"Friendship to all, malice to none," what Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman articulated in the 1972 constitution is very much relevant still now, and prime minister Sheikh Hasina is maintaining diplomatic relations with the world following the policy.
Bangladesh's foreign policy comprises personal circumstance techniques picked by the constitution to defend its national advantages and accomplish objectives inside its worldwide relations milieu.
Bangladesh and the Maldives, countries of South Asia with different ecological conditions, social systems and historical and cultural backgrounds, are making smooth progress in their bilateral relations. Maldives and Bangladesh established diplomatic relations on 22 September 1978. The Maldives opened its High Commission in Bangladesh in 2008. In 2011, the Maldives government removed duty on all Bangladesh exports to the country. But it closed its High Commission in Dhaka in March 2014 after its foreign ministry budget was slashed by 40 percent. Bangladesh offered to pay rent for embassy premises, among other local costs but was refused "politely" by the Maldives.
Notwithstanding the reality, in December 2014, Bangladesh sent 100 thousand litres of water after the Maldives' sole water desalination plant quit working after bursting into flames. The Maldives has resumed its High Commission in Dhaka almost two years after closing it due to the financial crisis.
The Maldives has a massive number of Bangladeshi migrant workers. The Maldivian government regularised the migration status of over 16 thousand Bangladeshi transients in 2009. In 2011 Bangladesh traded products worth $0.72 million and imported $1.46 million from the Maldives. Bangladesh likewise trades drug medication to the Maldives.
The arrival of the Maldivian President in Dhaka for celebrating Bangladesh's Golden Jubilee of Independence and the birth centenary of Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in March 2021 created a new avenue of diplomacy to boost up the mutual interests between Bangladesh and Maldives.
Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih highly appreciated the leadership of Bangabandhu and also congratulated Bangladesh for the remarkable economic prosperity that the country has achieved over the past decade. The Maldivian president emphasised the issue of climate change for both the nations as low lying countries in the Indian Ocean. He recognised the leading role of Bangladesh in the Climate Vulnerable Forum and the development of a blue economy. President Solih commended Bangladeshi migrants in the Maldives as one of the biggest expatriate workforces in the country and recognised their contribution to Maldives' economic growth.
Bangladesh and Maldives signed a Memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the establishment of Joint Commission for Comprehensive Cooperation; Bilateral Foreign Office Consultations (FOC); Cooperation in the Field of Fisheries and Pelagic Fishing; and Cultural Exchange Program (CEP) for 2022-25.
In the milieu of fast-changing global structures, more creative steps are required to protect and promote the interests of smaller economies and to maximise mutual interests.
Strengthening cooperation between the two countries in terms of institutional arrangements and human resource placement, fisheries, health and culture is assured. A new era of cooperation between the two countries will guide the foreign ministries of Bangladesh and Maldives.
Thousands of migrant workers from Bangladesh are contributing greatly in various sectors towards the economic development of the Maldives. The Maldives is keen to promote trade and business with Bangladesh by establishing direct air and sea routes.
The statistical evidence suggests that the Maldives now has about 100 students studying in Bangladesh universities. Bangladesh has the potential to provide educational opportunities to more students. Around 60,000 to 80,000 Bangladeshis are currently working in the Maldives.
The country also recruited doctors and nurses from Bangladesh. Bangladesh is ready to send more skilled manpower to the Maldives in various professions.
Establishing direct air and water connectivity between Bangladesh and the Maldives to further enhance trade and investment ties between the two countries is the demand of time.
As tourism is a potential sector in both Bangladesh and the Maldives, investors and businessmen must come forward to work together to utilise the existing potentials of the two states.
The Maldives can also think of importing international-standard Bangladeshi products, including medicine, ready-made garments (RMG) and ceramics. Such connectivity between Bangladesh and the Maldives would certainly help expand the trade and investment of the two states in future.
The growing economic and social cooperation between the Maldives and Bangladesh need to pay a particular focus on economic cooperation through trade and investment initiatives, as well as creating an enabling environment for the private sector cooperation in the fields of agriculture, tourism, fisheries, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, among other areas.
For a successful blue-economy focused diplomacy, we need a pool of skilled personnel in the government, private sector and civil society. This is important to understand and negotiate trade, investment and other economic issues from the national development perspective after considering a country's strengths, limitations, opportunities and threats.
We want Bangladesh to grow hand in hand with the Maldives. We believe Bangladesh and Maldives will keep the momentum forward to consolidate the already excellent relations for the sake of mutual benefit.
Dr Mohammad Tarikul Islam is an Associate Professor of Government and Politics at Jahangirnagar University
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.