PM Hasina reaches Saudi Arabia

DHAKA (The Daily Star/ANN) - Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reached Dammam yesterday evening. She is on a nine-day official visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reached Dammam yesterday evening. She is on a nine-day official visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.

In the first leg of her visit, the PM will attend the first month-long joint “Gulf Shield-I” military exercise at the invitation of the Saudi King, which will conclude today (April 16) at Al Jubail in the Eastern Province of Dammam in Saudi Arabia.

A VVIP flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines carrying the prime minister and her 41-member entourage took off from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 4:40pm and arrived in Dammam King Fahad International Airport yesterday at 8:00pm (KSA time).

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud will oversee the conclusion of the Joint military drill today in the presence of Hasina and a number of leaders of “friendly” countries participating in the exercise, including Bangladesh.

The leaders will also witness military parades of the various participating forces due to start at 1:00pm and conclude at 4:00pm. Hasina will leave Dammam for UK at 5:00pm (KSA time) today by a special flight to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London.

Gulf Shield-I is organised by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Defense having participants from land, air and naval forces of 23 countries, including USA, UK, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt,  Jordan, Sudan, Mauritania, Malaysia, Pakistan, Chad, Djibouti, Niger, Comoros, Afghanistan, Oman, Guyana, Turkey, and Burkina Faso.

Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali said earlier that an 18-member delegation of Bangladesh Armed Forces have participated in the exercise.

The military exercise, which began on March 18, is considered one of the largest in the region, both in terms of the number of participating countries and the quality of its weapons. It aims to raise military readiness in the region, modernise joint mechanisms and enhance coordination and cooperation with joint military and security integration, reports Arab News.

“The drills featured two types of military operations that included conventional military operations represented by coastal defence attacks against the enemy, in addition to the irregular war operations carried out by besieging and penetrating villages and industrial installations so as to cleanse them of hostile elements,” spokesman for Joint Gulf Shield-1, Brig Gen Abdullah Al-Subaie told local, Arab and international media yesterday, according to Arab News.

Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali and other high civil and military officials are accompanying the PM during her Saudi visit.

Apart from attending various sessions of the Commonwealth Summit, Hasina is expected to hold bilateral meetings with her counterparts of different participating countries, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the sidelines of the summit.

On April 17, the prime minister will attend the Commonwealth Women Forum and address the session on "Educate to empower: Making equitable and quality primary education and secondary education a reality for girls across the Commonwealth" at Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster as the main speaker.

She will also join a high-level programme to be organised by Overseas Development Institute (ODI), a prestigious think tank of the UK, in the afternoon. She will be the keynote speaker on "Development Progress of Bangladesh: Policy, Progress and Prospect" in the programme.

On April 18, the Bangladesh prime minister will attend the Asian leaders' roundtable - 'Can Asia keep growing?' The PM will join the Welcome Reception followed by a dinner to be hosted by British premier Theresa May in the afternoon.

On April 19, Hasina will attend the formal opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and official welcome ceremony to be hosted by the British PM.

The PM will join a reception to be hosted by Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland QC and a presentation and reception followed by a dinner of Queen Elizabeth II in honour of Heads of Government and spouse/partners at the Buckingham Palace.

On April 20, the prime minister will attend three retreat sessions and the closing executive session of the summit.

On April 21, she will attend a reception for participating Commonwealth Heads of Government and the Queen's Birthday Party Concert to be organised by the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS). The prime minister will join a community reception the same day.

She will depart UK by special flight of Biman on April 22 at 6:20pm and is expected to reach Dhaka at 9:15am on April 23.

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