Bangladesh-Maldives bilateral relationship continues to strengthen

The two governments signed three memorandums of understanding during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s recent visit to the Maldives, which was her first-ever bilateral visit to the Indian Ocean archipelago. The memorandums concerned the recruitment of health professionals from Bangladesh, cooperation in the areas of sports and youth development, and the elimination of double taxation. A contract pertaining to healthcare and medical sciences was also renewed by the two parties. 

Hasina’s visit took place at a time when Bangladesh’s exceptional economic progress is being celebrated around the world. 

Bangladesh offered a $200 million loan to the Maldives, in keeping with its rise as an economic power and middle-income country. This comes just after the Bangladeshi government negotiated a $200 million currency swap agreement with Sri Lanka. Smaller countries such as the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Nepal are increasingly looking to Dhaka for economic assistance as a result of its economic success. Bangladesh’s image is shifting from one of a country in need of assistance to one of a country capable of assisting others in the region. 

During Hasina’s visit to the Maldives, Bangladesh’s army chief, General S.M. Shafiuddin Ahmed, presented the Maldives armed forces with 13 military vehicles. 

Both countries have put initiatives in action to improve people-to-people exchanges. Sea and air travel connections are expected to expand. Bangladesh will soon start flying direct from Dhaka to the Maldives. Hasina also announced that Maldivian nationals will be granted visas on arrival if the country’s pandemic situation improves. Bangladesh and the Maldives have also agreed to extradite criminals from their respective countries. 

In 1978, Bangladesh and the Maldives established diplomatic ties. In 1998, Bangladesh created a high commission in the Maldives, and the Maldives built a mission in Dhaka in 2008. Although the Maldivian government was forced to close the latter in April 2014 due to financial difficulties, it later reversed its decision and reopened a scaled-down mission in Bangladesh’s capital a few months later. 

Despite the break, bilateral relations have improved over time. Hasina drew attention to the “commonalities” between the two countries during her tour to the Maldives. 

The presence of a high number of Bangladeshis in the Maldives gives a strong incentive for collaboration between the two countries. With roughly 70,000 to 80,000 Bangladeshi people working in the archipelago, Bangladesh is the largest source of foreign labor in the Maldives. 

There are a number of areas where the two countries may work together for mutual benefit. 

The Maldives and Bangladesh are low-lying countries that are expected to be among the first to feel the effects of climate change. Given that the Maldivian archipelago’s highest point is only 2.4 meters above sea level, rising sea levels are predicted to inundate much of the archipelago. In Bangladesh, large swaths of the land are not just low-lying, but it is also densely populated. Climate change, climate justice, and climate refugees are some of the concerns that the two countries confront, and they must “work together to face the challenge of climate change,” as Hasina put it. President Mohamed Solih of the Maldives made a similar statement early last year, stating that both countries confront similar difficulties as low-lying countries in the Indian Ocean. 

Bangladesh and the Maldives pledged to preserve peace and stability in the Indian Ocean region by combating organized crime, piracy, and human trafficking during Hasina’s visit. Both nations have also pledged to collaborate in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. 

Muslim transnational extremist organizations such as ISIS and al Qaida pose similar threats to both countries. As foreign fighters, Maldivians and Bangladeshis both joined ISIS. Bangladesh appears to have been effective in combating the threat posed by terrorist groups. Another area of probable cooperation with the Maldives is the sharing of intelligence input and plans. 

Bangladesh and the Maldives have comparable geopolitical ties to India. While they have a long history of involvement with India, their relationship with New Delhi has waxed and waned in recent decades due to internal politics. The Maldives and Bangladesh economies rely heavily on Chinese investment, which is tightly monitored in New Delhi. In both nations, stirring up anti-India sentiment is a valuable rallying point for opposition groups. 

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