Saudi Arabia wants Bangladesh to stand by it for backing the 34-nation Islamic military coalition and Saudi measures against Iran. The country also expects Bangladesh to send troops to the Kingdom if its sovereignty and security of the two holy mosques was threatened.
Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud pledged to boost cooperation with Bangladesh in trade, investment, manpower recruitment and assistance for economic development.
The KSA is keen to invest in Bangladesh's infrastructure, communication and power sectors through the Saudi Public Investment Fund which has not been significant till now.
The interest was shown during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's recent visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Diplomats described the visit as a landmark event as the trip was supervised by the king.
“The Kingdom is keen to foster a special strategic partnership with Bangladesh in regional and international affairs. It also wants to work with Bangladesh to fight violent extremism and terrorism,” said a Bangladeshi diplomat in Saudi Arabia.
The Bangladesh PM assured the king of considering sending troops to the KSA only if the UN Security Council approved it. She, however, said Dhaka would show a “strong response” in case the two holy mosques faced threats.
The mosques are -- Al-Masjid al-Haram (the Sacred Mosque) in Mecca and Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (the Prophet's Mosque) in Madina.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, a Bangladeshi diplomat said the PM during the meeting with the Saudi king made it clear that Bangladesh would cooperate with the military coalition to counter terrorism.
Pointing out that some 40 countries have been working to curb terrorism and militancy globally, Hasina said Bangladesh would always side with Saudi Arabia on the issue.
However, Bangladesh doesn't want to offer direct support to the KSA on the Iran issue as it wants to maintain neutrality. Hasina hinted that Bangladesh could act as a mediator to bridge differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Bangladesh congratulated Iran on concluding the Vienna nuclear deal and expressed optimism that implementation of the agreement would contribute towards “peace, stability and well-being of the people in the region and beyond”.
Dhaka also hoped that the agreement would bring dynamism into Iranian economy and create new opportunities for trade and investment for Bangladesh.
The KSA believed that Bangladesh could play a big role in ensuring global peace, stability and socioeconomic progress, said diplomatic sources in Dhaka and Riyadh.
During the bilateral meeting, Hasina talked about the high importance of Bangladesh's ties with the Kingdom. The king showed interest in partnering with Bangladesh's economic growth.
“The discussion made it clear that a powerful bond exists between the two countries,” a top diplomat at the Bangladesh embassy in Riyadh told this newspaper.
According to him, Hasina informed the Saudi king about Bangladesh's “zero tolerance” policy towards terrorism. She appreciated the Kingdom's initiatives to fight extremism worldwide.
But Bangladesh doesn't want to get involved in confronting regional security threats. The country decided not to join the Arab coalition fighting in Yemen since the spring last year against the Iran-supported Shiite Houthis.
Dhaka, however, declared its support to a Saudi-led coalition which launched air strikes on Houthi rebels in Yemen on March 26 last year as the rebels took over capital Sanaa and forced the Middle Eastern country's president to flee the country.
Diplomatic sources said the talks between King Salman and PM Hasina covered key issues affecting the Middle East.
There were reports that the Saudi government would recruit around 5,00,000 Bangladeshi workers. But a senior official at the Bangladesh embassy in Riyadh doubted the authenticity of the information as two leaders had no discussion on how many workers would be recruited.
The Saudi king noted that his country would recruit skilled manpower, including doctors, engineers and technicians, from Bangladesh.
So far only export of Bangladeshi human resources had been the only major factor in the bilateral relations between the two countries. But new avenues like Saudi investment in Bangladesh and its participation in Bangladesh's national development have opened up following the PM's visit, the official said.