Bangladesh- Lebanon Bilateral Relations
Lebanon was one of the first few countries in the Middle-East to recognize Bangladesh at the early stage of her independence. Diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and Lebanon was established following Lebanon’s recognition of Bangladesh on 28 March 1973. Soon after, Bangladesh established a resident mission in Lebanon in 1973. During the Liberation War, Bangladesh was able to open its first Information Centre in Beirut in 1971 in the Middle East region. Lebanon, therefore, had served as a convenient springboard for Bangladesh. Unfortunately, after the outbreak of civil war in Lebanon from 1975 onwards and the consequent deteriorating security situation, Bangladesh was compelled to wind up its Mission in Beirut in April 1976. Bangladesh reopened its Embassy in Beirut in July 2013.
Bangladesh and Lebanon enjoy very cordial relations. There is no contentious issue between the two countries. As a member of the OIC, Bangladesh has always supported the cause of Lebanon in the UN and in other international forums. Bangladesh has always stood by Lebanon in solidarity during the latter’s difficult times. Even in the after math of the recent twin suicide attacks (2015) in South Lebanon, both the Hon’ble Prime Minister and the Hon’ble Foreign Minister sent messages of condolences to their Lebanese counterpart expressing their solidarity with the government and the people of Lebanon in their fight against terrorism. Following the Israeli bombardment over Lebanon in 2006, Bangladesh also supported Lebanon’s cause. The then Bangladesh Foreign Minister met with the Lebanese Foreign Minister on the sidelines of the UNGA and conveyed Bangladesh’s decision to participate in the expanded UNIFIL.
Lebanon has a very vibrant culture and people. Lebanon is located at a meeting point of three continents i.e. Asia, Europe and Africa. It has been the crossroad of many civilizations, traces of which can still be seen today. Lebanon encompasses a great mix of cultures and ethnic groups which have been building up for over thousands of years. It was home to the Phoenicians and was subsequently conquered and occupied by the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Crusaders, the Ottoman Turks and the French. This variety is reflected in Lebanon’s diverse population, composed of different religious groups, and features in the country’s festivals, musical styles, literature, cuisine and architecture. Therefore, the scope for cooperation between the two countries is immense.
There has not been regular exchange of official visits between the two countries. The main reason for this may be attributed to the fact that there has not been any resident mission in each other’s country for a long period as well as the civil war in Lebanon from 1975 to 1990. Bangladesh resident Mission was opened in Beirut on 1st July 2013. Although there have been no visits to Bangladesh from Lebanese side, a few high level visits took place from Bangladesh side.
Hon’ble Minister for Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment H. E Engineer Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain visited Lebanon from 9-14 March 2010. He led a four-member delegation and held meetings with then Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Foreign Minister Ali Al Sami and Labour Minister Boutors Harb and discussed about various issues relating to Bangladeshi workers’ problems in Lebanon, labour market expansion, and sending of more Bangladeshi workers to Lebanon.
Unlike most other countries, the relation between Bangladesh and Lebanon revolves around the presence of a huge number of workers. The relations may be categorized as follows:
UNIFIL: Bangladesh Navy joined the Maritime Task Force (MTF) of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in 2010 with two ships BNS Osman (Frigate) and BNS Madhumati (Offshore Petrol Vessel). These two ships were replaced by BNS Ali Haider (Frigate) and BNS Nirmul (Offshore Petrol Vessel) in 2014. Presently, around 280 Naval officers (about 30 officers) and Staff members are deployed as a part of the UNIFIL Mission. Under the scope of UN commitment to UNIFIL, the BANCON also trains the Lebanese Naval personnel in different trade onboard Bangladesh Navy ships. Lebanese authorities appreciate the performance of Bangladesh naval team in maintaining law and order in the Mediterranean Sea.
Labour: Lebanon has become one of the largest destinations for Bangladeshi workers. At present, there are over 1, 30, 000 workers in a small space of 10,000 square kilometers (area of Lebanon is 10,400 sq km. Most of the workers are unskilled domestic female workers. The other category of workers that come to Lebanon is cleaner. They face many problems after coming to Lebanon mainly due to the unethical activities of the Bangladeshi Manpower dalals in Lebanon as well as the recruiting agencies in Dhaka. These problems include, among others, non-payment of salaries, over-working without over time allowance, run-away from the employer in the hope of higher earnings etc. The Mission has to remain actively engaged in helping the Bangladeshi workers in solving their problems in coordination with the Lebanese authorities.
Trade & Investment: Despite being engulfed with so many problems since the civil war broke-out in 1975, Lebanon still has a reasonably large affluent society. The per capita income of Lebanese people is around US$15000 to US$ 17,000 according to various studies. Therefore, there is scope for enhancing trade relations with Lebanon. The present trend of Bangladesh’s export & import from Lebanon is shown below:
All figures are in million US$.
|Export to Lebanon||3.6||3.8||5.4||8.1||11.8||12.7
|Import from Lebanon||1.1||37.7*||91.2*||15.9*||25.2*||29.6|
|Total bilateral trade||4.7||41.5||96.6||24.0||37.0||42.3
Source: Bangladesh Bank
As per information of the Bangladesh Bank, most of our import was fertilizer (TSP) and most of our exports were knitwear and woven garments.
The Embassy is trying to increase exports of quality garments (knitwear and woven garments), pharmaceuticals, ceramic, leather and leather products to Lebanon. Besides, a Business Council (between Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Beirut) could be to facilitate frequent interactions between the business communities of the two countries and organising a trade exhibition in Beirut is also under consideration.
Cultural: Cooperation in the fields of art, culture and education is of vital importance. Both countries can have collaboration in these areas for mutual exposures and understanding. Bangladesh has already proposed to sign a MoU on Cultural Cooperation between the two countries, which is under process. The MoU is expected to be signed during 2016. An art/painting exhibition is expected to be held in Beirut sometimes in 2016. As part of cultural exchanges, Lebanese artists are taking part in the Asian Art Biennial held in Dhaka for the last several years.
Educational: Lebanon has one of the highest literacy rates in the Arab world. It also has a number of world class Universities including the American University of Beirut, Lebanese American University and Université Saint-Joseph de Beyrouth. We may forge relations with such universities for cooperation in the field of education.
Bangladesh has offered a number of long-term, medium-term and short-term training programs for the Lebanese armed forces particularly for the Lebanese navy on complimentary basis.
Cooperation in Regional and Multilateral Forums
Apart from the United Nations and its subsidiary organizations, Bangladesh and Lebanon closely cooperate in various international forums including the OIC, NAM, IPU, ITU and WTO.