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Japan's Ambassador to Bangladesh, Ito Naoki takes a selfie next to the metro rail at the Diabari depot Uttara. Bangladesh's first-ever metro rail train on its test run in Dhaka's Uttara (Photo: Md Manik/SOPA Images/Sipa USA/ Reuters).

Author: Shaikh Abdur Rahman, CFISS

As the world continues to struggle with the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bangladesh has been able to maintain economic growth with the help of its readymade garment sector and foreign remittances. But it has also relied significantly on assistance from its development partners, including Japan.

Immediately after Bangladesh gained independence in 1971, Japan lent Dhaka a helping hand to reconstruct the war-torn country. Bangladesh and Japan started diplomatic relations on 10 February 1972. Since then, the two countries have enjoyed a fruitful and trustworthy relationship. Japan is one of Bangladesh’s largest development partners and a vital source of aid as the country attempts to graduate from least developed country status by 2026 and become a developed country by 2041.

Bangladesh’s bilateral relations with Japan range from socio-economic to people-to-people links. But the relationship can be further strengthened through signing a free trade agreement (FTA), accelerating investments in special economic zones (SEZs), cooperating on vaccine co-production and supporting each other in multilateral fora.

Over the last decade, Bangladesh has been able to maintain an average growth rate of 6.6 per cent. Japan has provided loans and grants for infrastructural development projects in Bangladesh, notably for the Mass Rapid Transit in Dhaka and Matarbari Port. Under the strategic ‘Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt’ scheme, Japan sees Bangladesh as a gateway to South and Southeast Asia. At the same time, Bangladesh is actively focusing on its ‘Look East’ policy to accelerate its economic and infrastructure development.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, mega projects including the Padma Multipurpose Bridge, Metro Rail project and Matarbari Port are moving ahead at full speed. China, India and Russia — Bangladesh’s three largest development partners — are interested in utilising Bangladesh’s strategic and economic advantages. These include the …continue reading