‘Abe visit impetus for Dhaka-Tokyo partnership’

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit will provide much “impetus” to Dhaka-Tokyo “comprehensive partnership”, that took off during Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Japan in May, the foreign minister has said.

Nurul Islam Hasibbdnews24.com
Published : 4 Sept 2014, 09:58 AM
Updated : 4 Sept 2014, 01:07 PM

Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali on Thursday, briefing the press ahead of Abe’s visit, said increasing Japanese economic and technical cooperation in Bangladesh would be one of its targets.

And it will all happen in the backdrop of the present government’s “realistic development friendly foreign policy” and the VISION 2021 plan to become a middle-income country, he said.

Abe will reach in Dhaka along with his wife Akie Abe on Saturday for a visit lasting less than 22 hour -- the first by a Japanese PM in 14 years.

Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori was the last Japanese prime minister to come to Bangladesh in August 2000, when Hasina was in power during her first term.

Abe will lead a 150-member delegation including 50 top executives of different Japanese companies and a big media team.

His visit will draw much attention in Bangladesh as well as in Japan as it comes three months after Hasina’s Tokyo visit.

The visits have generated lot of speculations about Japan reconciling to work with the present government, as it had initially criticised Jan 5 elections.

The ruling Awami League came to power for the second successive term in that election that the BNP boycotted.

A Tokyo-based business review has commented that Japan was aiming to deepen its relationship with Bangladesh more than China has managed to.

Tokyo has a strategic interest to fulfill.

Japan's ambassador in Dhaka Shiro Sadoshima had earlier said combining two oceanic regions –Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean – together will give Japan more geo-political space for economic activities.

Bangladesh and Myanmar occupies the “lynchpin position” in this grand design, he said.

But Japan has a major interest to be elected to the non-permanent seat of the UN Security Council.

Bangladesh is the other contender for the post. But only one will be elected from Asia.

Japan has long been trying to lure Bangladesh for its support for Tokyo's candidature.

Hasina during his Tokyo visit told Japanese media at a National Press Club briefing that Japanese people would definitely get “good news” during Abe’s tour in Dhaka.

She invited him to visit Bangladesh during their meeting in Tokyo.

“I will have to go back and discuss the matter with my cabinet colleagues. But we would definitely value the friendship with Japan,” the PM was quoted as saying then by Bangladesh’s state-run news agency BSS.

“We always remember with gratitude the Japanese support… Japan is our tested friend and Bangladesh is ready to make any sacrifice for the tested friend,” she also said.

Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, however, gave no direct reply on this issue on Thursday.

“Dhire Rojoni Dhire (slow dear slow),” was his answer when asked.
The minister, however, dwelt on Bangladesh's historical relations with Japan since 1972.

On Feb 4 , Japan became the first developed nation to recognise Bangladesh within two months of its independence.

Soon after, Japan became the country’s largest bilateral development partner.

Its assistance comes regularly as grant, aid, technical assistance, and soft loans. The total grants and aid reached $11 billion last year.

During Hasina’s visit, Abe also pledged to give some 600 billion yen ($5.71 billion) in official development assistance to Bangladesh over the next four to five years, starting in fiscal 2015.

This fiscal, it has announced aid nearly to the extent of $1.2 billion.

Abe and Hasina also signed a joint statement in May where Japan committed to finance big infrastructure projects in Bangladesh.

The foreign minister said the visit would play “crucial role” in keeping Japanese assistance rolling to Bangladesh.

He said Japanese investors would be inspired to invest in Bangladesh following the visit.

Abe will also speak before the businessmen of both countries at the Japan-Bangladesh Economic Forum on Saturday.

Setting up a special economic zone in Bangladesh would also dominate the summit's agenda.

Bangladesh has already agreed to give 500 acres land to Japan for the proposed economic zone.

“We hope Japanese investors will be interested in investing in different important sectors including energy and power, infrastructure development, IT, textiles and ready-made clothes sector, pharmaceuticals, and automobiles,” foreign minister Ali said.

Hasina has requested Abe during her visit for duty-free access for some Bangladesh’s products.

Dhaka is expecting progress in that during his visit.

Japan also agreed to provide technical support to build a ‘Peace Building Centre’ in Bangladesh.

Ali said this would be discussed during the visit.

He said they would discuss possible tripartite cooperation among Bangladesh, Japan and the United Nations for training on UN peacekeeping and peace-building.

Abe will arrive at 1pm at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport by a special flight. Hasina will receive him.

He will go to the national martyrs’ memorial at Savar to pay respect to the liberation war martyrs.

Then he will come to the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum at Dhanmondi to pay respect to the father of the nation.

After his summit meeting in the afternoon at PM’s office, he will call on President Md Abdul Hamid at Bangabhaban.

Leader of the opposition Raushon Ershad will meet him at the hotel before the banquet dinner that Hasina will host for her counterpart at Pan Pacific Hotel.

He will visit the Institute of Fine Arts on Sunday before leaving Dhaka at about 10.30 am.

His wife will visit Baptist Mission Integrated School (BMIS) and Dhaka Nursing College on Saturday.

The foreign minister said the issue of waiving off visa for officials and diplomatic passport holders of both countries would also be discussed during the visit.