His Excellency Dr. Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies “Derasat”, said that the Kingdom of Bahrain views cooperation with the Federal Republic of Russia as a strong and growing strategic partnership, more than coincidental or short-term joint interests.
In a lecture at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Dr. Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said that the relations between the two countries are deep rooted in history as they date back to the tenth century. In what we can call “Maritime Diplomacy”, envoys frequenting the region in the 19th century constituted a pivotal channel of communication between the Russian Empire and the Arabian Gulf region. An old document in the Russian archives clearly shows the desire of the ruler of Bahrain to establish close relations with this friendly empire.
Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said “My country believes in the importance of openness in its foreign relations, which should be based on the strengthening of cooperation, mutual respect and non-interference in the affairs of other countries. Bahrain has a good reputation as a trusted and credible state that promotes global security and international interests.”
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees said that the Kingdom of Bahrain views Russia as a pivotal mainstay of the world order, a superpower capable of guaranteeing international peace and security and an important strategic partner.
He added that during the visit of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to Russia in 2008, His Majesty delivered a speech which served as an action plan for the development of mutual relations and contributed to creating an atmosphere of friendship between the two countries. His Majesty’s speech showed that Bahrain is a reliable and trusted partner.
This milestone visit was followed by three more visits by His Majesty the King to Russia in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister who visited Moscow in April 2014. These visits greatly strengthened the relations between the two countries. In 2015, a military-technical cooperation agreement was signed by the two countries as a manifestation of the strong cooperation between them.
There are many factors that contribute to the strengthening of relations between the two countries. The first is the similarity of the stands of Bahrain and Russia on most regional and international issues, such as combatting terrorism, support to national states and legitimate governments in the Middle East and maintaining a balance between democracy and human rights on one side and security on the other because there is no democracy, human rights or development without security and stability.
Dr. Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa mentioned four areas that can help enhance bilateral relations:
First, the involvement of the two countries in combating the threat of terrorism, being one of the most serious security challenges facing all countries. The Kingdom of Bahrain, like Russia, has an efficient and integrated apparatus for fighting extremism and terrorism. You may agree with me that the elimination of terrorism requires international partnerships and effective security structures based on the principle of joint responsibility to resolutely confront the discourse of hatred, racism and intolerance.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees warned of the increasing Iranian interference in other countries, through proxy wars, the forming of armed militias and terrorist groups and providing them with training, weapons and financing. Iran’s intention is to export its revolution to other countries. He said that once Iran is done with implementing some of its expansionist plans in the region, it will promptly turn to the Caucasus and Central Asia, which will represent a direct threat to the neighboring Russia.
Second, the Kingdom of Bahrain is one of the ports of the ancient world and a major gateway to the Gulf States which constitutes a huge consumer market. Bahrain provides a business-friendly environment that attracts international investments and opportunities, helped by its strategic location, modern infrastructure and regulatory incentives. Bahrain offers itself as a regional logistics hub for Russian companies to facilitate the distribution of their products and services to the whole of the Gulf region.
He said that the Bahrain Economic Vision 2030 was launched with the aim of moving the economy away from being oil-based to a smart, productive and diversified economy and one that can provide quality services.
He noted that Bahrain is categorized as one of the high human development countries and also comes on the top of the World Bank Index for Human Capital in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region which focuses on the health and education sectors. Bahrain has also come a long way in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030.
Third, the Kingdom of Bahrain aims to become a regional energy center that would need natural gas in large quantities. Many countries in the Middle East cannot rely on the Iranian gas because of the sanctions imposed on it for sponsoring terrorism, nor on the Qatari gas because of its role in spreading chaos, financing terrorism and the use of its media outlets to agitate against other countries. For this reason, the Kingdom of Bahrain is seeking to establish long-term economic cooperation with Gazprom to export gas to Bahrain. Also, the oil and gas discoveries announced by Bahrain recently will provide good opportunities for the two countries to enter into a number of large investment projects in the oil and gas, infrastructure, telecommunications and information technology, capitalizing upon the advanced Russian technologies.
Fourth, the Kingdom of Bahrain, without exaggeration, is a model of tolerance, openness and coexistence among all religions, sects and races. Dr. Shaikh Abdulla quoted His Majesty the King who said that “the world will be safer and more prosperous if it learns how to accommodate the differences between individuals and treat such diversity as a source of strength. Believers of all faiths should be able to live side by side and perform their worship of God freely.” Bahrain guarantees and protects, by law, the rights and freedoms of all religions.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees said that the establishment of the “King Hamad Global Center for Inter-Faith Dialogue and Peaceful Co-Existence” reflects a vision of tolerance and peace. The “Kingdom of Bahrain Declaration” was also launched to stress the importance of coexistence between all religions and cultures. In Russia, the religious freedom allows Russian Muslims to play an important role in building bridges and strengthening cultural and human relations between Russia and the Muslim and Arab worlds.
In concluding his lecture, Dr. Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa pointed out that the Derasat Center had recently led a successful initiative that brought together many think tanks and research centers to launch a document titled “Thought at the Service of Peace and Development” to help build a better future for regional peace through promoting understanding and dialogue, enhancing sustainable development efforts, investing in human resources and making constructive proposals to open new horizons for cooperation.
He added that he was pleased with the cooperation between the Derasat Center and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, and called for building on this strategic partnership and strong friendship to launch innovative initiatives and new ideas to enrich the values shared between the two countries, including the cherished human values and aspirations for a better and safer world.
After the lecture, Dr. Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Derasat, held a meeting with Professor Evgeny Kozhokin, vice rector of the Moscow Institute of International Relations, at the Institute’s headquarters, where cooperation between the two institutions and how to further strengthen it in the coming period was discussed.
Prof. Evgeny Kozhokin praised the lecture of Dr. Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa and the ideas it presented to further enhance the strategic relations between the two friendly countries.
Dr. Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa briefed Evgeny Kozhokin on the main activities, publications and studies of Derasat Center, as well as its other varied objectives, noting that the meeting was a good opportunity to discuss the situation in the Gulf region and the Middle East and exchange views on how enhance bilateral cooperation.