Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Visit to Japan

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Japan, the Land of the Rising Sun has a rich heritage of culture, and its equally rich literature so far produced two Nobel laureates.
The vibrant world of Japanese art, music, anime, and, movies -all can be a significant source of cultural exchanges between Bangladesh and it.
Besides, Bangladesh and Japan share a common Asian Identity compared to any other nations in Asia.
Japan is defined as an all-weather friend of Bangladesh since the inception of its independence. Bilateral ties between Bangladesh and Japan span a variety of domains, including socio-economic and people-to-people ties.Consequently, people tend to perceive this relationship in a reductionist manner focusing mainly on aid and asymmetry.
However, these two countries have similar guiding norms and motives like peace, stability, freedom, protection of human rights, and democracy which they share in different degrees provide a solid foundation for a strong partnership.

However, this dimension of the bilateral relationship doesn’t get enough importance in the policy and academia, which merits serious attention. As Bangladesh aspires to graduate from the position of a lower middle-income nation to an upper middle-income country and from an LDC to a developing country, the bilateral cooperation socio-cultural domain is now more important than ever. In this context, the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina deserves enormous significance to refocus on the social and cultural dimensions of bilateral relations.

Japan is pioneering Bangladesh’s achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and promote Bangladesh as a significant economic power in the South Asian and Indo-Pacific regions. To lessen the negative economic and social effects of adopting the Sustainable Development Goals, Japan has been helping Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has backed Japan in a number of international forums, including when it abandoned its bid for non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council in favor of Japan in 2014.

Bangladesh also supports Japan’s aspiration to become a permanent member of the Security Council. Japan is one of the top contributors to the United Nations Peace Keeping Operation (UNPKO) like Bangladesh. Bangladesh and Japan both can share their experience in this field.However, Bangladesh views Japan as a true friend in all circumstances, thus Dhaka will look to Japan to lobby the international community and Myanmar for the safe and sustainable return of the 1.2 million Rohingya refugees who are now stranded in Bangladesh.

Throughout the ongoing Covid-19 epidemic, Japan was one of the first nations to begin supplying Bangladesh with vaccines. Bangladesh has received around 4.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine as well as 75 billion yen in fiscal support up to this point. To lessen the socioeconomic effects of the virus, the Japan International Cooperation Agency inked a financing deal with Bangladesh to contribute US$330 million for COVID-19 crisis management.

It isamazing that Bangladesh’s young ICT companies have managed to slowly carve out a niche for themselves in that industry over the past ten years. Japan has been Bangladesh’s only major market for ICT during the past few years and if local businesses can take advantage of the market’s potential, exports might increase significantly over the following several years.As a result, they have announced a $2.43 billion stimulus program. So much so that the country in the Far East can provide the majority of the government’s $5 billion export goal for 2023. Furthermore, the worldwide coronavirus pandemic has created new opportunities for local Japanese enterprises, who are eager to relocate their linked operations to places other than China.

Japan is one of the world’s most technologically advanced countries, thus its experience and knowledge may be helpful,in charting out a pathway for Bangladesh in the 4IR era so that Bangladesh may be able to successfully leverage technology to achieve its development objectives. Thus, regarding the 4IR, Bangladesh may benefit from the expertise of Japanese partners in academia, industry, and research. Bangladesh’s industrial sectors are now suffering from a lack of competent personnel.

Bangladesh has already started preparing a sizable number of Bangladeshi youths with the essential skills with a view toward tapping the Japanese labor market by the end of the current year. Bangladesh has begun exporting labor to Japan as the Covid-19 situation has eased and the economy has begun to recover. Three thousand Bangladeshis have received the necessary technical training and Japanese language instruction. Moreover, the migrantscan be also a crucial source for cultural exchanges and the flow of remittances between the host country and sending country.

However, diplomatic missions in the two nations are now urging them to take the required steps to ramp up the inflow of remittances from global peace, progress, and prosperity. Bangladesh and Japan have long worked to support one another in international forums to promote peace. According to the Bangladesh Bank statistics, the number of remittances received from Japan climbed by more than 37% to US$31.44 million in the fiscal year (FY) 2017-18 from $22.89 million the previous year. Bangladesh’s central bank has made steps to hasten the flow of remittances coming in from Japan.

Even though they both experienced natural disasters, these lessons may be used for adaptation and mitigation. With the help of $650 million from Japan for disaster risk reduction, 117 hurricane shelters, five meteorological radars, 240 km of flood control dykes, and 300 experts were educated in disaster risk reduction.Bangladesh is very vulnerable to natural catastrophes due to its geographic location and climatic conditions. Bangladesh was the most climate change-susceptible nation in the world. Japan has also experienced natural catastrophes for a long time, mostly as a result of its location near the Pacific Ring of Fire. These two disaster-prone nations may work together to handle natural disasters and speak out against climate change on several international forums. From Tokyo’s experience, Dhaka might learn how to lessen the effects of calamities, particularly earthquakes.

Japan offers scholarships to Bangladeshi students so they can visit, study in, and spread the culture of Japan in Bangladesh. Also, by giving students the opportunity to visit Japan and broaden their understanding of Japan to aid Bangladesh’s growth, Japan is promoting practical possibilities. To create a bridge between Japan and Bangladesh, Japan offers various kinds of scholarships and exchange opportunities for Bangladeshis. For deserving Bangladeshi students, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of Japan (MEXT) offers a variety of scholarships. The young students help to disseminate the cultural and knowledge gap which is an obstacle to upgrading bilateral relationships.

Bangladesh and Japan should cooperate to fortify their partnership with a clear strategy for socio-cultural cooperation in the upcoming year as they stand at this crucial crossroads in their relationship. The upcoming visit of the Bangladesh Prime Minister to Japan will certainly put the spotlight on finding new ways and giving more impetus to strengthen Bangladesh-Japan bilateral cooperation through growing engagements in social and cultural matters.

– Saume Saptaparna Nath is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

Published in The Daily Observer [Link]