THE visit of the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Dhaka beginning from 6th September will deliver a new trajectory to the bilateral relations.
The visit is significant in many ways. First Bangladesh-Japan relations will receive a new momentum and dynamism. Second. Japan is the world leader in technology. Japan's net technology has been transferred to Thailand, Indonesia, China and the United Kingdom. Bangladesh could be a recipient of such technology from Japan. Third, Japan under the leadership of Abe has continued to invest heavily in Asean and other South Asian countries by diverting its investment from China. Japan's economic presence has been felt in India and Myanmar in recent years. The visit may attract many Japanese investors to Bangladesh for its strategic location in the mouth of the Bay of Bengal as a bridge between South and Southeast Asia.
However, infrastructure development in roads and railways, availability of energy, accelerated processing of permits, licenses and improved facilities of sea ports are imperative in the country for creating a friendly environment for Japanese investment. It is good to note that Bangladesh reportedly may offer plots exclusively to Japanese entrepreneurs in Mirsarai EPZ. This would serve as a strong incentive for boosting Japanese investment in Bangladesh as currently investment proposals from Japan, worth $1.2 billion, are pending with our Board of Investment.
Bangladesh is vulnerable to global climate change and reportedly 23 million people will be adversely affected due to sea rise in the coastal belt. Japan can assist Bangladesh with its highly efficient and environment-friendly technology including coal-fired energy. It can also transfer technology relevant to agriculture in meeting the challenges faced by Bangladesh. During the visit, both sides may identify the priority sectors in which Japan may provide technical assistance to Bangladesh.
Japanese assistance in Bangladesh continues to be multi-faceted, primarily in sectors such as, infrastructure, energy, climate-related projects, and river-management. During Bangladesh Prime Minister's visit to Japan, it had has pledged an assistance of 600 billion yen (equivalent to US$6 billion) to Bangladesh over the next five years. It was agreed that a Japanese delegation would visit Bangladesh to identify and discuss with the Bangladeshi side details of economic cooperation in this regard.
Japan is keen to support power sector in Bangladesh after completion of formulating the ongoing comprehensive power development master plan for attaining stable power supply up to 2030. JICA is reportedly conducting the formulation of the master plan on the basis of diversification of fuel resources. It is reported that necessary technology transfer from Japan would be carried out in the master plan.
Japan has proposed an innovative plan --the formation of Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt to help Bangladesh realise its huge economic potential and expedite its growth. Bangladesh put before Japan a range of specific projects with regard to construction of Ganges Barrage, multi-modal tunnel under river Jamuna, dedicated railway bridge over river Jamuna, multi-modal Dhaka Eastern Bypass, and ecological restoration of the four rivers around Dhaka.
On the political front, according to a recent report of Kyodo News agency of Japan, Abe is expected to discuss Japan's candidacy on the UN Security Council this year with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as only one member- state from the Asia-Pacific region can take a seat the Council and Bangladesh and Japan are both candidates for the seat. Incidentally, Japan was elected in 2008 to a seat at the UN Security Council for 2009-2010,
It is recalled that Bangladesh secured a seat in the Security Council in 1978 defeating Japan, which was an extraordinary diplomatic triumph for Bangladesh within 4 years of its admission to the UN as a member. Against this background, Japan obviously does not want Bangladesh to contest from this regional group. At a news conference hosted by the Japan National Press Club during her trip, Prime Minister Hasina, reportedly, hinted that Bangladesh would withdraw its candidacy before the council election in 2015, saying, “For a trusted friend, Bangladesh is ready to do any sacrifice.” “Definitely, we will give some good news during Abe's visit,” she said.
Relationship with Japan has become one of the priorities of Bangladesh successive governments. Against this background, the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister will be a milestone in strengthening and consolidating bilateral relations. Furthermore, both countries may cooperate in addressing regional and global challenges confronting them.
The writer is Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva