Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Wednesday said Bangladesh's Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had made tremendous efforts to strengthen bilateral ties after the independence of Bangladesh.
He said this in a video message at the inaugural ceremony of a 10-day grand celebration of the birth centenary of Bangabandhu and golden jubilee of independence at the national parade ground here.
The Japanese premier said 50 years ago Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman led Bangladesh to independence with his indomitable spirit.
Japan was one of the first countries that recognized Bangladesh as a nation state right after its independence, he recalled.
"We had a privilege of welcoming Bangabandhu to Japan. During his stay in Japan, Bangabandhu visited even farming and fishing villages in rural areas where he interacted with many local Japanese citizens," he said.
Bangabandhu said he considered the development of Japan as a model to follow, Yoshihide Suga added.
"And later he made tremendous efforts to strengthen bilateral ties," he continued.
The Japanese prime minister said: "Understand that it was the idea of Bangabandhu to design Bangladeshi national flag in a way that resembles the Japanese one, just like we are brothers."
He said Japan and Bangladesh both having nostalgic yet beautiful landscape of paddy fields have valued "heart to heart exchanges" and have developed profound interactions among the citizens at grassroots level just as Japanese children tried hard and collected relief donations for Bangladesh in the aftermath of cyclone at the time of its independence.
"Bangladesh offered to Japan in the form of relief fund and supplies when the Great East Japan earthquake struck us 10 years ago," he said.
He further said: "Our traditional friendship is now tied with a strong and firmed bond under the spirit of trust, cooperation and mutual benefit."
Regarding the economic relations, Japan has consistently supported Bangladesh's efforts towards realization of "Sonar Bangla" since its independence, he said.
Yoshihide Suga said Jamuna Multi-purpose Bridge, depicted in 100 taka banknote and Sonargaon hotel built shortly after the independence have been the symbols of friendship the two countries for a long time.
"In recent years, Japan has actively supported infrastructure development of Bangladesh, such as Dhaka MRT, Dhaka International Airport third Terminal and Matarbari Deep Seaport for a better regional connectivity, under 'the Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt (BIG-B)'," he said, adding that Japan also attaches importance to Bangladesh's socio-economic development such as health and education and extends support to meet the needs of Bangladesh.
"I am confident that Japan's cooperation in these areas will support Bangladesh's goal to be middle income country and then become a developed country and eventually contribute to further development of our relationship," he said.
The Japanese premier said Bangladesh, which is located at a key point connecting South East Asia and Indian subcontinent and has successfully been achieving high economic growth in recent years, is a very attractive destination for Japanese business community.
"It is my hope that our economic relations which are marked by a great potential will make a further leap forward in the years to come," he added.
He said the outbreak of Covid-19 has post unprecedented challenges to socio-economic activities in the world and between the two countries.
In order to overcome this crisis together with Bangladesh, Japan has provided emergency budget support loan, grant of medical equipment and other emergency support through international organisations for Bangladesh, he said, adding "The pandemic has also heightened uncertainty and how we secured peace and stability of the region has become an increasingly important challenge."
Building a free and open order based on the rule of law and strengthening connectivity in the Indo-Pacific region will lead to peace, stability and prosperity of the region, he said.
He said Japan will continue to work with Bangladesh to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Last but not least the year 2022 will mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Bangladesh, he mentioned.
"I will join hands with Bangladesh and work together closely to further strengthen our bilateral relationship towards this special year," he said.
He offered his heartfelt congratulations on the 50th anniversary of the independence of Bangladesh as well as the centennial birth anniversary of Bangabandhu, the first president of Bangladesh.
The Japanese premier expressed his sincere wishes for the prosperity of Bangladesh and Japan and further deepening of the bilateral relationship.