Foreign relations of Bahrain

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bahrain plays a modest, moderating role in regional politics and adheres to the views of the Arab League on Middle East peace and Palestinian rights. Since achieving independence in 1971, Bahrain has maintained friendly relations with most of its neighbours and with the world community. It generally pursues a policy of close consultation with neighbouring states and works to narrow areas of disagreement.

Bahrain is a member of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC), established on May 26, 1981, with five other Persian Gulf states. The country has fully complied with steps taken by the GCC to coordinate economic development and defense and security planning. In December 1994, it concurred with the GCC decision to drop secondary and tertiary boycotts against Israel. In many instances, it has established special bilateral trade agreements.

Bahrain's current Minister of Foreign Affairs is Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani.[1] Its previous foreign minister was Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, a career diplomat. Sheikh Khaled was educated in the United States, as a student he was a member of US President Jimmy Carter's 1980 presidential campaign team. His deputy was Nazar Al Baharna, a politician and business leader, who was appointed in 2006 following the victory of the biggest Shia party Al Wefaq in that year's parliamentary elections. Al Baharna was formerly a leading member of Al Wefaq.[citation needed]

In June 2006, Bahrain was elected head of the United Nations General Assembly, and used the honour to appoint Haya bint Rashid Al Khalifa as the Assembly's president, making her the first Middle East woman and only the third woman in history to take over the post. Sheikha Haya is a leading Bahraini lawyer and women's rights advocate who took over the post at a time of change for the world body. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said of her, "I met her yesterday and I found her quite impressive. All the member states are determined to work with her and to support her, and I think she's going to bring a new dimension to the work here."[2] The move follows a series of appointments of women to high-profile positions in the Kingdom (see Women's political rights in Bahrain for further details).

During the Persian Gulf War in 1990–91, Bahrain was part of the coalition that fought to liberate Kuwait. Bahraini, RAF, and USAF pilots flew air strikes in Iraq from the Sheik Isa Air Base, while coalition navies operated out of Manama, the capital. Bahrain was hit by Scud missiles fired from Iraq.[3] A number of Bahraini students studying in Iraq and Kuwait at the outbreak of hostilities went missing and are presumed the victims of Saddam Hussein's secret police.

After the liberation of Kuwait, Bahrain and the United States strengthened their already good ties by signing a ten-year agreement in October 1991, which granted American forces access to Bahraini facilities and allowed the U.S. to pre-position war material for future crises. In July 1995 the U.S. 5th Fleet was established in the Persian Gulf with its headquarters at NSA Bahrain in Manama. In 2003, U.S. President George W. Bush designated Bahrain as a major non-NATO ally.[4]

Bahrain was an active member of the coalition that fought to remove the Taliban regime from Afghanistan in 2001; the Kingdom provided ships for the naval cordon in the Indian Ocean put in place to intercept fleeing Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters.

Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa I with the Saudi king Ibn Saud.

However, the Kingdom opposed unilateral action against Iraq in 2003, and to the annoyance of Washington in the run up to the war sought to defuse the crisis by offering Saddam Hussein asylum as a way of avoiding war.[5]

Bahrain-Iran relations have been strained since the Iranian Revolution and the 1981 discovery of a planned Iran-sponsored coup in Bahrain. Bahraini suspicions of the Iranian role in local unrest in the mid-1990s remain. However, with the decline of Iraq as a regional powerbroker, Bahrain has begun taking steps to improve relations with Iran and increase regional harmony. These efforts have included encouraging Bahrain-Iran trade.[6]

The long-standing territorial dispute with Qatar over the Hawar Islands and the maritime boundary were resolved in 2001 by a compromise decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

To mark Mahatma Gandhi's birthday on 2 October 2007, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs co-sponsored with the Bahrain Centre for Studies and Research and the Indian Embassy a conference on the relevance of Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy for the Arab world in the 21st Century. The conference, attended by Arab and Indian academics, UN officials and diplomats discussed the Gandhi’s teaching of non-violence, austerity and spiritualism with particular reference to the Arab world today. Among the keynote speakers was leading liberal academic, Dr Abdulla Al Madani, who emphasised Gandhi’s moral vision: "Had he resorted to kidnapping, suicide-bombings, beheadings, or other barbarian means, his memory would not have remained rooted in the world's conscience. Believing that the credibility of one's action lay in setting a personal example, Gandhi began with himself. He quit his legal practice, gave up wearing Western-style clothing, and embraced a humble lifestyle by making his own clothes and living on a simple vegetarian diet. This, of course, differs from the practice of leaders of some Arab resistance movements, who urge their followers to boycott the West while savouring the Western lifestyle, products, and technology."[7]

Relations with Thailand and the Hakeem al-Araibi incident[edit]

Bahrain's foreign relations were put under strain and its human rights record under the spotlight when in November 2018 Bahraini footballer Hakeem al-Araibi, who had been sentenced in absentia by Bahrain to 10 years in prison for vandalising a police station in 2013, was arrested upon arrival in Thailand with his wife for their honeymoon. The footballer, who had been granted refugee status by Australia in 2014, urged the Thailand authorities not to deport him to Bahrain as he had been previously tortured in Bahrain for his political views.[8]

He was kept in detention in Thailand while the Australian government and many international organisations and individuals lobbied for his release, until it was announced on 11 February 2019 by the Thai Office of the Attorney-General (OAG)[9] that the extradition case against al-Araibi had been dropped by the criminal court at Bahrain's request. No reason was given by the foreign ministry, but the decision was made under Section 21 of the Prosecution Act, which allows for cases to be dropped if not in the public interest, and he would be released and allowed to return to Australia as soon as possible.[10]

During the media frenzy surrounding the case, the strong links between Bahrain and Thailand were alluded to in the press. Academics and human rights groups raised the issue of the very close ties between the two countries, both financially and between the two royal families.[11] According to Dr Aim Sinpeng, an expert in South-East Asian politics at the University of Sydney, the Thai and Bahraini royal families have always had a close relationship and the Bahraini royal family visits Thailand every year. Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Surapong Tovichakchaikul said in 2012 that the relationship between Thailand and Bahrain “was very close and strong” and also disclosed that the Bahrain Prime Minister was a “close personal friend” of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and had “donated roughly $2 million of his own money” to Thailand for flood relief.[11]

The latest new business venture between the two countries is a new 6,700 sq. m. Thai shopping centre in Manama, set to launch in the first half of 2019 and described as an opportunity for Thai small and medium-sized enterprises to reach a huge potential market of Saudi shoppers,[11] said to be the biggest economic centre in Bahrain, with import and exports between the two countries expected to be worth around US$400m annually.[12][13]

Diplomatic relations[edit]

List of countries with which Bahrain maintains diplomatic relations with by date:

# Country Date[14]
1  Kuwait 19 August 1971
2  United Kingdom 21 August 1971
3  Saudi Arabia 29 September 1971
4  India 12 October 1971
5  Pakistan 14 October 1971
6  United States 14 October 1971
7  Qatar 1971
8  United Arab Emirates 1971
9  Iraq 18 January 1972
10  France 15 February 1972
11  Australia 24 April 1972
12  Japan 2 May 1972
13  Netherlands 2 May 1972
14  Yemen 13 May 1972
15  Germany 17 May 1972
16  Lebanon 29 May 1972
17  Afghanistan 1 June 1972
18  Egypt 5 June 1972
19  Jordan 10 June 1972
20  Tunisia 25 June 1972
21  Somalia 29 October 1972
22  Spain 15 November 1972
23  Sudan 4 December 1972
24  Iran 9 December 1972
25  Chad 10 December 1972
26  Canada 2 February 1973
27  Morocco 5 March 1973
28  Turkey 12 April 1973
29  Mauritania 30 April 1973
30  Greece 28 August 1973
31  Italy 16 December 1973
32  Guinea 5 January 1974
33  Sweden 25 January 1974
34  Argentina 18 March 1974[15]
35  Ireland 18 May 1974
36  Bangladesh 6 June 1974
37   Switzerland 6 June 1974
 State of Palestine 15 June 1974
38  Denmark 10 August 1974
39  Malta 4 November 1974
40  Niger 11 November 1974
41  Malaysia 25 November 1974
42  Finland 23 January 1975
43  Syria 23 January 1975
44  Libya 22 February 1975
45  Cameroon 20 March 1975
46  Austria 18 May 1975
47  Mexico 5 August 1975[16]
48  Gabon 8 November 1975
49  Mauritius 12 February 1976
50  Brazil 23 February 1976
51  South Korea 17 April 1976
52  Portugal 10 July 1976
53  Lesotho 24 July 1976
54    Nepal 13 January 1977
55  Thailand 15 January 1977
56  Venezuela 31 May 1977
57  Mali 6 June 1977
58  Burundi 27 June 1977
59  Ghana 9 April 1978
60  Iceland 24 May 1978
61  Philippines 27 November 1978
62  Tanzania 1978
63  Oman 13 June 1979
64  Luxembourg 14 March 1980
65  Democratic Republic of Congo 3 June 1980
66  Belgium 2 December 1980
67  Senegal 13 December 1981
68  Cyprus 14 January 1982[17]
69  Zambia 24 January 1983
70  Chile 6 February 1983
71  Djibouti 6 February 1983
72  Gambia 6 February 1983
73  Seychelles 4 May 1983
74  Algeria 19 November 1983
75  Indonesia 23 June 1984
76  New Zealand 23 July 1984
77  Bulgaria 15 October 1984
78  Comoros 1984
79  Singapore 30 June 1985
80  Haiti 15 September 1985
81  Maldives 24 October 1987
82  Brunei 24 September 1988
83  Burkina Faso 25 February 1989
84  Serbia 31 August 1989[18]
85  China 18 April 1989
86  Colombia 18 April 1989
87  Panama 27 April 1989
88  Hungary 3 March 1990
89  Russia 29 September 1990
90  Romania 10 March 1991
91  Poland 22 April 1991
92  Nicaragua 12 August 1991
93  Bhutan 6 January 1992[19]
94  Turkmenistan 25 February 1992
95  Bosnia and Herzegovina 3 May 1992
96  Kazakhstan 28 May 1992
97  Uzbekistan 28 May 1992
98  Norway 27 June 1992
99  Sri Lanka 27 June 1992
100  Ukraine 20 July 1992
101  Croatia 18 January 1993
102  Albania 10 May 1993
103  Georgia 10 May 1993
104  Czech Republic 14 June 1993
105  South Africa 13 September 1993
106  Uganda 2 October 1993
107  Cuba 15 June 1994
108  Slovakia 22 March 1995
109  Vietnam 1 April 1995
110  Tajikistan 20 May 1995
111  Uruguay 25 May 1995
112  Ivory Coast 17 June 1995
113  Lithuania 3 July 1995
114  Eritrea 2 December 1995
115  Kyrgyzstan 9 February 1996[20]
116  Slovenia 28 February 1996
117  Zimbabwe 27 June 1996
118  Belarus 1 July 1996
119  North Macedonia 11 September 1996
120  Armenia 15 October 1996
121  Azerbaijan 6 November 1996
122  Sao Tome and Principe 27 October 1997
123  Mozambique 3 November 1997
124  Guyana 19 November 1997
125  Rwanda 2 March 1998
126  Mongolia 16 May 1998
127  Malawi 9 September 1998
128  Republic of Congo 9 June 1999
129  El Salvador 16 June 1999
130  Suriname 10 November 1999
131  Ethiopia 28 November 1999
  Holy See 12 January 2000
132  Latvia 27 March 2000
133  Ecuador 26 June 2000
134  Honduras 27 June 2000
135  North Korea 23 May 2001
136  Laos 15 December 2002
137  Moldova 7 April 2004
138  Estonia 27 April 2004
139  Cape Verde 17 March 2005
140  Liechtenstein 1 April 2005
141  Paraguay 6 May 2005
142  Eswatini 9 September 2005
143  Belize 14 December 2005
144  Costa Rica 22 September 2006
145  Antigua and Barbuda 20 October 2006
146  Andorra 4 May 2007
147  Guatemala 21 May 2007
148  Dominican Republic 22 October 2007[18]
149  Barbados 12 March 2008
150  Cambodia 29 June 2009
151  Peru 22 September 2009
152  Montenegro 25 September 2009
153  Myanmar 10 November 2009[18]
154  Fiji 25 September 2010[18]
155  Bahamas 25 September 2010[18]
156  Kenya 25 September 2010[18]
157  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 28 September 2010[18]
158  South Sudan 28 September 2012[18]
159  Monaco 23 September 2013[18]
160  Angola 26 September 2013[18]
 Kosovo 12 March 2014[21]
161  Nigeria 8 April 2014[22]
162  Kiribati 25 September 2018[18]
163  Saint Kitts and Nevis 27 September 2018[18]
164  Jamaica 28 September 2018[18]
165  Palau 28 September 2018[18]
166  San Marino 25 September 2019[23]
167  East Timor 27 September 2019[24]
168  Israel 11 September 2020[25]
169  Central African Republic 24 March 2022[26]
170  Sierra Leone 8 June 2022[18]
171  Tonga 19 September 2022[18]
172  Federated States of Micronesia 21 September 2022[18]
173  Solomon Islands 21 September 2022[18]
174  Togo 21 September 2022[18]
175  Trinidad and Tobago 21 September 2022[18]
176  Madagascar 23 September 2022[18]
177  Saint Lucia 13 December 2022[18]
178  Samoa 27 April 2023[18]
179  Nauru 7 May 2023[27]
180  Papua New Guinea 1 June 2023[18]
181  Grenada 19 September 2023[28]
182  Benin 22 September 2023[29]
183  Bolivia 22 September 2023[30]

Bilateral relations[edit]

Country Formal Relations Began Notes
 India See Bahrain–India relations

India is a close ally of Bahrain, the Kingdom along with its GCC partners are (according to Indian officials) among the most prominent backers of India's bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council,[31] and Bahraini officials have urged India to play a greater role in international affairs. For instance, over concerns about Iran's nuclear programme Bahrain's Crown Prince appealed to India to play an active role in resolving the crisis[32]

Ties between India and Bahrain go back generations, with many of Bahrain's most prominent figures having close connections: poet and constitutionalist Ebrahim Al-Arrayedh grew up in Mumbai, while 17th century Bahraini theologians Sheikh Salih Al-Karzakani and Sheikh Ja`far bin Kamal al-Din were influential figures in the Kingdom of Golkonda[33] and the development of Shia thought in the sub-continent.

Bahraini politicians have sought to enhance these long standing ties, with Parliamentary Speaker Khalifa Al Dhahrani in 2007 leading a delegation of parliamentarians and business leaders to meet Indian President Pratibha Patil, opposition leader L K Advani, and take part in training and media interviews.[34] Politically, it is easier for Bahrain's politicians to seek training and advice from India than it is from the United States or other western alternative.

In December 2007, the Bahrain India Society was launched in Manama to promote ties between the two countries. Headed by the former Minister of Labour Abdulnabi Al Shoala, the Society seeks to take advantage of the development in civil society to actively work to strengthen ties between the two countries, not only business links, but according to the body's opening statement in politics, social affairs, science and culture. India's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs E Ahmed and his Bahraini counterpart Dr Nazar Al Baharna attended the launch.[35]

Bahrain's ruler Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa went on a state visit to India in February 2014 and has secured $450 million of bilateral trade and investment between the two nations.[36]


On 12 August 2012, Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid al-Khalifa announced[37] that Bahrain has reinstated its Ambassador to Iran.[38]

On 19 July 2015, after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei voiced support for the oppressed people across the Middle East including Bahrain, the Iranian acting chargé d'affaires Morteza Sanubari was summoned by the Bahraini Foreign Ministry over "flagrant interference". The foreign ministry handed "an official protest memorandum" to the diplomat over "statements made by Ali Khamenei against the kingdom of Bahrain".[39]

On 1 October 2015 (a week after the 2015 Mina stampede), the Bahraini government recalled its ambassador from Tehran and ordered the Iranian acting chargé d'affaires to leave the country within 3 days in response to "continuing interference by Iran in the affairs of the kingdom". This comes when Bahraini authorities in Nuwaidrat (30 September) discovered a large bomb-making factory and seized a large stash of weapons and arrested a number of people suspected of having links with Iran's Revolutionary Guards.[40] Bahrain's decision to recall its ambassador comes "in light of continued Iranian meddling in the affairs of the kingdom of Bahrain ... in order to create sectarian strife and to impose hegemony and control.[41][42] In response (on 2 October), the Iranian Foreign Ministry retaliated by releasing this statement: "The number two official in Bahrain's embassy in Tehran is persona non grata and Mr. Bassam al-Dossari must leave Iran's territory within 72 hours," the official IRNA news agency quoted a foreign ministry statement as saying late Friday.[43]

On 4 January 2016, Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Iran, accusing it of interference in Saudi internal affairs after Saudi Arabia executed prominent Shia cleric, Nimr al-Nimr for his involvement in 2011–12 Saudi Arabian protests.[44] This followed the same decision by the Saudi government, after Iranian protesters set fires in the Saudi Embassy in Tehran.[45]

 Iraq See Bahrain–Iraq relations
  • Bahrain has an embassy in Baghdad.
  • Iraq has an embassy in Manama.
 Israel See Bahrain–Israel relations

Until September 11, 2020, there were no official relations between Bahrain and Israel and the government of Bahrain didn't recognize Israel as a state. However, Israeli citizens were allowed to enter Bahrain with the requirement of a visa.

Unofficial relations began in late 2016 due to tensions with Iran and denounced the Arab League boycott of Israel.

On September 11, 2020, Bahrain and Israel signed a normalization agreement thereby agreeing to recognize each other and establish diplomatic relations


Bahrain's first ever royal visit to Kazakhstan was in April 2014, where the King met with the Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev.[46] The country have signed major deals between the two countries to bolster trade and investments. Bahrain have expressed its support for the Astana Expo 2017 and have encouraged local businessmen and government sectors to take part in the prestigious event.[47] The Kazakh Government has created the Bahraini-Kazakh Business Council, unveiling plans to sign an agreement on encouraging and protecting investment, avoiding taxation and fiscal evasion.[48]

 Kosovo 13 March 2014

On 19 May 2009, Bahrain officially recognised Kosovo as an independent state.[49] On 13 March 2014, Bahrain and Kosovo established diplomatic relations.[50]

 Kuwait See Bahrain–Kuwait relations
  • Bahrain has an embassy in Kuwait City.
  • Kuwait has an embassy in Manama.
 Malaysia See Bahrain–Malaysia relations
 Pakistan See Bahrain-Pakistan relations
April 17, 2008: Arabian Shark '08 in process, a joint exercise between the navies of Pakistan, Bahrain and the United States, focusing on antisubmarine warfare.

Bahrain and Pakistan enjoy cordial and deep ties. Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, during a visit to Pakistan, called Pakistan his second home and stated that Bahrain regards Pakistan extremely highly.[53] Joint initiatives between Pakistani and Bahraini governments have started to further their bilateral trades, which reached to $250 million in 2007. Pakistani businessmen are eyeing on Bahrain's property market while Bahrain is seeing Pakistan as a good agricultural potential investment country.

 Portugal See Bahrain–Portugal relations

Bahrain was ruled by the Portuguese Empire from 1521 until 1602, when they were expelled by Shah Abbas I of the Safavid dynasty.

 Qatar See Bahrain–Qatar relations

Bahrain has an embassy in Qatar.[54] Qatar also has an embassy in Bahrain.[55] In May 2017, Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, and closed its airspace and maritime to Qatar transportations. It has also asked Qataris to leave the country, and Bahrainis to leave to Qatar. Islam Hassan argues that " the small Kingdom has been toeing the Saudi foreign policy for the past couple of years. It seems that their severing of ties with Qatar was mainly an answer to a Saudi call."[56][57]In April 2023, Bahrain had restored diplomatic ties with Qatar.[58]

 Russia See Bahrain–Russia relations
  • Bahrain has an embassy in Moscow.
  • Russia has an embassy in Manama.
 Saudi Arabia See Bahrain–Saudi Arabia relations
  • Bahrain has an embassy in Riyadh and a consulate-general in Jeddah.
  • Saudi Arabia has an embassy in Manama.
 South Korea

On 24 June 2014, the South Korean deputy minister for multilateral and global affairs, Shin Dong-ik, met with ambassador Abdulla Abdullatif Abdullah, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain who was on a visit to the Republic of Korea from June 22 through 24. During the meeting, the two sides exchanged ideas on ways to promote the ROK-Bahrain relations and discussed ways to work together in the field of human rights. Dong-ik and Abdullah shared the view that continued high-level exchanges are essential for the improvement of relations between the South Korea and Bahrain.[59]

 Spain See Bahrain–Spain relations
  • Bahrain is accredited to Spain from its embassy in Paris, France.
  • Spain is accredited to Bahrain from its embassy in Kuwait City, Kuwait.
 Turkey 4 December 1973 See Bahrain–Turkey relations

Relations between Bahrain and Turkey were officially established on December 4, 1973.[60] The relation between these two countries are considered positive, with trade at 78.1 million U.S dollars in 2006. Almost double then the amount then it was 2003.[61] In 2007, trade was at 186 million U.S dollars.[62]

 United Arab Emirates See Bahrain–United Arab Emirates relations
 United Kingdom See Bahrain–United Kingdom relations

Bahrain gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1971 and has since maintained diplomatic and trade relations.

  • Bahrain has an embassy in London.
  • United Kingdom has an embassy in Manama.
 United States See Bahrain–United States relations
  • Bahrain has an embassy in Washington, D.C.
  • United States has an embassy in Manama.

See also[edit]


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