Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday said Bangladesh and Japan have successfully elevated the bilateral relations to a “Strategic Partnership” from the existing “Comprehensive Partnership”.
By Samina Akhter
“Prime minister Kishida and I have discussed today the entire gamut of our bilateral relations. We are happy that Bangladesh and Japan have successfully elevated the bilateral relations to a “Strategic Partnership” from the existing “Comprehensive Partnership”, she said.
The prime minister made the remarks in a joint statement after the exchanging of several instruments signed between the two sides following bilateral talks with her Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo.
She added: “Today, prime minister Kishida and I concluded the Joint Statement on “Strategic Partnership”. I am confident that the excellent understanding, friendship and cooperation that exist between our two peoples and our governments will grow even stronger in the years ahead.”
“Our two sides have signed – agreements and memorandums which will further institutionalize our future cooperation in the areas of agriculture, customs matters, defense, ICT and cyber-security, industrial upgrading, intellectual property, ship recycling and metro rail,” she said.
Dhaka and Tokyo on Wednesday signed eight instruments on the second day of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s four-day state visit to Japan at the invitation of her Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida.
Those were signed on agriculture, metro rail, industrial upgrade, ship recycling, customs matters, intellectual properties, defence cooperation, ICT and cyber security cooperation by the concerned persons of the two friendly countries.
On the other hand,
Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio on Wednesday said Bangladesh and Japan have upgraded their relationship to a strategic partnership.
“We have upgraded our bilateral relationship to strategic partnership,” he said in a press statement just after concluding a summit meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at his office.
In the meeting, both have affirmed their commitment to uphold the free and open international order based on the rule of law as strategic partners at a time when the international order is at a historic turning point, he said.
Also, based on new plans for a free and open Indo-Pacific point announced last month, two countries have agreed to further strengthen the bilateral relations in various areas, he added.
Japan rolled out the red carpet to welcome Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday in a four-day official visit which experts said would be “more significant” than her previous five visits to Tokyo. It comes at a time when Japan has declared a free and open Indo-Pacific giving importance to the ‘global south’ and showed interest to develop the relations with Bangladesh to “strategic level” from the present “comprehensive partnership”. We hope that the bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Japan will be enhanced further. Also, we appreciate Japan’s support in implementing our mega projects such as Matarbari deep sea port, third terminal of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka and Dhaka Metro Rail. The relationships between Dhaka and Tokyo are going from strength to strength.
Japan is one of the most powerful industrialized nations in the world. The country not only took part in our independence movement but also at the post-independence time of Bangladesh. The role Japan has played in Bangladesh’s nation building strategy is a concrete instance of selfless friendship. The friendship that Japan and Bangladesh have been enjoying over the last four decades is rare in today’s world. Friendship between the two countries was tested in the terror attack in Dhaka in July 2016, which led to the tragic death of seven Japanese nationals. It was during that moment of national anguish and mourning that yet again, the Japanese people and government stood by us and reassured us of Japan’s continued support to Bangladesh’s development.
Japanese entrepreneurs are demonstrating more enthusiasm about business and investment opportunities in Bangladesh. We believe our time-tested friend Japan and its people will be with us on our transformative journey to development and prosperity. We hope that in our efforts to cross the threshold from a developing to a developed country, we will have Japan by our side as facilitator in the manner that they have been so far.
The relationships between Dhaka and Tokyo are going from strength to strength. The latter is likely to continue to play a crucial role as the single largest bilateral donor and a trusted friend and development partner. It is essential that Tokyo remains actively engaged with Bangladesh in its journey to become a developed nation.
It comes at a time when Japan has declared a free and open Indo-Pacific giving importance to the ‘global south’ and showed interest to develop the relations with Bangladesh to “strategic level” from the present “comprehensive partnership”.
Just before the visit, Bangladesh on Monday also revealed its 15-point Indo-Pacific outlook envisioning a “free, open, peaceful, secure, and inclusive” Indo-Pacific as the country is set to be graduated from the LDC.
“For five reasons this visit is more significant than other visits as the Prime Minister has previously visited Japan in 1997, 2010, 2014, 2016 and 2019.
“First, with its new free and open Indo-Pacific strategy, Tokyo considers Bangladesh as an important country which is something beyond the “donor recipient” relationship.
“Secondly, Japan is implementing a large infrastructure project in south Chattogram, Cox’s Bazar districts under its ‘Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt’ (BIG-B) concept. Japan is looking for an alternative to its present production hub in ASEAN and other countries due to rising costs. And Bangladesh’s economic transformation gives the Japanese companies confidence that they can invest here and make products in low-cost and then export to other countries using the deep-sea port in Matarbari which is also being built by Japan,” Prof Mamun said.
“Third, Japan wants to develop relations with Bangladesh into a ‘strategic’ one, where security and military cooperation will be added.
“Fourth, in the new context of graduation from the LDC, Bangladesh will lose GSP in the Japan market. So, both countries are in talk to negotiate an ‘Economic Partnership Agreement’.
“Fifth, Japan is also planning to connect northeast India with the Matarbari deep sea port which will give a new dimension to regional connectivity. This was announced recently during the Japanese Prime Minister’s visit to India.”
“We think this connectivity issue will also come up in the discussion between the two Prime Ministers..
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen earlier said around eight deals would be signed with Tokyo during the visit.
Those include the deals on agriculture, metro rail, industrial upgrade, ship recycling, customs matters, intellectual properties; defence cooperation, ICT and cyber security cooperation.
The Prime Minister will also attend an investment summit during her visit.
The visit is “very significant” as Japan is looking at its relations with Bangladesh in a way that has “geopolitical importance”.
“Through this visit, both the countries reiterated their commitment to each other,” she said, adding that the existing bilateral “comprehensive” partnership needs to be transformed into a “strategic” one.
“With the strategic partnership, the two countries will determine the long-term relationship based on their goals and objectives towards each other.
Bangladesh’s prime minister left on a trip on Tuesday to Japan, the U.S. and the U.K. to build defense cooperation with Tokyo and explore new partnerships with the two major Western powers.
The visit to Japan was significant as Tokyo looks to expand regional partnerships to counter Beijing’s influence in the Indo-Pacific. Meanwhile, the trip to the U.S, was a chance for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to demonstrate that all is well between Dhaka and Washington despite an impression to the contrary.
Samina Akhter is a Dhaka-based freelance writer and a women’s and human rights activist at Bangladesh Mohila odhikar Parishad, a human rights civic group.