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Bangladeshis gather for a flag-hoisting ceremony to celebrate 50 years of their homeland on the country’s 50th Victory Day at Bangladesh Embassy in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Bangladeshi expatriates in the UAE are commemorating two different milestones this year — not only is it the 50th year of their adoptive home, the UAE, but it is also the 50th year of the formation of their homeland.

In 1971, just two weeks after the formation of the UAE on December 2, Bangladesh emerged on the world stage as an independent nation. Today, December 16, is Bangladesh’s 50th Victory Day and the occasion is being marked with festivities in Abu Dhabi and at Expo 2020 Dubai.

“On this auspicious occasion, I extend my heartfelt congratulations to fellow Bangladeshis residing in the UAE, who are celebrating the Golden Jubilee of our Independence, as well as the birth centenary of our founding father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. I take this opportunity to express our warm greetings to the government of UAE, their Highnesses the Rulers, and the brotherly people of the UAE for 50 glorious years of the Union,” Mohammad Abu Zafar, Bangladeshi Ambassador to the UAE, told Gulf News.

Today’s Victory Day festivities were led by Abu Zafar at the Embassy in Abu Dhabi, and by Tipu Munshi, the Bangladeshi Minister of Commerce at Expo 2020 Dubai. “We are grateful, on this propitious moment, to our visionary leader, late Sheikh Mujib, who dreamt of our independence, and to his illustrious daughter, our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has charted the path for our growth and translated this dream into a reality,” Abu Zafar said.

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Expatriate Bangladeshis pay their homage before a portrait of late Sheikh Mujib, the founding father of the nation, at the Bangladesh Embassy in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Supplied

Bangladesh development

In its 50th year, which also saw yearlong festivities of Mujib’s birth centenary, the South Asian nation has grown into an Asian powerhouse, and is well on its way out of the group of less developed countries (LDC), Abu Zafar said.

“In the year of our formation, Bangladesh was a food-deficient nation, producing only 11 metric tonnes of food. We now produce 45 metric tonnes a year, which allows us to feed our population and also store the excess as buffer stock. We are also the third in the world in both rice and vegetable production. In addition, Bangladesh is now a moderately industrialised country and second in the world after China in garment manufacturing. We also produce 98 per cent of all pharmaceutical products needed in the country,” the ambassasor said.

The future

“We are working to be a higher-middle income country by 2031 by achieving all the major Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations. By 2041, which will mark Bangladesh’s 70th year, we hope to fulfil Bangabandhu’s [Mujib’s] dream of being a prosperous, high-income nation,” he added.

Ensuring sustainability

While the nation is on course to achieve these targets, the challenge now is to also make development sustainable. “Bangladesh has another plan — the Delta Plan 2100 — which aims to ensure that we harness our resources in a manner that is replenishable and such that future generations will have access to as well. Given the UAE’s focus on sustainability, we look forward to working closely with the nation and sharing our learning and strategies,” the diplomat said.

“We can also take a leaf out of the UAE’s pages on their innovation and creativity in providing public services,” he added.

Bilateral trade

Bangladesh and the UAE’s trade last year stood at Dh1.5 billion and the UAE has also emerged as the fifth-largest investor in the South Asian nation, with more than Dh2.5 billion in investment.

“The UAE is, therefore, one of the long-standing development partners of Bangladesh, and this bilateral trade is set to increase further in the coming years,” Abu Zafar said.

Role of expatriates

Bangladeshi expatriates have also contributed to the UAE’s development since its formation and there are more than half a million general workers in the country, along with a significant number of professionals such as doctors, engineers, professors, accountants and IT experts.

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“Expatriate Bangladeshis have nowadays emerged as the cornerstone of Bangladesh’s bilateral relations with the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries, including the UAE. As we celebrate our 50th year, I would call upon non-resident Bangladeshis to support the government’s Vision 2041 through their remittances and investments,” the ambassador urged.

Expatriate services

To support this Bangladeshi diaspora, the third-largest in the world outside Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, the Bangladeshi Embassy in Abu Dhabi will soon begin processing electronic passports, Abu Zafar confirmed. “We also hope to resolve the process for issuing National IDs during the first half of 2022,” he added.