tourism sectors. This year we are celebrating the golden jubilee of diplomatic relations. For mutual benefits, both the countries vowed to identify new areas of mutual cooperation such as food security, health security, climate change, renewable energy, green technology, ICT and digitalization etc. I am confident that in June/July an official visit from Kuwait to Bangladesh will take place, where existing relations will be further strengthened and new areas of mutual benefit will be developed.”

Asked about the trade exchange between the two countries, the envoy said: “Trade exchange between two countries is not that encouraging. One of the major barriers I consider is the restriction on visit visa. To develop trade exchange there is a need for frequent engagements at different levels between two countries. Bangladesh aspires to become a developed nation by 2041, and to materialize our vision, among many efforts, the Government of Bangladesh has established 100 Special Economic Zones to attract potential investors.

‘Besides local and international investors in different categories, so far, Bangladesh has reserved two economic zones for India and one economic zone each for Japan and China on G2G Basis. In addition, the USA, UK, Australia and many European and Asian countries have already become our main sources of investment. In Bangladesh, major potential sectors of investment are garments and textiles, pharmaceuticals, ship-building, light engineering, ceramic, leather, agri-business, ICT, energy sector and tourism. I invite our development partner Kuwait and all the friendly countries to invest in the economic zones and share benefits of mutual growth and prosperity.”

Explaining the security cooperation between the two countries, Ambassador Ashikuzzaman indicated, “The military cooperation between Bangladesh and the State of Kuwait is very special. Being a part of Coalition Forces, after the Liberation of Kuwait, from 1991 till to date, the Bangladesh Military Contingent (BMC) have been working here under Kuwait Armed Forces on a project named Operation Kuwait Punarghathan (OKP). At present around 5000 Bangladesh Armed Forces personnel are deployed with Kuwait Armed Forces.

“The cooperation between the two Armed Forces shows trust and confidence of His Highness the Amir of Kuwait in Bangladesh. At the end of last year our Chief of Army Staff paid an official visit to Kuwait and discussed many issues related to mutual benefits. I hope the military leadership of both the countries will find more avenues of cooperation in many other operational/logistics sectors in days to come.”

Speaking about some of the challenges involved in obtaining work visas for Bangladeshi citizens, the envoy said, “At present all kinds of work visas are on. But the requirement of obtaining ‘La Manna’ (No Objection Certificate) from MOI for Bangladeshi workers is the major barrier for expanding this market. This is especially applicable for the private sectors. We have huge skill workforces back at home. If the ‘La Manna’  requirement is removed this will give us a huge opportunity to bring our skilled manpower to different sectors in Kuwait. I hope that the Kuwait Authority will actively consider our request on this issue.Meanwhile, as I mentioned earlier, based on our proposal, recruitment of domestic maids is under active consideration. I hope in the near future, this will be executed through MoU/Agreement between us to ensure safe and secured migration.”

Elaborating on the Bangladeshi community in Kuwait, he added, ”Around 300,000 Bangladeshi are present in Kuwait and they are contributing significantly in socio-economic development of Kuwait in different capacities. We called them ‘Remittance Fighters’. On average, from Kuwait around USD1.6 billion is sent to Bangladesh each year. This has a direct impact on our economy.

“Being pledge bound as their guardian, I have been very considerate and empathetic, my door was always open for them and my mobile number was open to all. During my tenure, I tried with utmost sincerity, devotion and commitment with my professional team to extend all kinds of help/assistance they needed be it any consular services or even personal in nature. During my tenure, I opened two new consular services in Kuwait, one is E-Passport Service and NID (National Identity Card) service. In particular, the NID service is a very important government document for any Bangladeshi citizen living across the world.

“Besides, to up-skill our migrant workers we also opened an On-Line Education Program through our Open University for Secondary/Higher Secondary/Graduation level. At present 300 students are undergoing On-Line Courses. The Bangladeshi community in Kuwait is very vibrant in many areas such as art and culture, social events and sports activities. They are very supportive to our embassy in all aspects.”

Turning to tourism and the visa formalities involved in visiting Bangladesh, the ambassador stated: “I encourage all Kuwaitis to visit Bangladesh. Bangladesh is a land of natural beauty.  Each part of the country offers distinctly different topography, flavorsand food. Bangladesh offers the world’s longest natural sea beach at Cox’s Bazar and world’s largest mangrove forest — Sundarban, the home of Royal Bengal Tigers.  We organized a tourism exhibition on 7 March 2024, where we displayed all the places of tourism attractions with allied facilities. I am sure any Kuwaiti visiting Bangladesh would prefer to visit again. Kuwaiti citizens holding diplomatic and official passports obtain a visa on arrival, while ordinary passport holders will need a visa which is extended from our embassy. I welcome all my Kuwaiti friends to visit Bangladesh and enjoy the beauty and hospitality of Bangladeshi People.”

Asked about the developments in Palestine and the region, the envoy affirmed, “We strongly condemn killing of innocent civilians including women and children; and demand an immediate end of Israeli brutalities in Palestine. We firmly believe that a two-State solution is the only viable way to ensure lasting peace in the region; and we reaffirm our unwavering support to the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people through the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State.”

In parting, the ambassador said that the one thing that he will miss most on leaving Kuwait are the many friends and  friendships built during his years here. He added, “I am leaving behind many friends and well-wishers. My sincere prayers for the beautiful country Kuwait, the leadership of Kuwait and friendly and brotherly people of Kuwait. May Allah bestow his endless Rahamat to this beautiful country, may Kuwait develop and prosper to the zenith of success, may people of Kuwait live long with peace, happiness and tranquility. May Bangladesh –Kuwait relations live long.“

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