Bangladesh-Japan bilateral relations emanate from the unwavering Japanese support for the cause of an independent Bangladesh. Japan recognized independent Bangladesh on 10 February 1972, the first OECD country to recognize, and established diplomatic relations on 11 February 1972. The politicians led by Takashi Hayakawa, intellectuals led by Professor Tsuoshi Nara and similar- minded journalists and the common mass mobilized the public opinion for the cause of Bangladesh and took part in extending support and relief to Bangladesh. The people of Bangladesh nurture enduring gratitude for all Japanese who stood by in its trying hours. A bond of mutual goodwill, respect and friendship has since developed between the two peoples. Immediately after the diplomatic relationship, Bangladesh established its Embassy in Tokyo on 03 March 1972, while Japan opened its Embassy on 01 July 1972 in Dhaka.
Japan is among the very few countries where the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman paid an official visit as the leader of the country. His visit in Japan (18-24 October 1973) laid down the political foundation for advancing the bilateral relations between the two countries. Since then the bilateral relations between the two countries have developed steadily and satisfactorily and never looked back. Despite the setback suffered following the Holey Artisan attack in 2016, Japan’s friendship and commitment towards Bangladesh remained unchanged. The significant augment of Japan’s ODA commitments with each passing year, proving yet again Japan’s friendship and commitment towards Bangladesh.
The bilateral cooperation between Bangladesh and Japan entered into a new dimension following the exchange of summit level visits in 2014, when the relationship was elevated to “Comprehensive Partnership” level; a broad-based political, economic and social cooperation. Under this partnership, the Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt (BIG-B) received strategic impetus in recent years and Japan is increasing its financial and technical assistance in Bangladesh to build mega-infrastructures including MRT, Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport Teminal-3, critical coal power projects, under-water tunnel and so on. To further strengthen the cooperation in various sectors, both countries are now contemplating to elevate the relations from ‘Comprehensive Partnership’ to the ‘Strategic level’ in the near future.
There exists excellent rapport at the highest political level. Hon’ble President H.E. Mr. Abdul Hamid attended the enthronement ceremony of the Emperor of Japan in October 2019 at the invitation of the Govt. of Japan. Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Japan in 1997, 2010, 2014, 2016 and 2019. These visits provided fresh momentum to deepen the multi-faced bilateral cooperation and created new thrusts in bilateral cooperation, particularly in the areas of business, investment and economic aid. Another state level visit to Japan by Hon’ble Prime Minister was scheduled on 30-31 March 2020 at the invitation of the Govt. of Japan, but the visit was postponed in the height of the global pandemic.
This close political ties could also be attributed from the friendly gesture and personal attachment of the highest Political levels of Japan. On the occasion of the Birth Centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Golden Jubilee of our Independence, the Japanese Prime Minister congratulated the people of Bangladesh through a Video Message as well as sent a letter to the Prime Minister. For the last two consecutive years, the Japanese Prime Minister has kindly been issuing messages on the Independence Day Special Supplement published on the prominent Japanese Newspapers including the Japan News and the Yomiuri Shimbun (Japanese Version).
Bangladesh is deeply appreciative of the Government and the people of Japan for their timely assistance to Bangladesh during the pandemic period. Japan provided 75 billion yen equivalent to USD 681 million worth of budget support loans in 2 phases and contributed over 4.5 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines in phases under COVAX-mechanism to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Bangladesh is also encouraged to see the growing confidence of Japan towards Bangladesh with the decision of Japan to lower the travel advisory from Level-1 to level-2 for whole Bangladesh, except CHT (for Dhaka Division on 10 November 2021 and all of Bangladesh in October 2019), which was in place since 2016 following the Holy Artisan attack.
In 2021, 3rd Foreign Office Consultation (FOC) was held (on 25 February 2021) after a gap of two years, where the gamut of bilateral issues was discussed. Hon’ble State Minister for Youth and Sports led the Bangladesh delegation in the Tokyo Olympic 2020 (22-27 July 2021). On the other hand, 02 (two) dignitaries from Japan attended the ‘Dhaka Peace Conference’ in person on 04-05 December 2021. The Embassy in Tokyo, as one of the 18 select capitals, jointly celebrated Maitri Diwas, the Friendship Day with the Embassy of India on 06 December 2021 with much fanfare. Furthermore, the operation of direct flight between Tokyo and Dhaka reached at final stage following the appointment of GSA in Japan by Biman Bangladesh and is expected to operational in the latter half of 2022.
The year 2022 is a landmark year in the history of Bangladesh-Japan relations, as the countries are celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Bangladesh-Japan friendship. On 10th February 2022, the Embassy of Bangladesh in Tokyo inaugurated the year-long celebration programme in a grand manner, where Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh and Hon’ble Prime Minister of Japan sent goodwill messages. To mark this occasion, a commemorative stamp designed by the Japan Post was launched. A Special Exhibition featuring the documents of the historic significance and still photographs on different landmark occasions for the past 50 year was displayed. Depending on the pandemic situation, the Embassy expects to implement a series of joint commemorative activities and cultural exchanges to celebrate this milestone occasion. Particularly, the visit to Bangladesh by His Majesty Emperor Naruhito and Her Majesty Empress Masako would provide a symbolic gesture from Japan to recognize the warm friendship between the two countries. Bangladesh has been repeatedly expressing its sincere interest in every possible occasion so that the Imperial Household gets indication of Bangladesh's keen interest.