GCC countries and Pakistan have historically shared profoundly amicable bilateral relations that have been further secured with the passage of time. Bahrain is one prominent name in this regard which is discernible from the fact that during 1930s the Bahraini people applied the legal expertise of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah – the Founder and Father of Pakistan, in handling a legal dispute with the British authorities. The small but prominent Kingdom of Bahrain is a progressive and multicultural gulf country, oil being its biggest export is also home to numerous multinational companies.
The global economy is fast evolving and developed countries, from Italy to UK, have demonstrated a strong desire to make unprecedented investments in CPEC are keen to bring Bahrain in the landmark game changer of the region.
Bahrain has one of the most sophisticated and professional Islamic Banking sector next to Malaysia only and fast becoming a role model for the region and firmly growing pioneer in Financial Technology better known as FinTech, setting the bar high for all competitors. In Pakistan, Bahrain is proud owner of the success story of Al Baraka Bank, which started from 4 branches, has expanded to 240 thriving branches all over the country within a decade.
In the Financial year 2014, Pakistan exported goods worth $ 110.8 million increasing by 34% as compared to FY13 while commodities imported from Bahrain were worth $ 71.6 million in Financial Year 2014.
Main imports from Bahrain to Pakistan during the year 2015 were Aluminum (rods, tubes, wires), scrap iron, rice, cotton textiles, raw cotton, propane sheets, frozen shrimp, frozen beef & mutton, fresh fruit and vegetables.
While the major goods exported from Pakistan to Bahrain during the same year were animals, minerals, food products, chemicals, plastic, wood, textile and clothing, footwear, stone & glass, metals and transportation machinery.
During the prominent visit of H.E King of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad Bin AL Khalifa in March 2014, Pakistan discussed various options to boost defense and security cooperation. It is estimated that almost 10,000 Pakistanis are serving in security services of Bahrain. Pakistan had helped Bahrain set up its naval forces and 18% of the Gulf States’ Air Force comprises of Pakistani personnel.
There are over 400 companies currently operating in Bahrain, which are either jointly or wholly owned by Pakistani investors. In a bid to promote trade, 17 agreements were signed during the state visit of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in March 2014, which also included a Bilateral Investment Treaty.
The Board of Investment (BOI) and the Economic Development Board (EDB) of Bahrain also entered to promote business. BOI and EDB will facilitate business meetings and exchange of delegations of the two countries in addition to bilateral visits, organization of road shows, exhibitions and business forums.
During Pakistan-Bahrain Business Opportunities Conference in Islamabad in early 2017, memorandums of understanding on mutual corporation and collaboration were agreed upon in various areas including agriculture, agro machinery, processed food, dry fruits, fresh fruits, cotton, milk and its by-products and leather to be processed at the earliest.
Bahrain has also been awarded status of gateway to GCC countries for investment and trade for Pakistani business community being the corridor for GCC countries to give access to all six nations including Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Private sector would play a vital role for enhancing trade volume between both the countries.
A high level 8-member prominent delegation of Member of Bahraini parliament also visited Pakistan in October 2017 to enhance mutual ties. Furthermore, a four-day mega event was held from 9th to 12th November 2017, in 10th Expo Pakistan took place in Karachi to showcase and promote the largest collection of Pakistan’s export merchandise, products and services to the world in which a total of 50 countries participated. The Arab and overseas Pakistani businessmen and women comprising a 20-member delegation from Bahrain participated in the successful event.
The bilateral relations between the two brotherly nations can be further fostered by taking a number of steps from both sides. Military cooperation between the two countries should increase. Pakistan can assist Bahrain in sophisticated defense & security equipment and military training and resources including non-combatant equipment.
Small and medium enterprises and trade and export can be enhanced in areas such as textile, food and hospitality, which are found to have substantial scope for Pakistan. Telecommunications, tourism, real estate development sectors are flourishing rapidly and offer attractive investment opportunities for Bahrain in Pakistan.
Both the nations should forge vigorous partnerships to achieve education, innovation and excellence for business leadership and finance professionals in the future. Pakistan is home to the world’s most dynamic and committed workforce. A vital sphere of cooperation is to invest in human capital and human resource to increase employment and economic capital in 60th countries. After the March 30th 2017 Business Conference in Islamabad, Bahrain was nominated as the gateway to GCC for Pakistani investors for boosting trade and foreign investment economic growth, creating new opportunities.
Pakistani trade and business community can explore Bahraini markets through arrangement of an EXPO of Pakistani goods in Manama Bahrain in year 2018. A joint website and online membership drive has been created with updates of all events, policies and relevant information between the trade and business opportunities of both the countries on the model of China/Australia and China/USA Business Council websites.
Furthermore, Bahraini businesses are involved in halal products, one of the fastest growing industries in the world, has a great potential at hand by collaborating with Pakistani food businesses. Right now, Turkey is at number one spot in the $ 4 trillion annual halal business industry ranging from food, fashion, and consumer items to beauty products.
In 2012, an agreement was reached between Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) and the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) to double bilateral trade by 2017. Since then significant progress has been achieved to enhance and develop the business and trade sector between both the nations.
After CPEC’s project initiation and a better and peaceful investment environment prevailing in Pakistan, Bahraini investors should take this opportunity for best returns. Since both the countries share much in common and the greater cooperation in trade and commerce will widen the horizon of bilateral ties and strengthen friendship.