In the militant attack of Holey Artisan Bakery, 22 foreigners including 7 Japanese were killed. During the tragic incident Ito Naoki was serving as the Senior Vice President of JICA. Ito Naoki, Japanese Ambassador in Bangladesh, reflects on the tragic episode in an interview with Prothom Alo's Diplomatic Correspondent Raheed Ejaz.

Going back six years ago, how did you see the events after that tragic incident at Holey Artisan Bakery?

It was really a horrific, tragic incident which killed as many as 7 Japanese nationals. They were the engineers of JICA who engaged with the study of the Metrorail project. We hadn't anticipated this sort of terrorist attack in Dhaka. At that time I was the Senior Vice President of JICA. The entire organisation was in deep shock. We should not forget what happened six years ago. We should remember those Japanese people who endeavoured for quality infrastructure building of this country.

Later that year, probably in September or October, the actual construction work began. We know that it was our responsibility to initiate this work and complete this work. This was our responsibility. The time immediately after the terrorist attack was a very, very difficult moment for our bilateral partnership. So it took almost three months for us to resume the project in Bangladesh. We knew that we had to resume this. We had to go back where we were because Japan and Bangladesh are such important friends.

That means due to the deep rooted friendship between the two countries the scenario had changed...

We had built such a significant cooperation, partnership for many, many years. So we resumed three bridges on the rivers of Kanchpur, Meghna and Gomti. Despite the gap of construction of three months, the construction of those three bridges completed before the deadline. That happened and that clearly showed Japan has recommitted its very important partnership with Bangladesh.

Due to the militant attack, the activities of JICA volunteers were suspended. When will their activities resume?

JICA started dispatching volunteers in 1973. Apart from having immense contribution to the socio-economic development of Bangladesh, there was deepened mutual understanding between the two countries. Unfortunately, when Japanese national Hoshi Konio was killed in Rangpur in 2015 we had to suspend sending JICA volunteers to Bangladesh. Then this Holey Artisan tragedy happened. The security situation is a very important issue. After 6 years of the incident, I will say that security situation in this country including Dhaka has become stable.

The Foreign Ministry of Japan reviewed the travel warning for Bangladesh. So the now travel warning for Dhaka is at level one. That is a normal level to travel here. I think that JICA is in a position now to look into the possibility of sending volunteers once again. We are celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations of the two countries. It would be very nice if we could resume JICA volunteers before the end of the milestone year of celebration.

Having such a deep relationship between the two countries as well as aspiration for peace, why were Japanese nationals targeted in Rangpur and Dhaka?

That is a very, very difficult question to answer. That is a question I keep asking myself. But it is very hard to find the right answer. Rather than seeking the answer, I say this sort of tragic incident should never happen again in any part of the world, including Bangladesh. We feel that Bangladesh is a peaceful nation. Terrorism is not part of the history of Bangladesh. I appreciate prime minister Sheikh Hasina's zero tolerance policy to terrorism and I commend the role of law enforcing agencies.

You mentioned the security scenario has improved in the last couple of years. In the context of infrastructure development and investment, what is your plan to enhance security cooperation?

Whenever we do big infrastructure, security is a very important agenda not only in Bangladesh but other countries too. Security is our primary concern. In this country over the last 6 years, there was not a single incident in terrorist attack on those project sites of JICA. There is good cooperation with the law enforcing agencies. We have regular meetings at least once a year with the senior secretary of the home ministry involving all the stakeholders. This sort of framework is functioning very well. Bangladesh wants to diversify the source of procuring defence related equipment. So far you have perhaps been dependent upon China and Russia. We really want to encourage the possibility of procuring Japanese defence related equipment.