Bangladesh & Oman Bilateral Relationship
Bangladesh–Oman Bilateral Relations: The Sultanate of Oman recognized Bangladesh in 1974. Bangladesh established her diplomatic mission in Oman in March 1983 at the level of CDA a.i.. Since then the two countries have been maintaining cordial relations. Oman was one of the first Arab countries to extend support to Bangladesh’s membership at the UN and other international organizations. Bangladesh upgraded its mission in Oman in 1996 at the level of Ambassador. The Sultanate of Oman established its full-fledged embassy in Dhaka in 2012 at the level of CDA, a.i..
Ever since its establishment in 1983, the Mission’s activities are primarily focused on facilitating the export of manpower from Bangladesh to Oman and looking after consular and welfare services related to the expatriate Bangladeshis living in the Sultanate. In 2013, some 1,34,028 Bangladeshi workers entered into Oman with different categories of work permits and the Mission remains vigilant in facilitating the process. In 2014, 1,05,748 Bangladeshis came to Oman on different categories of visas. Approximately US$ 700 million has been remitted by Bangladeshi expatriates living in Oman during the FY July 2013-June 2014.
Important Visits: H.E. Dr. Dipu Moni, MP, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh paid an official visit to Oman from 25-26 April 2012. She met with Omani Foreign Minister H.E. Mr. Yousuf Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah, Inspector General of Police and Customs, Mr. Hassan bin Mohseen Al Sheraiqi, Minister of Commerce & Industry H.E. Engineer Ali bin Masood Al Sunaidi, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Dr. Fuad bin Jafer Al Sagwani and Minister of Oil and Gas Dr. Mohammed Bin Hamad bin Saif Al Rumhi. The first ever bilateral official visit by any Foreign Minister from either side infused much needed momentum in our bilateral relations. During bilateral talks, both sides identified agriculture, fisheries, trade and investment as key areas of interest for mutual cooperation. The Omani authorities were further ready to handover a plot in the diplomatic enclave of Muscat, on reciprocal basis, during the visit by Bangladesh Foreign Minister.
H.E. Engineer Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, MP visited Oman on 4-9 May, 2013 at the invitation of the Omani Manpower Minister H.E. Shaikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Abdullah Al Bakri. He had bilateral meeting with the Omani Manpower Minister and also had meetings with communications Minister H.E. Dr. Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Salim Al Futaisi, Health Minister Dr. Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Obaid Al Sa’eedi, Agriculture Minister Dr. Fuad bin Ja’afar bin Mohammed Al Sajwani. The Hon’ble Minister also called on Deputy Prime Minister H.H. Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud Al Said who usually presides over the cabinet meetings in place of the Sultan.
From the Omani side, a four-member Omani Agriculture Delegation visited Bangladesh in March 2013 to explore opportunities for potential collaboration in the field of agriculture, fisheries and allied sectors.
An Omani delegation comprising members from the Ministry of Manpower visited Bangladesh in March 2014 to attend the 3rd Joint Committee Meeting under the auspices of the Agreement on Manpower.
Visit by Omani Foreign Minister to Bangladesh: The Omani Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs accepted (early 2013) an invitation by his Bangladeshi counterpart to visit Bangladesh, which was subsequently deferred to a later date.
Establishment of a full-fledged Omani Embassy in Dhaka: Following the visit of the Foreign Minister the Omani authorities established a full-fledged embassy in Dhaka in late 2012. The Omani Embassy in Dhaka has been relocated to independent new premises, which was operating from the Qatari Embassy in Dhaka since 2001. The Omani authorities have posted a First Secretary (Consular) at the Omani Embassy in Dhaka in mid 2013, in addition to the CDA, a.i.
Collaboration in the Field of Agriculture and Allied Sectors: The Embassy is currently negotiating a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in the field of agriculture and fisheries with the relevant Omani agencies. The idea of this MOU was first discussed between the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh and the Omani Agriculture Minister during former’s official visit to the Sultanate in April 2012. Subsequently, the Embassy received a draft from the Ministry of Agriculture of Bangladesh and informally consulted the draft text of the MOU with the following Directorate Generals of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of Oman: (i) Agriculture and Animal Research, (ii) Planning and Investment Development, (iii) Animal Resource, (iv) Fisheries Development, (v) International Cooperation. The Embassy sent the compiled text of the MOU to the Ministry earlier. This MOU would provide the much needed basis for long-term benefits to our workforces who are currently engaged in that field in Oman.
MOU on Promotion and Protection of Investment: Bangladesh submitted revised draft in 2011 and now awaiting response from the Omani authorities.
Foreign Office Consultations (FOCs): We underscore on regular dialogue and consultation between the two countries at different levels and platforms. With a view to establishing a political consultation mechanism on a regular basis between the Foreign Ministries of our two brotherly countries, the MOU definitely play a significant role in coming days. This mechanism will be very fruitful to boost up the relations and cooperation between our brotherly countries. I am happy to note that Oman side considered the proposal positively and Bangladesh, we heartily welcomed and accepted without any amendment and expressed great satisfaction that we can sign the agreement today.
Unilateral Extension of Visa on Arrival Facility to Omani Citizens: In September 2014, the Government of Bangladesh, considering the existing excellent bilateral relations and growing friendship and interaction between the people of the two brotherly Muslim countries, has decided to unilaterally extend “Visa on Arrival” facilities for all Omani nationals. Accordingly, citizens of Oman holding diplomatic, official or regular passport who intend to undertake visit to Bangladesh on official, business, investment or tourism purposes would be issued Visa on Arrival (after examining the relevant papers, subject to the satisfaction of the immigration officials), for maximum 30 days and single entry, at the international airports and land ports of Bangladesh. If the visitors require extension of visa issued on arrival, the Department of Immigration and Passports of Bangladesh will take necessary measures in light of the existing Visa Policy.
In the same spirit the Embassy of Bangladesh, on behalf of the Government of Bangladesh, has conveyed that the Government of the Sultanate of Oman may also consider extending Visa on Arrival facility to Bangladesh nationals holding Diplomatic and Official passports. The Omani authorities are yet to respond in that regard.
Exchange of Plots in Respective Diplomatic Enclaves: Prior to the visit of Bangladesh Foreign Minister to Oman, the Omani side conveyed approval of the competent authorities for exchange of appropriate plots in respective diplomatic enclaves on reciprocal basis. They further requested us to identify a plot which will be specified for Omani Embassy premises and Head of Mission’s residence in Dhaka in preparation of similar plot in the diplomatic enclave in Muscat for our Embassy premises (Chancery/embassy residence). In fact, they were ready to handover a plot in the diplomatic enclave of Muscat, on reciprocal basis, during the visit by Bangladesh Foreign Minister.
Proposed Oman-Bangladesh Joint Development Fund: During a meeting, in early 2013, the Secretary General (State Minister), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Oman coined the idea of establishing an “Oman-Bangladesh Joint Development Fund” to facilitate two-way investment in our two countries. In this regard, he referred to the Omani State General Reserve Fund, which does have such arrangements with other countries. In suggesting so, the Secretary General expressed high optimism about the potential of two-way benefits in such arrangement.
SMEs Development in Oman and Scope for Bangladesh Engagement: In the aftermath of Arab Springs in ME in 2011, the Omani authorities have been making significant efforts to find workable solutions/model to address the inherent problems in employment and related issues. In that context, Development of SMEs, based on a study conducted by KPMG Oman, came as a prominent feature as it promises both HR development as well as employment generation. In that regard the Omani authorities have established two entities: (1) SME Fund, & (2) The Al Raffd Fund. The Al Raffd Fund (a US$ 182m fund established early this year for SMEs development purposes), in addition to tragetted programs for SME development, is seeking to go further by specifically designing programs for “rural women”. In this regard it may be noted that the post Arab Springs interventions are primarily aimed at the rising aspirations of educated youth in urban areas, who generally poses the greatest political challenge for the long-dictatorial ruling elites/authorities. The above development provides a unique opportunity for Bangladesh to offer experiences from its noteworthy achievements, till date. In fact, the Al Raffd Fund, through KPMG Oman, has proposed to engage BRAC for such purpose.
Our (BRAC or any other competent entity) engagement in Oman will have much larger implications for our key bilateral interest (i.e., manpower export and their jobs/engagement), if we take a little deeper look into the overall economic priorities of the host government vis.-a-vis. precarious situation of our communities living in the Sultanate. Many of our workforce, who came as labourer, are now doing business – mostly in undocumented way (mostly under verbal terms), which recently the host authorities termed as “hidden business” and expressed strong desire to streamline with a view to engage the local nationals into the management of those [hidden] businesses, including creation of job opportunities for the Omanis. Unless our nationals can survive through the looming legalization process, our expats [unnaturalized entrepreneurs per se] have to either leave the country or at least the business, which will have significant impact on both jobs for our nationals, as these SMEs are often the major employer of them, as well as sending of higher amount of remittance.
Further it may be surmised that, in terms of creating local social security for our low-wage labourers, who are working in rural areas as well as our informal SMEs operators, BRAC/any other entity’s engagement in Oman in the SME development including managing Rural Women programs will be a blessing. This engagement further has the potential to create a much needed psycho-social safety net for our female compatriots (currently around 20,000) who are mostly working as housemaids, and remain ever as the most vulnerable segment of the total workforce in Oman.
Defense Cooperation: Recently the Omani authorities have confirmed participation of Sultan’s Armed Forces (counterpart of our AFD) at the National Defense College (NDC) courses on regular basis, which was conveyed vide a Diplomatic Note. This development comes on the heels of recent visits by Bangladesh Navy Ships (BNS Osman, BNS Ali Haider, BNS Nirmul and BNS Madhumati on their way to and from duties with the United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon, UNIFIL), BAF Aircrafts and Military super cargo aircrafts carrying Bangladesh Peacekeepers while transiting through Oman land, air space, and the seas. The Mission is of the view that this will help enhance understanding among the Omani defense officials about our National Institutions and our country in general and will also open up further opportunities for more concrete defense cooperation between the two countries.
Cooperation in Cyber Security: In response to our request for cooperation from the Cyber Security Center of Oman, under the Information Technology Authority of Oman (ITA), with a view to ensure timely establishment of the “Department of Cyber Security” in Bangladesh, the ITA of Oman conveyed that Sultanate “welcomes the Bangladesh team’s visit for exchange of experience and arrange a workshop in this regard.” It may kindly be noted that the proposal came after visit of Mr. Md. Nazrul Islam Khan, then Secretary, Division of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) under the Ministry of Post, Telecommunications and ICT of Bangladesh to the Oman Cyber Security Center at Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM), on 22 March 2014. Recently a five members Bangladesh delegation visited Cyber security center, Oman. Oman national CERT (OCERT) welcomes their co-operating on Cyber Security towards a safe cyber environment for Bangladesh.