Script: KAUSHIK ROY, AIR: News Analyst
India and Bahrain enjoy excellent bilateral relations characterized by cordial political, economic and cultural contacts. Our bilateral Trade and commercial exchanges go back to about 5,000 years ago tracing their origins to the period of Dilmun Civilization in Bahrain to the era of Indus valley civilization in India. Ancient Bahraini traders are believed to have carried out flourishing trade of Bahraini pearls with Indian spices from India. Presence of around 350,000 Indian nationals who comprise a third of Bahrain’s total population of 1.4 million is an important anchor of our bilateral relations with Bahrain.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, paid a State visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain in August 2019. The visit of Prime Minister Modi to Bahrain was the first ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister. The King of Bahrain bestowed “Bahrain Order- First Class” on the Indian Prime Minister in recognition of his efforts to strengthen bilateral relations with the Kingdom of Bahrain. During the visit, Mr. Modi met with the King, the Bahrain Prime Minister and the Crown Prince. Prime Minister Modi laid the foundation stone for the redevelopment of 200 year old Sri Krishna (Hindu) Temple. An agreement on Cultural Exchange Programme for the year 2019-23 & MoU between NPCI for Launch of RuPay Card in Bahrain & BENEFIT were signed during the visit.
External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar paid an official visit to Bahrain in November, 2020. During the visit, he called on Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and Prime Minister of Bahrain and Shaikh Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Deputy Prime Minister of Bahrain and also met with his counterpart Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani. During his calls on the leadership, he personally conveyed, on behalf of the Government and people of India, sincere condolences on the sad demise of former Prime Minister of Bahrain. External Affairs Minister held delegation level talks with Bahrain’s Foreign Minister and discussed the entire gamut of bilateral issues as well as regional and global issues of mutual interest including cooperation and coordination in dealing with post-Covid challenges. During the visit, Dr. Jaishankar had also interacted with the leaders of the Indian community in Bahrain in virtual mode. He paid a visit to the 200 years old Shreenathji (Shree Krishna) temple in Manama. The temple and Little India around it stand as a testimony for the enduring India-Bahrain friendship. He also visited National Museum of Bahrain.
India and Bahrain signed an Economic and Technical Co-operation Agreement way back in April 1981. The two sides looked at the possibility of Co-operation in areas of petroleum, aluminium, chemicals, shipping, finance and hospitality. The issues of Co-operation in financial sector including Avoidance of Double Taxation, health, IT, civil aviation, manpower, education, information and culture and youth and sports were also discussed.
India’s trade relations with Bahrain have transformed considerably over the years and the bilateral trade volume has surpassed US$ 920.4 million mark in 2014, but the structure and pattern of trade is yet to be diversified. There are huge potentials for diversifying India’s export structure based on certain new growth sectors in which India has global comparative advantage with respect to Bahrain’s imports structure.
In preparation for the third meeting of the India-Bahrain High Joint Commission (HJC), a Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) was held in virtual mode. This was co-chaired by Mr. Sanjay Bhattacharyya, Secretary (CPV & OIA), Ministry of External Affairs of India and Dr. Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Under Secretary, Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Both sides highlighted their strong bilateral ties spanning a wide range of areas and which was also reflected in the excellent cooperation between the two countries in handling Covid-19 situation. Both sides also reviewed their cooperation in different areas, including oil and gas, trade and investment, defence and security, food security, healthcare, renewable energy, space, IT, human resource, education and culture.
The third India-Bahrain HJC will be held in New Delhi next week. The meeting will be co-chaired by Dr. S. Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs of India and Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain.