Sheikh Hasina’s Sojourn: A Paradigmatic Epoch in the Uniting of Japan and Bangladesh as ‘Strategic Partners’


The esteemed Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, has successfully concluded an illustrious official expedition to Japan. Since 2009, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has consecutively assumed governance in Bangladesh through the mandate of the people. Remarkably, she stands among the few leaders in this region who resolutely endeavor to uplift the general welfare of their constituents through development rooted in the citizenry, while forging amicable and pragmatic bilateral relations with neighboring nations and global partners. Her recent visit to Japan from April 25-28 served as a quintessential manifestation of this resolute approach.

The foreign policy creed espoused by the esteemed progenitor of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, advocating “friendship to all and malice towards none,” continues to guide her government’s external affairs. It is only fitting to emphasize the consequential significance of leadership, as epitomized by the captivating title of the aforementioned article.

Sheikh Hasina and Shinzo Abe

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has worked in close collaboration with former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to elevate our longstanding amicable ties to the status of a “Comprehensive Partnership” in 2014. Immediately following her consecutive victory in the 2014 general elections, the back-to-back visits of the two Prime Ministers served as symbolic milestones, bestowing tangible substance upon our bilateral relations. Over the past eight years, the honorable Prime Minister has relentlessly nurtured this momentum. Despite a change in leadership in Japan, our two nations have forged a tighter partnership within the aforementioned framework.

Japan has steadfastly adhered to the commitments made in 2014, pledging substantial financial and technical support under the auspices of the Big-B initiative. This commitment primarily revolves around the development of energy, infrastructure, and connectivity projects in Bangladesh, with a particular focus on the Southern Chattogram region. Notably, Japanese companies’ presence and investments in Bangladesh have witnessed a remarkable surge. In view of the burgeoning potential in our bilateral relations, the Honorable Prime Minister, during her official sojourn to Japan at the behest of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, embarked upon an ardent endeavor to fortify and deepen relations through the establishment of a “Strategic Partnership.” Indeed, leadership matters.

Historical Bonds Since Independence

Retracing our footsteps through history, it becomes evident that leadership has always played an instrumental role. For instance, when the revered Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, undertook an official visit to Japan from 18-24, 1973, at the gracious invitation of the Japanese Government. I recollect the moment when the late Takashi Hayakawa, a member of the Diet and founder of the Japan-Bangladesh Association, among others, journeyed to Bangladesh in March 1972 to meet Bangabandhu. Mr. Hayakawa visited Bangladesh as a Goodwill Envoy of the Japanese Government, playing a pivotal role in fostering friendship between our two nations. Witnessing the aftermath of Bangladesh’s struggle for independence, he discerned the vigor and zeal of a newly emancipated populace, engaging in comprehensive discussions with Bangabandhu regarding the nation’s future trajectory towards achieving a “Golden Bengal.”

Inheriting her father’s legacy, our leader and Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, has embarked upon seven visits to Japan, truly emerging as the architect of our present warm bilateral relations. We now eagerly anticipate embarking upon new domains of cooperation with Japan, thus broadening the horizons of our partnership. Our friends in the Japan-Bangladesh Society possess a pivotal role to play, and we seek enhanced collaboration with them in the days to come.

Warm Relations During an Official Sojourn

Bangladesh finds itself strategically positioned within a geographically pivotal location. However, owing to pragmatic policies and far-sighted vision, our leadership has succeeded in propelling Bangladesh to a position where regional and global stakeholders accord us significant attention and regard.

During her visit, the Honorable Prime Minister received a warm welcome from the Japanese government. She was accorded the highest honors and elaborate courtesies rarely witnessed during recent official visits. Her residency at the Akasaka Palace State Guest House exemplified the magnanimity of the reception. Upon her arrival at Haneda International Airport, an impeccably attired contingent of Japan’s Self-Defense Force presented a ceremonial Guard of Honor, while a resplendent red carpet adorned the VIP area of the tarmac. State Minister for Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Mr. Kenji Yamada, accompanied by the Chief of Protocol of Japan, received her at the ceremonial lounge. My spouse and I also had the privilege of being present at the ceremonial presentation line.

We extend our utmost respect to His Majesty Emperor Naruhito, who graciously granted a private audience to the Honorable Prime Minister on April 26. In a post-pandemic world, Sheikh Hasina stands as the first head of government to be received by His Majesty. During their encounter, His Majesty acknowledged the pivotal role played by the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and expressed sympathy for the tragic assassination of Bangabandhu and his entire family in 1975. Truly, leadership matters.

Two Prime Ministers Forge an Exemplary Principle

Leadership matters. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was warmly greeted by Prime Minister Kishida upon her arrival at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo. The summit unfolded in a candid and open manner, allowing for comprehensive discussions on topics of mutual interest. The outcome materialized in the form of a Joint Statement on Strategic Partnership, which encapsulates the guiding principles that will shape the trajectory of our two nations’ journey over the next 50 years and beyond. During the visit, a total of eight agreements were signed and exchanged, institutionalizing cooperation in customs, information and communication technology (ICT) and cybersecurity, industrial upgradation, agriculture, metro rail, ship recycling, intellectual property, and defense.

The timing of this visit, coinciding with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations between our nations (1972-2022), highlights the determination and commitment of our leadership to further enhance this relationship based on shared values and mutual interests. Our amicable ties have matured over the years through sustained engagement at the highest echelons of leadership.

Acknowledging Supporters of Bangladesh’s Independence

Leadership matters. Bangladesh remains forever indebted to the invaluable support and contributions of the friendly Japanese people. Notably, Japanese school children, who dedicated their lunch money to aid the children and people of Bangladesh during our liberation war in 1971, occupy a special place in our collective memory. Bangabandhu had the privilege of meeting a select group of these children during his visit to Japan in 1973. His daughter, Sheikh Hasina, steadfastly remembers those arduous days when our nation struggled for freedom and justice.

Japan and its benevolent citizens stood resolutely by our side, extending their unwavering support during our most trying times. In light of this, Bangladesh, in its modest capacity, bestowed the esteemed title of “Friends of Liberation War” upon four distinguished Japanese nationals during the April visit. This honor was conferred in the presence of the Honorable Prime Minister, her sister, the Honorable Sheikh Rehana, and other dignitaries. The recipients of this prestigious title are Mr. Hiroshi Miyazaki, Mr. Keizo Hamada, Mr. Shinzo Abe, and Mr. Taro Kono. These individuals played instrumental roles in strengthening the friendship between our nations and contributed significantly to Bangladesh’s liberation struggle.

Mr. Hiroshi Miyazaki, a renowned journalist, provided unwavering coverage of the atrocities committed during the war, exposing the plight of the Bangladeshi people to the international community. His fearless reporting played a crucial role in garnering support for our cause.

Mr. Keizo Hamada, a devoted academic, conducted extensive research on Bangladesh’s history, culture, and language. His efforts helped foster a deeper understanding of Bangladesh in Japan and laid the foundation for long-lasting cultural exchanges between our two nations.

Mr. Shinzo Abe, a distinguished statesman who served as the Prime Minister of Japan, demonstrated exceptional leadership during his tenure. He actively engaged with Bangladesh, promoting economic cooperation and infrastructure development. Under his leadership, the relationship between our countries reached new heights.

Mr. Taro Kono, a dynamic politician and former Minister for Foreign Affairs, made significant contributions to strengthening bilateral ties between Bangladesh and Japan. His efforts in promoting trade and investment, as well as supporting development projects in Bangladesh, have been invaluable.

These four individuals exemplify the unwavering support and friendship extended by the Japanese people to Bangladesh. Their contributions have left an indelible mark on our history and continue to inspire future generations. The conferment of the title “Friends of Liberation War” serves as a token of our gratitude and a testament to the enduring bond between our nations.

Looking Ahead: A Shared Vision

Leadership matters. As we reflect on the successful visit of the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Japan, we are filled with optimism for the future of our bilateral relations. The Joint Statement on Strategic Partnership sets the stage for deeper collaboration across various sectors, including trade, investment, technology, infrastructure, education, and people-to-people exchanges.

Both countries recognize the importance of addressing global challenges such as climate change, sustainable development, and regional security. Through close cooperation and mutual support, we aim to contribute to the well-being and prosperity of our peoples and the broader international community.

Japan’s expertise in technology, innovation, and sustainable development aligns closely with Bangladesh’s vision for becoming a developed nation. We look forward to leveraging Japan’s knowledge and experience to accelerate our own development efforts, while also offering opportunities for Japanese businesses to thrive in Bangladesh’s growing economy.

In conclusion, the visit of the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Japan marked a significant milestone in the history of our bilateral relations. It reaffirmed the enduring friendship between our nations and laid the foundation for a future of enhanced cooperation and mutual prosperity. With strong leadership and the unwavering support of our peoples, we are confident that Bangladesh-Japan relations will continue to flourish in the years to come.


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