With the Duke of Westminster here in Bahrain; Bahrain’s Information Minister praising the significance of the British expat community at the Bahrain-British Business Forum; and Britain’s Foreign Minister praising Bahrain’s commitment to reform – in the space of just 24 hours we have numerous examples of the value of British-Bahraini ties. Below we take a look at several of the reasons why Bahrain-British relations are currently making so much progress…
Duke of Westminster: “Bahrain is an “oasis of religious tolerance”
In meetings in Bahrain with the King and Prime Minister, Britain’s Duke of Westminster has praised Bahrain as an “oasis of religious tolerance”. The Duke hailed the success of the recent parliamentary and municipal elections in advancing Bahrain’s democratic process.
Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman said that Britain and Bahrain’s mutual understanding, respect and co-operation had contributed to strengthening ties, particularly in culture, trade and economy.
Bahraini Information Minister: British-Bahrain ties going from strength to strength
Bahrain’s Information Minister Isa Abdulrahman, speaking at the Bahrain-British Business Forum has pledged to consolidate relationships with Britain in the field of media. The minister described relations with Britain as going from “strength to strength”, praising the trade and investment links and noting the presence of around 100 British companies and over 9,000 permanent British residents in Bahrain. These British residents “are making a major contribution to the prosperity of the Kingdom”, the Minister said.
The minister said he was looking forward to consolidation of co-operation in various sectors, particularly the media. He said that cooperation to enhance Bahrain’s media sector would benefit both Bahrain and international partners seeking to do business in Bahrain.
British Foreign Secretary: Bahrain “travelling in the right direction”
Britain’s Foreign Minister Philip Hammond said that Bahrain “is a country which is travelling in the right direction… It is making significant reforms.” Philip Hammond added: “The crown prince who is charged with this agenda is directly engaged and has made significant progress even over the last few months.” (20 January)
British Ambassador’s support for reform
Bahrain is lucky to have a British Ambassador, Iain Lindsay, who has cultivated excellent relations at all levels of Bahraini society and has been actively engaged in supporting the reform process.
Nuanced British position towards Bahraini political situation
The British Foreign Office issued a statement on 21 January regarding the charges against Ali Salman. In contrast to numerous other states and NGOs which have ignored the numerous charges being made against Salman; the British statement acknowledged that he is facing “serious charges” for which it is “important that due process is fully followed”.
In general Britain has tended to display a more sophisticated understanding of the complexities of the Bahrain situation and has refused to blindly follow the opposition’s propaganda that everyone in Bahraini jails is an innocent “prisoner of conscience”.
New permanent British naval base at Mina Salman
Britain has demonstrated its long-term commitment and solidarity with Bahrain in the building of a £15 million permanent naval base in Mina Salman. This substantial investment will benefit local businesses. Meanwhile, additional visitors to our shores will be good news for the hospitality industry.
Britain’s decision represents a vote of confidence in Bahrain’s stability and security; giving a tangible signal to people around the world that Bahrain is a safe and welcoming state, meriting investment and partnership.
British cooperation to support Bahraini reforms
Britain has supported a number of projects for supporting judicial and security reforms in Bahrain. UK experts have worked with the Bahrain Ministries of Interior and Justice to provide advice and guidance on prison reform and outlawing all forms of torture.
Britain has also provided assistance into investigating the production of materials for manufacturing terrorist explosives and for following due process in investigating acts of terrorism. This practical and constructive support has been welcomed by Bahraini ministers for making a material contribution to the reform process.