Abe Shinzo : Tribute to a trusted, true, loyal friend of Bangladesh
In 1993, Abe ran in a general election following his father’s death.
He has since become a leading figure in Japanese politics. As deputy chief cabinet secretary, he visited North Korea with Japan’s then-prime minister.
Abe first became leader in 2006 at the age of 52, making him Japan’s youngest post-war prime minister. About a year later, the Liberal Democratic Party lost an Upper House election, and Abe resigned due to worsening health.
His condition improved over time. Abe then led the LDP to a landslide victory in the 2012 Lower House election and became prime minster once again.
He became known for his “Abenomics” policy aimed at revitalizing the country’s economy. And he was a shrewd operator on the diplomatic front.
Abe led his party to a series of election victories and became Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.
He stepped down again in 2020 due to health issues, but has remained an influential figure within the LDP.
Due to the frequent changes of government in Japan from 2007 to 2012, the country did not have strong bilateral relations with other nations.
After Shinzo Abe came to power for the second time, he focused on improving diplomatic relations with other countries, especially the developing countries of Asia.
Bangladesh was one of Abe’s interest from the beginning and he visited the south Asian delta in 2014. This is the first visit a Japanese Prime Minister in Bangladesh since 2000.
Earlier, Yoshiro Mori visited Dhaka in 2000 as the last Japanese Prime Minister. The visit of Shinzo Abe was long-awaited and truly historic, as the future of multidimensional partnership was built on this visit.
Before Abe’s visit, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Japan, which is marked as the “new comprehensive partnership” between the countries.
On the economic and social development front, under his leadership, Japan came forward with several commitments boosting Bangladesh’s development since 2014.
During the visit of PM Hasina to Japan, Shinzo Abe and his government pledged to provide $6 billion for the infrastructure development of Bangladesh.
Later in 2019, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina paid a state visit to Japan. During that visit, Abe’s government has signed a $2.5 billion development assistance agreement with Bangladesh to finance several development projects, including Matarbari Seaport development, Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Line-1, Energy Efficiency, and Conservation Promotion Financing Project (phase-II), Matarbari Ultra Super Critical Coal-Fired Power Project (V), and Foreign Direct Investment Development Project (II).
Even at the end of the visit, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her desire to build Bangladesh like Japan.
After the bilateral meeting with Shinzo Abe, Sheikh Hasina and her Japanese counterpart in a joint statement said that Abe has assured to support and provide with the necessary assistance towards Bangladesh’s 2041 plan to be a developed country.
Again, due to Abe’s interest, the number of Japanese companies are increasing in Bangladesh. While in 2008 around 70 Japanese companies were operating in various types of business and trade in Bangladesh, this number has increased by a big rate since 2014.
At present, about 350 Japanese companies are working in Bangladesh. Besides, Shinzo Abe’s role behind Japan’s mega-project –Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt (BIG-B) –in Bangladesh is also undeniable.
In addition to G2G cooperation, under the leadership of Abe, Japan has provided various types of assistance and cooperation through Jica, aimed at assisting to promote inclusive and sustainable development.
Recently, on August 12, Jica signed a loan agreement with Bangladesh to provide ODA loans of up to 338,247 million yen to operate seven mega projects in Bangladesh.
These seven projects include 1) Jamuna Railway Bridge Construction Project (II), 2) Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport Expansion Project (II), 3) Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development Project (IV), 4) Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development Project (Line 5 Northern Route), 5) Chattogram-Cox’s Bazar Highway Improvement Project (E/S), 6) Food Value Chain Improvement Project and 7) Urban Development and City Governance Project.
Another great example of Shinzo Abe’s cooperation was found in the aftermath of Holey Artisan Bakery attack in 2016.
It is worth mentioning that seven Japanese nationals were among the foreigners killed in the terrorist attack on Holey Artisan Bakery in Gulshan on July 1, 2016.
Terming the occurrence as “unfortunate”, Abe called his Bangladeshi counterpart and offered to support the Bangladeshi government in fighting terrorism. He also reaffirmed Japan’s support to the socio-economic development of the country in the post-Gulshan incident.
Recently, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the two countries agreed to work together and Abe offered $329 million loans to Sheikh Hasina to combat the crisis.
Even, in his last phone talks with Bangladeshi Prime Minister, Abe guaranteed that Japan will continue to assist Bangladesh’s economic development and strengthening bilateral relations between the two friendly nations.
Besides, Abe has assured PM Hasina that he would talk to Myanmar to resolve the current Rohingya crisis.
It should be noted that Myanmar has a lot of investment from China and Japan. The island country is a key player in this region. Like China and India, Japan has been supporting Myanmar for a very long time.
Even, amid the international criticism of Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and ongoing case against the country’s genocide at the International Court of Justices (ICJ), Japan became the first country to voice support for Myanmar.
However, Shinzo Abe’s recent telephone conversation with his counterpart showed Japan’s sincerity in resolving the Rohingya issue, but his sudden resignation is going to make that possibility difficult.
In this case, Bangladesh must proceed with extreme caution, particularly in establishing good relations with the new Prime Minister of Japan.
After all, historically Japan is a friend of Bangladesh and one of the first countries who came forward in the socio-economic development of Bangladesh after the 1971 liberation war.
Bilateral relations between the two counties have intensified in recent times, and the role of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is unparalleled building the relations.
However, the post-Abe relations between the two friendly countries would be very significant as several big projects, financed by Japan, are working in Bangladesh.
Besides, the Rohingya crisis would be another important issue where Bangladesh largely needs Japan’s support.
In this case, there is no alternative for Bangladesh to play a leading role to strengthen the bilateral relations under the new leadership in Japan.
However, Shinzo Abe will always be considered a friend to the Bangladeshi people. As a Bangladeshi, we wish him a speedy recovery.
We hope his worthy successors will give Bangladesh the same importance as him, complete his unfinished tasks, and take proper initiatives to accelerate the bilateral relations between these two countries to a new height.
Japan PM assured to continue supporting Bangladesh
The two premiers held a joint news conference after a bilateral meeting and signing of $2.5 billion official development assistance in Tokyo on Wednesday.
“Prime Minister Abe has assured me that Japan will stand by Bangladesh and extend necessary support to reach its goal to become a developed country by 2041 as it by now has met all the criteria to graduate from Least Developed Country to Developing Country,” Hasina said.
“We will work together for the development of Bangladesh and beyond and achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” Abe told the media.
Hasina was given a guard of honour when she reached the Japanese Prime Minister’s Office.
Japan occupies a very special place in the hearts of the people of Bangladesh as “the level of commitment that Japan has been showing since our independence in 1971, is truly remarkable”, she said.
Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had dreamt of making Bangladesh a prosperous nation and his vision of development was influenced by the development history of Japan, the prime minister said.
“After more than 48 years since our independence in 1971, we can now confidently say that we are moving in the right direction to fulfil that dream,” Bangabandhu’s daughter said.
Japan is the single largest development partner of Bangladesh with $11.3 billion in ODA since independence.
Bangladesh will spend the latest Japanese funds on key infrastructure projects such as the Matarbari Port Development project, Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development Project (Line 1), and Matarbari Ultra Super Critical Coal-Fired Power Project (V). The Foreign Direct Investment Development Project (II), Energy Efficiency and Conservation Promotion Financing Project (Phase-2) will also get funds from the ODA.
“And it’s reassuring to have Japan by our side always,” Hasina said, thanking Abe for the signing of the new ODA deal.
The two prime ministers discussed new ideas to enhance and strengthen the level of cooperation, according to Hasina.
“We’ve agreed to explore all possible areas where our two countries can find mutually beneficial outcomes,” she said.
They discussed ways to enhance regional connectivity by improving physical infrastructure, for which Abe also assured her of continued assistance, the prime minister said.
Regional peace and stability, the fight against terrorism and militancy, tackling the effects of climate change, and denuclearisation at the global and regional levels were among the other issues discussed at the meeting.
Hasina said they agreed on finding a durable and early solution to the humanitarian and political crisis arising from the deportation of over a million Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh.
“Japan understands that the solution to this crisis lies in the early, safe and dignified return of this displaced people to their homeland Myanmar and it is necessary for Myanmar to create conducive atmosphere in Rakhine State of Myanmar for the return of the displaced people,” she said.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal, PM’s Adviser for Private Industry and Investment Salman F Rahman, State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid Bipu, State Minister for Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Imran Ahmed, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam, Principal Secretary Nojibur Rahman, Chief Coordinator of SDG Affairs Abul Kalam Azad and Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque accompanied Hasina at the bilateral meeting.
She emphasised developing Bangladesh-Japan ties to a strategic relationship, Shahidul told the media later.
Abe responded positively when she called for Japan’s help to extract gas from offshore fields and urged it to hire skilled workforce from Bangladesh, the secretary said.
Hasina also invited the Japanese premier to join the golden jubilee celebrations of Bangladesh’s independence in 2020. Abe said he would consider the invitation positively, Shahidul said.
Bangladesh agreed to support Japan in the UN Security Council elections in 2022, according to the foreign secretary.
Later in the evening, Hasina attended a dinner hosted by Abe in her honour.
“On behalf of my delegation and on my own behalf, I express my sincere gratitude to you, Prime Minister, for the warm welcome and generous hospitality accorded to us,” she said at the dinner.
Hasina travelled to Tokyo from Dhaka on Tuesday to attend the the Japanese media company Nikkei Inc’s The Future of Asia conference.
Political, economic and academic leaders from the Asia-Pacific region will share their opinions on regional issues and the role of Asia in the world during the conference on May 30-31.
Hasina in her keynote speech will emphasise the future of the ‘emerging Asia’ and its potential, the Rohingya crisis, and technological advancements, besides highlighting the development process of Bangladesh.