PM's Japan trip: Move to sign 10 agreements, MOUs

PM Sheikh HasinaFile photo

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is set to go to Japan on 25 April on a four-day visit at the invitation of Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida.

Foreign ministry sources said a total of 10 agreements and Memorandum of Understandings (MoU) on different sectors including defence, communication infrastructure, cybersecurity, information and communication technology and agriculture are likely to be signed during the visit.

The prime minister will stay in Japan till 28 April. She is scheduled to fly to the United States from Japan, where she will attend various events.

Later, she will head to the United Kingdom. She is likely to return home on 8 May.

The sources at the ministry further said that foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen had gone to Japan in the final week of February to finalise the issues of the prime minister's visit. At the time, different aspects of the prime minister's visit were finalised in a meeting of foreign secretaries of two countries.

Alongside holding a formal meeting with Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida, the prime minister will make a courtesy call on emperor Naruhito. Alongside the bilateral meeting, she will join an investment conference and a reception. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina will confer "Friends of Liberation War Honour" to several Japanese citizens.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Seheli Sabrin in the weekly press briefing on Thursday said eight to 10 agreements and MoUs may be signed between the two countries during the prime minister's Japan visit.

This will be the prime minister's sixth visit to Japan. Earlier, she went to Japan in 1997, 2010, 2014, 2016 and 2019.

Defence and strategic cooperation

Diplomatic sources in Dhaka said a formal announcement may be made to take the Dhaka-Tokyo integrated cooperation to the strategic partnership. 

A draft proposal about the strategic partnership was given by Japan. Bangladesh has sent its opinion about that proposal. Now Japan is working to finalise it.

In the case of strategic partnership, Bangladesh has focused on defence, connectivity, cyber security, information and communication technology, cooperation between educational institutions, cooperation in agri processing, adjustment in duty and development cooperation.

Foreign ministry officials said two countries are taking preparations to include strategic partnership in the joint declaration during the prime minister's visit.

Dhaka and Tokyo diplomatic sources said Japan since the middle of 2020 brought the issue of increasing defence cooperation to the forefront considering the political and strategic importance of the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal regions.

Following the formal declaration of strategic partnership of two countries, procurement of arms will be important in the days to come. Japan wants to sell military technology and advanced arms including radar to Bangladesh. Two Japanese delegations came to Bangladesh last year for discussion over the matter.

Diplomatic sources said as part of defence cooperation between two countries, the government has already responded to the Japanese request to open a defence wing at the Japan embassy in Dhaka and recruiting necessary manpower.

Bangladesh diplomatic sources said Bangladesh remains alert about increasing geo-political rivalry and polarisation centering this region. So after China, while establishing a strategic partnership with Japan, also a close ally of India and the USA, Bangladesh takes issues of defence and polarisation into consideration.

Former foreign secretary and Delhi University Bangabandhu chair professor Md Shahidul Haque said Japan has paid attention to selling arms through expansion of its defence industry. As a result, Bangladesh's  defence cooperation with Japan will increase. The geopolitical rivalry among the big powers centering the Indo Pacific Ocean is increasing. In such a context, Bangladesh will advance maintaining balance, that is important.

*This article, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.