Message from Ambassador IWAMA Kiminori

It has been exactly one year since I presented my credentials to the then president of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh on December 26, 2023 and began assuming my duty as Ambassador of Japan to Bangladesh. As we enter the year 2024, I would like to reflect on the year 2023 and touch upon my thoughts for the coming year.
First and foremost, I would like to mention about Honorable Prime Minister H.E. Sheikh Hasina’s official visit to Japan in April 2023. Prime Minister Kishida and Prime Minister Hasina exchanged views on various bilateral concerns as well as regional and global issues during her visit. The two leaders also issued Japan-Bangladesh Joint Statement on Strategic Partnership, and a number of Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) on cooperation in various fields as well as agreements related to private sector were signed. I will not touch upon each of them individually, but broadly speaking, I believe that we have made progress in the three areas indicated in the Joint Statement over the year 2023.
First progress I would like to mention is the deepening relations in the economic field. Since my arrival, as Ambassador of Japan, I have attended ceremonies for several mega infrastructure projects which the Japanese government and Japanese companies engaged with. They include the opening and extension of the Dhaka Metro Line 6 and the soft opening of Terminal 3 of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. Regarding the Terminal 3, construction has been steadily progressing with the aim of starting its operations in 2024. Furthermore, in order to provide service with Japan’s standard in the new Terminal, coordination with Bangladeshi officials is also underway. In addition to these projects, the cooperation between the public and private sectors will continue in 2024 to address the various development issues which Bangladesh has been facing. The Embassy will continue to support these efforts.
In the greetings I wrote in our website last year, I mentioned my impression that the expectations of the Japanese private sector have shifted from "aid to investment" in this country. The Joint Study Group on the possibility of a Japan-Bangladesh Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which was agreed to be launched in December 2022, has been conducted three times, and its report was published. In view of Bangladesh’s graduation from the Least Developed Countries (LDC) category in 2026, various challenges in the economic sphere are expected to be discussed through EPA negotiation. In addition, regarding the improvement of the business environment, it has been discussed to create a positive economic environment for both countries by utilizing the framework of Public-Private Economic Dialogue (PPED). The Embassy will continue to vigorously promote these efforts in 2024.
Second, we have been making progress on strengthening cooperation on the political and security fronts. Regarding the Japan’s vision on a "Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)", Prime Minister Kishida announced a new plan in India in March and gave a new direction for the vision. In addition, just prior to the summit meeting between Japan and Bangladesh in April, the government of Bangladesh released its own "Indo-Pacific Outlook”. Based on these basic approaches of both countries, Japan has been strengthening its commitments in various fields to contribute to peace and stability in the region. In particular, in November, Japan decided to provide patrol boats to Bangladesh Navy under Official Security Assistance (OSA), a Japan’s new cooperation framework. During the Honorable Prime Minister Hasina's visit to Japan in April, the Memorandum on Defense Cooperation and Exchanges was also signed. Japan will continue to strengthen cooperation in the area of security, including people-to-people exchange.
6 years have already passed since a massive influx of displaced persons from the Rakhine State, so-called Rohingya, in 2017. The government of Japan expresses its respect for Bangladesh’s efforts to shelter approximately one million displaced persons. Japan has been providing assistance bilaterally and through international organizations to ensure that this issue will not result in an increasing burden on the host community and regional instability. In December, the Global Refugee Forum was held in Geneva, and Japan and UNHCR expressed our commitment to lead the efforts to solve this issue as co-chairs in charge of the Asia region. I myself have visited camps for displaced persons in Cox’s Bazar and Bhasan Char in total five times this year. As the representative of the Government of JapanI will continue to work on this issue in the new year by taking every opportunity to visit the site and providing heartfelt support which is truly needed for the displaced persons and host communities.
Third, the joint statement issued by the two leaders sets “expansion of people-to-people exchanges” as one of the three pillars. In March 2023, the mayors of Narayanganj and Naruto city signed the friendship city agreement. This is the first ever friendship city agreement in Bangladesh and, to celebrate it, the cherry blossom tree plantation ceremony was held in Narayanganj in November. In addition, from September, Biman Bangladesh airline has resumed its direct flights between Dhaka and Narita. Furthermore, the deployment of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV), which had been suspended since the terrorist attacks in 2016, has also resumed. Under these new movements, it is expected that people-to-people exchange will be more active in 2024.
Indeed, the number of Bangladeshis seeking employment and higher education opportunities in Japan is increasing. The number of applicants for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) has increased significantly over the past year alone, with nearly 10,000 applicants for the test held last December. The Embassy is committed to not only responding to but also encouraging this increasing interest in Japan and the Japanese language.
Last but not least, the safety of Japanese nationals residing in Bangladesh is a top priority for the Embassy. The next general election is scheduled to be held on January 7th, 2024, and Japan is planning to dispatch an election observer mission. We have been asking the relevant agencies in Bangladesh to take necessary measures on security issues related to the elections, and we will continue to work closely with them to ensure not only the safety of Japanese nationals in Bangladesh but also the continuation of business activities in the country.
We are aware that general elections are also scheduled to be held in 2024 in other countries around the world such as the US and India. In addition, issues affecting international community including the situation of Ukraine and Gaza remain unsolved. Although there are uncertainties in the international situation, I, as Ambassador of Japan, will make utmost effort to maintain the above-mentioned positive developments in Japan-Bangladesh bilateral relations during the coming new year.

IWAMA Kiminori
Ambassador of Japan to Bangladesh