Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina began her tri-nation tour on April 25 and returned home on May 9. She first visited Tokyo at the invitation of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and went to the United States at the invitation of the World Bank. She participated in the 50th anniversary of the relationship between Bangladesh and the World Bank. She travelled to London from the USA to attend King Charles III's coronation. She held bilateral and sideline meetings, alongside interaction with top businessmen from various countries. She called for investment in Bangladesh.
On April 25, at 7:56 am, I left Dhaka for Tokyo by a special flight of Bangladesh Biman as an entourage of the prime minister. The plane landed at Tokyo's Haneda International Airport at 1:48 PM Bangladesh time and 4:48 PM local time. On arrival at Haneda International Airport, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was welcomed by Japanese State Minister for Foreign Affairs TAKEI Shunsuke and Bangladesh Ambassador to Japan Shahabuddin Ahmed and was given a formal red carpet reception and guard of honour.
The prime minister along with her personal staff, three full ministers and an adviser went to the Akasaka Palace, the state guesthouse. The entourages went to a five-star hotel, New Otani. When Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman visited Japan in 1973, he stayed at this hotel. He was accompanied by his younger daughter Sheikh Rehana and youngest son Sheikh Russell.
During the recent visit, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was in Japan for four days. A bilateral meeting was held between the two premiers. Eight MoUs were signed in the presence of the duo. Agreements and MoUs were signed on military cooperation, ship recycling, customs, information technology and cyber security, industrial development, agriculture, intellectual property and metro rail.
The two prime ministers discussed Moheshkhali-Matarbari Integrated Infrastructure Development Initiative (MIDI) and the Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt economic partnership. Matarbari deep seaport in Moheshkhali is being constructed with funding from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Japan is building this port at a cost of Tk 17,000 crores. Already, the largest ship in the history of the country has arrived at this port. Apart from Bangladesh, this deep seaport will provide cargo transportation facilities to north-eastern region of India. The two superpowers, India and China, were interested in the construction of this port.
Cooperation between Japan and Bangladesh at the public and private levels is going to be strengthened in the ongoing efforts to become a developed Bangladesh by 2041. Sheikh Hasina has solicited the cooperation of the Japanese Prime Minister in the repatriation of the Rohingyas. Dhaka-Narita direct flight is going to start this year.
The two leaders discussed trade expansion and regional peace and security. Dhaka will purchase military weapons and equipment from Tokyo in military cooperation. Defence cooperation is supposed to increase the stockpile of armaments and enhance combat strategic capabilities. Besides, they agreed on defence visits, dialogues, seminars, training and workshops.
Bangladesh is a country bordering India. Bangladesh can serve as a gateway to Southeast Asia and South Asia. Considering these, Bangladesh is in a strategically important position. Japan is giving importance to Bangladesh as it can make an important contribution to the stability of the Indo-Pacific region.
As a result, Japan is cooperating with Bangladesh on developing communication infrastructure and increasing industrial production. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to Japan has intensified relations between the two countries. After a joint meeting, the two prime ministers held a joint press conference.
The Prime Minister of Japan praised the economic development of Bangladesh and said that the establishment of an economic zone and improvement of the investment environment will make the relationship between the two countries more dynamic. Earlier, during his visit to India in March, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced new plans for the region in his speech in New Delhi. There, he called for cooperation with Bangladesh including a partnership agreement. A visit to Japan is crucial at the time of the Russia-Ukraine war, post-Covid-19 and global economic recession, especially during new polarisation triggered by the Russia-Ukraine warfare. China and Russia are considered by Japan as a threat to the security of the Indo-Pacific and Europe. There, Japan is becoming interested in creating strategic relations with Bangladesh.
In a joint statement, the prime ministers of the two countries expressed confidence in the establishment of military relations between the two countries. An increase in the stockpile of weapons and war strategic capabilities have also been discussed. So, the seed of economic and military cooperation between Bangladesh and Japan has been sowed.
The relationship between Bangladesh and Japan has reached from a comprehensive partnership to a strategic partnership. Japan was one of the few countries to have recognised Bangladesh as an independent country on February 10, 1972. Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman intensified the fraternal relationship between the two countries through his visit to Japan the following year.
On the four-day visit, Sheikh Hasina paid a courtesy call on Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace. Meetings were held with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, JICA President, and JETRO Chairman. Besides, she handed over crests to some Japanese nationals who contributed to the Liberation War in 1971.
The Japanese government has viewed the visit of Bangabandhu's daughter with great importance. The streets of Tokyo are adorned with the flags of Bangladesh and Japan. Red carpet reception and guard of honour are given at the airport.
After the visit, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina went to the United States. Earlier, the World Bank refused to provide loan assistance to Bangladesh for the construction of the Padma Bridge on the pretext of conspiracy of corruption. The presence of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the World Bank after the construction of the Padma Bridge with our own financing has added a new dimension.
The prime minister presented a photograph of Padma Bridge to World Bank Chief David R. Malpass on the occasion. Sheikh Hasina firmly said in her speech, “We have not come to beg, we have come to take loans.” A loan agreement of $2.25 billion was signed between Bangladesh and the World Bank. This money will be spent on five projects of regional trade and communication, disaster preparedness and environmental management. Among these projects, Delta Plan 2100 is the first major investment project. In the United States, Sheikh Hasina called for investment in Bangladesh in a meeting with businessmen. She proposed to establish a special economic zone for US businessmen.
Later, on May 4, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina travelled to London in a bid to attend the inauguration of King Charles III. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak praised Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, saying his wife and two daughters are fans of her. He also termed her an inspiration for South Asian leaders. Rishi Sunak acclaimed the high economic growth of Bangladesh. He shared his appreciation with Sheikh Hasina during bilateral talks at the reception of Heads of Commonwealth States and Governments on the eve of King Charles III's coronation. The two leaders discussed in a very cordial atmosphere.
Before Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's three-nation state visit, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs clarified Bangladesh's standpoint on the Indo-Pacific strategy. State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam clarified Bangladesh's stance in the Indo-Pacific framework and called for mutual trust and cooperation in promoting trade and security with countries from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific.
In addition to the United States, many countries in the Indo-Pacific region including Japan, China, Australia, India and Bangladesh attended the programme. The US-led strategy of the Indo-Pacific region included all three countries visited by Sheikh Hasina. As a result, the tour of these three countries is very important at the moment.
The British government transferred Bangladesh from the South Asia desk to the Indo-Pacific region. King Charles III spoke with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Heads of Commonwealth States reception, giving Bangladesh great importance. Princess Anne, daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, spoke enthusiastically to the Prime Minister and inquired about her Ashrayan Project (the project taken to build homes for homeless and displaced people). British Foreign Minister James Cleverley MP along with his wife met Sheikh Hasina at her hotel. It was not a pre-arranged meeting. This meeting with the British Foreign Minister is very important. Besides, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair met Sheikh Hasina. Heads of seven states including Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan came to the hotel suite and held sideline meetings with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. They appreciated the progress of Bangladesh. All of them praised the humanity of Sheikh Hasina for rehabilitating the Rohingya displaced people. Sheikh Hasina drew their attention to the repatriation of Rohingyas.
Bangladesh has transformed from a bottomless basket to a superhighway of development today. Self-financed construction of the Padma Bridge, Karnaphuli Tunnel, Metrorail, Rooppur Nuclear Project, construction of a deep seaport, Covid-19 management, etc drew the attention of the world.
The country has set a journey towards Smart Bangladesh. The nation is now ready to face the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution. All these things are catalysts for changes in Bangladesh. World leaders praised Sheikh Hasina's courage, determination and leadership. Bangladesh is placed in a dignified position because of Sheikh Hasina's visionary leadership. The tri-nation visit is an example of the successful and visionary diplomacy of Bangladesh. All these will add new dimensions to the ongoing process of becoming a developed country by 2041.
(The writer is the President of Jatiya Press Club)
Translated by Firoz Al Mamun and Md Akhlak Hossain
Source: Sun Editorial