During the past few weeks Bahrain witnessed two major celebration events hosted by the Kingdom’s major non neighbouring allies, the United Kingdom and the United States. The US Independence Day (celebrated early) and UK’s King Charles III coronation day celebration brought together a large number of Bahrainis and non-Bahrainis from different communities, backgrounds and walks of life under one roof. As Bahrainis, we view such events as an opportunity not to just speak to our allies but also to understand the depth of the relations between our nations.
Despite a notable difference in the relations between Bahrain and these two major allies, considering several dynamics, Bahrain the UK and US have had a long history of working together towards several key areas. Regional peace, stability, security, trade, cultural exchange and many others that benefit citizens on all sides. These deep-rooted relations paved the way for strong encouragement by both the US and UK towards political reforms following the 2011 unrest. An issue where mostly the British government comes under fire for as some fail to understand the huge positive impact of such encouragement on the people of Bahrain. The encouragement by both global leaders to meet international governance standards has been well received by the government of Bahrain that continuously aims at excellence, despite ongoing criticisms by opposition supporters who aim at isolating Bahrain and decreasing any form of support it receives from the UK and US.
Bahrainis looks at the UK and US as dependable allies, as nations with strong presence on our lands both socially and politically through the presence of UK’s naval support facility and the headquarters of the US Navy Fifth fleet. This presence has assured Bahrainis that our allies take our security seriously and that they will stand united with us against the continuous hostility we have been receiving for decades from across the sea by the Islamic Republic. The outreach of both the British and American embassy in Bahrain is an assurance that our allies support Bahrain’s youth in moving forward with a moderate outlook on matters at times when extremism, religious fanaticism and hostility towards America and the west was on the rise.
Treaty relations between Bahrain and the UK go back to 1816. A few years ago in 2016, Bahrain celebrated 200 years of bilateral relations with the United Kingdom. Two years later in 2018, the UK Naval Support Facility HMS Jufair was opened in Bahrain. In recent years Britain arguably has been the most consistent state in supporting Bahrain’s reform process. Britain has also demonstrated itself to be a constructive partner in Bahrain’s efforts to improve its human rights record.
In 2004 Bahrain and the US signed a free trade agreement. Although Bahrain wasn’t the first partner for the US to sign such an agreement with; it was cited as being a particularly successful case. In the words of the US Administration: “Bahrain opened its services market wider than any previous FTA partner, creating important new opportunities for US financial service providers and companies that offer telecommunications, audiovisual, express delivery, distribution, healthcare, architecture, and engineering services”. The Free Trade Agreement has since then opened new horizons for US-Bahraini relations as it evidently strengthened the alliance between the two nations. In 2022, the trade exchange between Bahrain and the United States was more than 3 billion USD.
The positive outcomes of relations between Bahrain and the UK and US are deep rooted as they affect our nations on so many levels. We live in a world where sovereignty of nations is undermined by some, where regional and global hegemony attempts have led to instability and wars, where oppression and extremism in some countries has gone so far so as to deprive women and others from the right to dress, speak and move freely. Therefore, our relations with our non-neighbouring allies are important as building bridges promotes peace and moderation and prevents violence, hate and extremism.