Foreign Minister Dr A K Abdul Momen has reiterated that Bangladesh attaches high importance to its relationship with Maldives.
The minister has termed the relationship between two countries as a fraternity of common faith and shared values marked with trust, mutual respect and understanding.
At the invitation of the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh Dr. Momen, MP, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Maldives Mr. Abdulla Shahid made an official visit to Bangladesh on 8-11 February 2021, said a release of the ministry.
The Foreign Minister of Maldives was accompanied by the Foreign Secretary of Maldives Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed and Joint Secretary Fathimath Ghina of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Maldives
The two Foreign Ministers held a bilateral meeting on 09 February 2021 in a warm and friendly atmosphere, reflective of the renewed dynamism and historically close relationship between the two countries.
They reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations and agreed to extend cooperation to a number of novel areas, with increased focus on exploring commerce and trade.
Following the bilateral meeting, the Bangladesh Foreign Minister hosted a luncheon in honour of the visiting Foreign Minister of Maldives.
The two Foreign Ministers discussed the forthcoming visit of the President of Maldives Ibrahim Solih to Dhaka in March 2021 to join the celebrations of the Birth Centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Golden Jubilee of the independence of Bangladesh.
Momen stated that President Solih's presence in the Mujib Year celebrations would be an important testament to the enduring friendship between the two nations.
Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid conveyed his Government's appreciation for the continued support and cooperation from the Government of Bangladesh, in multiple areas.
Shahid visited the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum and paid courtesy calls on the Hon'ble President of Bangladesh and the Hon'ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh on 10 February 2021.
During the visit, the following MoUs between Bangladesh and Maldives were signed:
MoU between Foreign Service Institute of Maldives and Foreign Service Academy (FSA) of Bangladesh; and MoU on Placement of Human Resources
Both sides agreed to establish the Joint Commission for Comprehensive Cooperation led by the two Foreign Ministers and the annual Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) through signing relevant MoUs during President Solih's upcoming visit to Bangladesh in March 2021.
Foreign Minister Shahid noted that the Bangladeshi expatriates were making substantial contributions to the economy of Maldives.
Appreciating the regularisation program launched by the Ministry of Economic Development of Maldives in 2019 to legalize undocumented workers, Foreign Minister Dr. Momen requested the Government of Maldives to regularize the remaining undocumented Bangladeshi expatriates at an accelerated pace.
Minister Shahid explained that the goal of regularisation programme is to legalise and provide job opportunities for those who wish to stay on in Maldives, and assist those who wish to return home voluntarily.
He further emphasised that undocumented workers are vulnerable to violation of their rights and it is a humanitarian issue.
Thanking the Government of Bangladesh for all cooperation, he requested facilitation for repatriation of Bangladeshi workers who wish to return to Bangladesh voluntarily.
The Maldives Foreign Minister stated that a moratorium on recruitment of new unskilled human resources, is expected to remain until the regularization of existing undocumented expatriates was completed; he also clarified that Maldives would continue to welcome skilled workforce from Bangladesh as before.
In order to conduct the programme more efficiently, Foreign Minister Shahid proposed to sign an MoU to resolve the challenges of migrant workersbetween the two countries, on which the Bangladesh side agreed to hold internal stakeholder consultations.
To ensure the expatriates do not fall victim to unscrupulous brokers at either end, Foreign Minister Dr. Momen suggested that future recruitments be made through agencies nominated by the Government of Bangladesh and endorsed by the Bangladesh High Commission in Malé. The Maldives side took positive note of the suggestion.
Foreign Minister Shahid thanked the Government of Bangladesh for the support provided to Maldives during the pandemic, including for the deployment of a medical team from Bangladesh to help Maldives in its efforts to combat Covid-19.
He expressed his Government's appreciation for the continued support extended by Bangladesh towards the development of human resources in Maldives over the years in a variety of fields, including training and scholarships.
Foreign Minister Dr. Momen deeply appreciated President Solih's declaration that all expatriates in Maldives would be vaccinated free of cost. In response to Maldives' request to send a team of expert nurses from Bangladesh to assist the vaccination efforts in Maldives, he indicated that the request would be met soon.
Foreign Minister Shahid advocated for enhanced bilateral cooperation in the healthcare industry and requested more opportunities for Maldivian students in higher study of medicine and dentistry in Bangladesh. He also requested to consider recruitment of Bangladeshi doctors and nurses to mitigate the shortage of medical professionals and sought support in the import of pharmaceutical items from Bangladesh.
Foreign Minister Dr. Momen assured him of support in this regard.
The two Ministers also expressed their commitment to addressing welfare of their respective communities residing in both countries, including the speedy provision of consular services.
The two Foreign Ministers observed that there is further potential for increased bilateral trade and noted the absence of a formal trade agreement between Bangladesh and Maldives.
Foreign Minister Dr. Momen expressed Bangladesh's interest to enter into a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with the Maldives within the purview of WTO provisions, with a view to harnessing the trade potentials.
The two Foreign Ministers underscored the need to have robust connectivity between Bangladesh and Maldives as a means to promote the exchange of goods and services, culture, and people.
They also agreed on the need to boost private sector involvement.
Foreign Minister Dr. Momen proposed to regularly hold Commerce Secretary Level Meeting (CSLM) between Bangladesh and Maldives, annually, to address trade issues in detail, comprising representatives from various line ministries. The Maldives side welcomed the proposal.
Foreign Minister Dr. Momen called upon the Maldives side to source world-class healthcare, RMG, processed food, vegetables and agro-products, household appliances, construction materials, and eco-friendly jute, leather, plastic, ceramic and light engineering products from Bangladesh at a competitive price.
The two Foreign Ministers agreed that a direct shipping line, established through a Shipping Agreement, would be conducive to further trade between Bangladesh and Maldives.
Foreign Minister Dr. Momen encouraged Maldivian investment in joint package tourism and suggested collaboration for market development, sharing of best practices and innovative ideas, and the exchange of expert tour operators between Maldives and Bangladesh. He particularly suggested the promotion of coastal and river cruise tourism between Male' and Chattogram.
The two Foreign Ministers also agreed that the proposed MoU on cooperation the field of fisheries would be signed during President Solih's visit to Bangladesh in March 2021.
Foreign Minister Dr. Momen proposed to enhance cultural cooperation, so that both countries could benefit from closer people-to-people contacts.
Foreign Minister Dr. Momen expressed Bangladesh's willingness to offer training courses to the UN Peacekeepers of Maldives at Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support Operations Training (BIPSOT).
The two sides highlighted the need to support each other in different negotiating platforms on climate change, including in the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF). The two Foreign Ministers put renewed impetus on the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Foreign Minister Shahid reiterated Maldives' support to Bangladesh on the issue of forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals from Rakhine State and commended Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's generous efforts in taking care of them. He noted that Maldives had always advocated for the rights of the Rohingya people, and that Maldives was working together with the Government of Gambia to seek accountability at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for Rohingya genocide committed by the Myanmar military.
Foreign Minister Shahid thanked the Government of Bangladesh for the warm hospitality extended to him and his delegation. He also expressed the hope to welcome Foreign Minister Dr. Momen in the Maldives at the earliest opportunity.