The Prime Minister’s sojourn in Abu Dhabi 

Remember when the Middle Eastern or Arab group of countries were thought to be unfriendly towards the Awami League, and not particularly fond of Sheikh Hasina? Or she of them, in fact. Vanguard of the principle of secularism in Bangladesh politics, the AL's vindication in breaking up what was an avowedly Islamic state (Pakistan) to form a secular one sat awkwardly with the Arab states, who mostly witheld recognition of the new state for at least a few years at the start.

The UAE was the first Gulf country to recognise Bangladesh and establish diplomatic relations. Bangladesh opened its embassy in Abu Dhabi on March 23, 1974. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman even visited the UAE in 1974 and held a historic meeting with the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. This laid the foundation of the relations between the two countries based on shared faith, history, culture and traditions.

Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Nahyan (MBZ) assured Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that the UAE will give due consideration to Bangladesh's interests, including manpower export and increasing investment. The Crown Prince made the assurance during a meeting with the Prime Minister at his Royal Palace.

During their meeting, the Crown Prince invited the Prime Minister to attend a majlish, his weekly meeting with the local representatives of his areas. At the majlish, he introduced the Prime Minister to local representatives. He said Sheikh Hasina was at the meeting for 30 minutes during which the two leaders spoke extensively on a wide range of issues.

The issues included how the UAE could help Bangladesh in its development, further enhance investments in Bangladesh and how the UAE can help Bangladesh over the Rohingya issue. The prime minister informed MBZ that some 40,000 Rohingya children were born in Bangladesh in the last 18 months. The Abu Dhabi Crown Prince wanted to know about the possible resolution to the issue, and enquired about how he could help Bangladesh develop community clinics. About the manpower issue, the Crown Prince said they will discuss the matter giving utmost importance. He said he will personally visit Bangladesh and tie up some loose ends on the commitments.

The UAE wants to expand its business in Bangladesh, especially investment in various sectors like energy, port and industrial zone, in a newer way, said its Economy Minister Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansoori on the first day of the visit. The UAE minister expressed his country's interest when he met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina with a 15- member business delegation comprising of front-ranking executives of various business houses at her hotel.

MBZ, despite ruling over a relatively small roost, manages to command the respect of someone such as MBS, the Saudi crown prince. He gifted the prime minister an enlarged photograph of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with his late father from that visit in 1974. The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was not only the ruler of Abu Dhabi, but also the founder of the modern UAE, and like Bangabandhu, acknowledged as the UAE's Father of the Nation. Incidentally, the United Arab Emirates, bringing together the 7 sheikhdoms of an area of the south-east Persian Gulf known as the Pirate's Coast, came into being the same year as Bangladesh, 1971, and even just weeks apart, with the British granting them independence on December 1.

Earlier, the Prime Minister had a meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai (of the 7 sheikhdoms, second only to Abu Dhabi) and prime minister of the UAE, at the International Defence Exhibition (IDEX), where the latter highlighted the trade and business between Bangladesh and Dubai. The Dubai ruler said the UAE identified Bangladesh as a big and new sector for their investment.

All the Sheikhs now

In the morning, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and a team of her delegation had visited the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi (Hafzaha Allah), the wife of the aforementioned founding president of UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, at Al Bahar Palace. The meeting was held in a very friendly and warm environment in presence of her (Fatima's) daughters, daughters-in law and family members. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, known as the Mother of Sheikhs, very affectionately entertained the Prime Minister.

According to the foreign secretary, the Mother of Sheikhs was curious to know about the sustainable progress of Bangladesh womenfolk in education, employment, health, business, NGO and other areas.

The Prime Minister answered all her questions patiently, and held up the progress of Bangladeshi women, explaining that women of Dubai have many things to learn from Bangladesh, on engaging women in gainful employment while maintaining the rules and principles of Islam.

Int'l Defence Exhibition in UAE

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday visited the 5-day International Defence Exhibition (IDEX) organised by United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan received the Prime Minister on her arrival at the exhibition centre.

Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also Ruler of Dubai, invited her to join the IDEX. The IDEX is the only international defence exhibition and conference in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region demonstrating the latest technology across land, sea and air sectors of defence.

The exhibition is held after every two years since 1993 under the patronage of President of the UAE and Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces to establish and strengthen relationships with government departments, businesses and armed forces throughout the region.

More than 1,300 defence firms and entities related to the defence industry are joining the defence exhibition. The IDEX is the largest specialised defence exhibition in the region is celebrating its silver jubilee this year and is set to become the largest one with the presence of representatives from more than 60 countries.

Sheikh Hasina arrived here on Sunday morning on the second leg of her first overseas trip after she took office as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh for the third consecutive time last month. During the visit, Sheikh Hasina will also have meetings with UAE leaders and join a reception to be arranged by the Bangladesh community in the UAE.

Additional reporting by Fahad Ferdous.

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