Japan has proposed Bangladesh a development partnership under which connectivity in the southern Chattogram region would be further developed centring on the Matarbari projects, foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen said after a talk with the Japanese representative on Thursday.

‘We have discussed engaging in infrastructural development in areas centring on Matarbari with the aim to connect the entire region, including north-eastern part of India and Myanmar, to ensure regional connectivity,’ he told journalists after an extensive meeting with  his Japanese counterpart Hiroshi Suzuki held virtually.

The proposal involving the Chattogram region was placed by Japan in the meeting styled as an annual foreign office consultation between the two countries, according to a press release of the foreign ministry.

The Bangladesh foreign secretary also raised the issue of early repatriation of the Rohingyas to their ancestral homes at the Rakhine state of Myanmar.

He also urged Japan to use its influence to persuade Myanmar and the international community to create an environment in Myanmar conducive for the safe return of the Rohingyas.

Hiroshi Suzuki, a senior deputy minister of Japan, stated that they also wanted to see an early return of the Rohingyas and assured of their continued support in this regard.

Bangladesh also expressed hope that the bilateral initiatives would encourage more Japanese investment, particularly in the areas of agriculture, especially jute, ICT and high-tech industries, blue economy, health and human resource development.

Japan was also keen to support capacity development in maritime security, disaster management and enhance cooperation in defence matters.

The two sides discussed the possibility of signing a free trade agreement, particularly in view of Bangladesh’s impending graduation from the least developed country status.

Japan assured that it would continue its Generalised Scheme of Preferences in the post-graduation period.

Momen also requested Japan to continue the budgetary support for the next five years.

Suzuki also briefed on Japan’s vision of Free and Open Indo-Pacific and elaborated on the peace and development aspects of the vision.

Foreign ministry’s secretary Mashfee Binte Shams and director general Khondker M Talha, Prime Minister’s Office’s additional secretary Munira Sultana, among others, also joined the meeting from the Bangladesh side.

The two countries decided to meet again in early 2022.

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