Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Naoki Ito has identified five challenges ahead that Bangladesh and Japan need to address together to elevate the solid partnership to a higher level with multifaceted greater cooperation as the two countries are set to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations in a big way next year.
The five challenges, he said, are: to develop Bangladesh-Japan strategic partnership, make Bangladesh more attractive for business, expand people-to-people exchange, enhance cooperation with Bangladesh as a partner to realize Free and Open Indo-Pacific and strengthen efforts to increase Bangladesh’s stature in the region and beyond.
“We need to move forward. I think our relations will naturally deepen in each of those agendas but we shouldn’t take it for granted,” Ambassador Ito said while delivering the keynote speech at a virtual dialogue that premiered on Sunday evening.
Cosmos Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Cosmos Group, hosted the dialogue titled “Bangladesh-Japan Relations: Prognosis for the Future” as a part of its ongoing Ambassador’s Lecture Series.
The opening remarks were delivered by the Cosmos Foundation Chairman Enayetullah Khan. The session was chaired by Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, renowned scholar-diplomat and former Advisor on Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh Caretaker Government.
Md Abul Kalam Azad, Special Envoy, Climate Vulnerable Forum; Hayakawa Yuho, Chief Representative, JICA Bangladesh Office; Dr Salehuddin Ahmed, former Governor, Bangladesh Bank; Prof Masaaki Ohashi, Professor, University of the Sacred Heart, Tokyo; Manzurul Huq, columnist, writer and academic; Prof Takahara Akio, Dean, Graduate School of Public Policy, the University of Tokyo and Ambassador (Retd) Tariq A Karim, Honorary Advisor Emeritus, Cosmos Foundation comprised the panel of discussants.
Ambassador Ito said the two countries should make “conscious and constant efforts” to continue to enjoy the current state of relationship and develop it even further. “We shouldn’t be complacent about ourselves.”
He said the year 2022 will provide an excellent opportunity to elevate the partnership even to a higher level and wished that the two countries could call the partnership as “truly strategic partners”.
Ambassador Ito who already spent 20 months in Bangladesh said the development of quality infrastructures and the strengthening of connectivity under the Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth (BIG-B Initiative) will be beneficial not only to the development of Bangladesh but also to regional peace and stability.
“Our leaders are really conscious that this BIG-B is important - not only for the development of Bangladesh but also for the stability of the entire Bay of Bengal region, beyond Bangladesh itself,” he said.
Enayetullah Khan said even as Japan’s geo-strategic role and position grows in great strides, Japan has remained faithful in its commitments to Bangladesh that significantly contributed to Bangladesh’s current emergence as a development success story.
“To me, it seems Bangladesh-Japan friendship is a function of not just mutual benefits, but mainly of pure fellow-feeling. From whichever perspective you view Bangladesh-Japan friendship, it’ll stand out in all weathers and seasons as does in 36 views of Mount Fuji in the famous paintings of HOKUSAI,” he said.