Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said Japan could mediate and help return the Rohingyas back to their homeland Myanmar as it has a benign influence in the region.
"Now they (Rohingyas) are becoming a security threat to Bangladesh and to the entire region. Japan, with its benign influence in the region, could mediate and help return these Rohingyas back to their homes in Myanmar," she said in her article run by Japan's largest English daily –The Japan Times.
The Japan Times published the article titled 'Japan holds a special place in our hearts' on April 25 during the four-day official visit of PM Hasina to Japan.
Hasina said the Rohingyas, who had been in the face of a genocidal pogrom, were allowed to take refuge on humanitarian grounds in Bangladesh. But Bangladesh, in the last six years, has been facing the dilemma of taking care of about 1.1 million forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals.
"Their overdue presence has seriously been affecting the lives and livelihoods of the local communities," she added.
About her visit, the PM said, "I'm again in Tokyo to embolden the existing bilateral ties between my country, Bangladesh, and Japan as our countries celebrate the 51st anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. I express my gratitude to Their Majesties Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako and my thanks to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for the invitation. I also pay homage to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was a great friend of Bangladesh."
She said Japan was among those few countries that gave early recognition to Bangladesh on Feb. 10, 1972, less than two months after it achieved independence. "Even during our liberation war in 1971, Japan provided much-needed support and assistance, which we have never forgotten nor shall ever forget," she said.
Most unforgettable was the charitable gesture of Japanese school children who saved and donated their tiffin (snack) money to help victims of the cyclone and the war that ravaged our country. Since then, Japan has remained our time-tested friend, she said.
Hasina said, "Japan is a country very close to my heart, just as it is to my family and our people. My sister Sheikh Rehana is especially attached to Japan as she accompanied our father, the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and our youngest brother, Sheikh Russel, on their first visit to Japan in October 1973. My father was captivated by the country's development and wanted to follow Japan as a model."
She said Bangabandhu was also inspired by the design of the Japanese flag. Both flags are rectangular with red circles at the center against backgrounds of bottle green for Bangladesh and white for Japan.
The premier said Japan is our trusted development partner. Bangladesh has received steadfast support for its development and has remained the recipient of the largest amount of official development assistance from Japan since our independence. Japanese investment has been growing consistently in Bangladesh, she said.
In the recent ODA loan package, Japan has provided $2.67 billion in soft loans to Bangladesh, more than any other country. "Our two-way bilateral trade surpassed $4 billion for the first time in the 2021-2022 fiscal year," she added.
She mentioned that Japan is implementing some of the major infrastructure projects of Bangladesh, including the mass rapid transit train line in Dhaka, the deep-seaport at Matarbari, the third terminal at Dhaka Airport and a special economic zone in Araihazar.
Despite challenges, Bangladesh has come a long way in attaining socioeconomic progress over the last 14 years of her tenure. "Our country is no longer poverty-stricken. Rather, it is now considered a development miracle in which per capita income has grown more than five times in a decade and a half," said Sheikh Hasina.
Indeed, Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in human development, food security, women's empowerment, poverty reduction and infrastructure development. Despite all hazards, Bangladesh's economy has been resilient and remained an attractive destination for foreign direct investment, she said.
"This is because of our liberal policies and laws, which are favourable and encouraging to investment," she said, adding that these include fiscal policies related to FDI, tax benefits, incentives for exports and a young, competitive labour force.
Interestingly, Bangladesh has been fortunate in having a very strategic geographical location. It connects the Indian subcontinent to the west with Southeast Asia to the east, she said.
"With its own domestic market of nearly 170 million people, Bangladesh sits on a consumer base of 3 billion. It is, therefore, growing gradually into the business and economic hub of the South Asian region. Bangladesh would be too happy to see more Japanese invest in Bangladesh for the mutual benefit of both our countries," she said.
Bangladesh and Japan are both peace-loving nations collaborating in international forums to promote global peace, stability, sustainable development, progress and prosperity. "I firmly believe that our cooperation and friendship shall continue to grow and prosper forever and ever," she said.
"Alongside cherishing my father's legacy of having a soft spot for Japan, I have great respect for its miraculous development. Therefore, time and again, I come to Japan to learn from its invaluable experiences. These encourage me to apply and devote myself in body and spirit to building Bangladesh in the image of this great country. And, as I now feel that our two countries relations have been cemented to an enviable level, I believe it is time to move on from our comprehensive partnership to a strategic partnership," said Hasina.