Manama: Bahrain has granted its nationality to 240 British citizens, King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa has said, adding that his country was home to 9,000 permanent British residents.
“There are some 9,000 permanent British residents in Bahrain making a major contribution to the prosperity of the kingdom as they have always done,” King Hamad said. “Indeed I am proud to say that, by due legal process, we have granted Bahraini nationality to 240 British citizens as they themselves had requested and whose loyal service more than justified it,” the Bahraini monarch said at a reception ceremony he hosted as he attended the first International Windsor Endurance Festival at Windsor Great Park.
King Hamad who accessed the throne in 1999 upon the death of his father Shaikh Eisa Bin Salman Al Khalifa lauded the robust relations between the two island kingdoms.
“The first Treaty of Friendship was signed in 1820, nearly 200 years ago, and it remained until replaced by a new one in 1971 on Britain’s withdrawal from the Gulf – a unilateral decision of which my father said – “Why? - No one asked you to go”!. In fact for all practical and strategic purposes, the British presence has not changed and it remains such that we believe we shall never be without it,” he said.
“So I am happy to say that the relationship is as strong as ever – perhaps even stronger. We have the closest cooperation across a wide range of activities and especially in the field of defence where we are each seeking to expand the British presence in our country to mutual advantage. To that end we signed a new Defence Cooperation Accord in October last year,” the king said.
The king said that Bahrain was going through a phase of “remarkable economic regeneration.”
“There are major projects underway in housing, including substantial social housing, and for expansion in the oil sector, but above all in transport. Before long Bahrain will be connected to its fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries as a result of the ambitious plan to create a railway linking all the GCC states. Underpinning these exciting projects the economy continues to grow at 5 per cent a year,” he said.
Bahrain’s total banking assets in the United Kingdom amounted to $11.1 billion that do not include any other investments Bahrain has with the United Kingdom.
“This encouraging picture of a dynamic and happy country is not always the one reflected by the western media. But as Disraeli said – ‘It is easier to be critical than correct.’ Of course the unrest of 2011 has had an impact and it continues in a small number of villages to this day. We are doing our best to tackle it through dialogue and the improvements we have put in place in our legal and policing procedures in which we have had much support from the UK authorities. Unfortunately we are dealing with a small but violent minority inspired and supported by elements outside the kingdom. But we remain confident that we will achieve an outcome satisfactory to all,” he said.
In December, Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa heaped special praise on the United Kingdom for supporting Bahrain.
“I would personally like to thank many in the West who were very kind to me and what I have tried to achieve by promoting dialogue between all of the disparate groups here in the Kingdom of Bahrain,” prince Salman told a gathering of senior civilian and military figures at the Manama Dialogue. “However, I would in particular like to thank the diplomats, the leadership and the government of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of the UK. You have stood head and shoulders above others. You have engaged all stakeholders. You have kept the door open to all sides in what was a very difficult and sometimes unclear situation. Your engagement and your help in police reform and judicial reform, and your direct engagement with the leadership of the Kingdom of Bahrain and with members of the opposition, has saved lives, and for that I will be personally eternally grateful. Thank you.”