Japan has chosen Bangladesh as one of the four countries which will be the beneficiaries of its new Official Security Assistance (OSA) programme.

"This shows how much importance Japan attaches to Bangladesh," said Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Iwama Kiminori while speaking at a discussion at the Embassy on Saturday.

Three other countries are the Philippines, Malaysia and Fiji.

To this end, Japan and Bangladesh also agreed to appoint defence attaches in their respective embassies.

This was also discussed during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to Japan in April this year.

Apart from "Official Development Assistance (ODA)" which aims for the economic and social development of developing countries, Japan decided to establish a new cooperation framework "Official Security Assistance (OSA)" for the benefit of armed forces and other related organizations by providing materials and equipment as well as assistance for infrastructures development based on the security needs of the countries.

OSA is referred to in the new "National Security Strategy" approved by the Cabinet on 16 December 2022, according to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh and Japan may soon sign an agreement on transfer of defence equipment and technology.

"We are in discussion on an agreement concerning the transfer of defence equipment and technology. We will not be able to disclose the details at this moment. However, the discussions are progressing in a positive manner," said the Ambassador.

Japan-Bangladesh bilateral trade is close to $4 billion while the country provided the largest amount of overseas development assistance, $24.72 billion, to Bangladesh since 1971.

With Bangladesh coming out of LDC status and the era of duty-free regime gone by 2026, Dhaka and Tokyo are studying the prospects of signing an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) to promote trade and investments.

Iwama Kiminori said the Japan-Bangladesh Joint Study Group, which already held two meetings on EPA, is preparing for the third round. It is aiming to start the negotiation process before signing the EPA at an early stage.

Speaking as the chief guest, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam said Japan is Bangladesh's all-weather friend and the two need to grow together.

Japan will be needing a huge workforce and Bangladesh can offer such manpower, with the country enjoying a demographic dividend.

Japan is Bangladesh's fastest growing market for IT and can be a major destination for Bangladeshi skilled workers, he said.

FBCCI President Mahbubul Alam spoke as the guest of honour at the discussion held at the Japanese Embassy, marking the official launch of the Pan-Asia Research Institute (PARI).

Former ambassadors of Bangladesh to Japan Jamil Majid and Ashraf-Ud-Doula; Apex Footwear Ltd Managing Director Syed Nasim Manzur; Dhaka University International Relations Department Chairperson Dr Lailufar Yasmin; Foreign Ministry's East Asia and Pacific Wing Director Sayem Ahmed; JICA Bangladesh Senior Representative Eiji Yamada; Japanese Commerce and Industry Association in Dhaka (JCIAD) President Tetsuro Kano; and Japan-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JBCCI) Secretary General Md Anwar Shahid were present as panelists.

Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) director (local investment promotion) Md Arifur Rahman, Prof. Mohammed Ansarul Alam of Institute of Modern Languages at Dhaka University, Bangladesh IKEBANA Association president Shahinoor Baby, Kokorozashi Japanese Language School principal Okabayashi Kuniaki, Hiroki Watanabe of Ekmatra, Kazuko Bhuiyan Trust manager Masudur Rahaman, The Financial Express senior news consultant M Aminul Islam and Dhaka University student Fahmida Binte Faruque, among others, also delivered speeches as discussants during four different sessions.

PARI president Yuji Ando, PARI vice-president Tareq Rafi Bhuiyan Jun and PARI executive director Dr Abdullah-Al-Mamun moderated the sessions.

Noted Japanologists, academics, bureaucrats, journalists, cultural activists and representatives of youth organisations, also joined the flagship event.

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