All three countries have unique strengths which they can leverage by working trilaterally and together they can play a major role in shaping the future of the Indo-Pacific region
|Existing and Potential Areas of Trilateral Cooperation
|Infrastructure development: The three countries are working together on a number of infrastructure projects, such as the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline and the Matarbari Deep Sea Port in Bangladesh scheduled to be operational by 2027.
|Energy cooperation: India and Japan are helping Bangladesh to develop its natural gas resources.
|Security cooperation: The three countries are cooperating on a number of security issues, such as counterterrorism and maritime security.
|Trade and investment: The three countries are working to increase trade and investment between them.
|Climate change: The three countries can work together to address the challenges of climate change. This can be done by sharing information and best practices, developing joint mitigation and adaptation strategies, and investing in clean energy technologies.
|Education and skills development: India, Bangladesh, and Japan have strong educational institutions and could work together to develop a regional talent pool. This would help to attract foreign investment and boost economic growth in the region.
|Healthcare: India, Bangladesh, and Japan have different strengths in the healthcare sector. By working together, they could develop a more comprehensive and affordable healthcare system for the region.
|People-to-people ties: There are growing educational, cultural, and tourism links between the three countries.
India and Bangladesh face major infrastructure challenges, such as inadequate roads, railways, and ports, particularly with respect to last-mile connectivity and cross-border connectivity.Considering the geography of eastern South Asia, the maritime domain is an important area of focus for the Delhi-Dhaka-Tokyo partnership in developing regional connectivity. Spanning across an area of almost 2.172 square km and framed by the coastal countries of India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and the island of Sri Lanka, the Bay of Bengal is the lifeblood of commerce and connectivity in the region. With a coastline of almost 720 km, Bangladesh considers the Bay to be its third neighbour, after India and Myanmar, and depends on the sea for over 90 percent of its international trade. For India, almost 95 per cent of its international trade by volume and 77 percent by value is seaborne, of which a substantial portion moves through the Bay of Bengal. Providing the landlocked Northeastern states access to the Bay via Bangladesh is, therefore, high on India’s development agenda. Invested in rebuilding the Northeast and promoting industrial development in Bangladesh, Japan realises the value of the sea connect with the Matarbari (Bangladesh’s only deep-sea port) and Chattogram ports (Bangladesh’s main seaport) being key components. These ports are in geographic proximity to the Northeast and are thus in a position to facilitate its maritime connectivity. Thus at the April meeting between the three countries, Prime Minister Kishida stated that, “Viewing Bangladesh and other areas to the south as a single economic zone, we will promote the Bay of Bengal-Northeast India industrial value chain concept in cooperation with India and Bangladesh to foster the growth of the entire region.”
Invested in rebuilding the Northeast and promoting industrial development in Bangladesh, Japan realises the value of the sea connect with the Matarbari (Bangladesh’s only deep-sea port) and Chattogram ports (Bangladesh’s main seaport) being key components.This explains Japan’s contribution in developing the Chattogram-Cox's Bazar highway projects through a first tranche loan of US$ 14.68 million. A deal worth 12, 814 crore Taka or US$ 11 million to finance this project along with two others has been signed on 29 March between the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Government of Bangladesh. Once operationalised, the highway will ease congestion in the Chattogram port thus benefiting the trade flow of both India and Bangladesh. Furthermore, in the coming years it will also help keep congestion manageable, especially as the traffic flow in the city will increase with the operationalisation of the Matarbari port project in 2026. If Bangladesh decides to open the Matarbari port for India’s trade, upon its completion, it would significantly boost the trade of both countries, as well as benefit the Northeast region. Japan has agreed to provide US$ 319 million as the first tranche of loan for the development of this deep-sea port.
The littoral countries of the Bay are vulnerable to the threat of natural disasters, especially cyclones which compromises coastal infrastructure and maritime trade.The three countries have unique strengths which they can leverage by working trilaterally. India has transformed into a willing, capable, and reliable middle power in the region, with a large and growing population. Tokyo trusts India as a key partner in the Indo-Pacific and New Delhi, too, has actively pursued efforts to promote regional connectivity links over the past decade. Bangladesh is a strategically located country with a young and growing workforce. And Japan is a technologically advanced country with a strong financial sector. Together, these three countries can form a constructive force for development, security, and peace in the Indo-Pacific. While a trilateral arrangement for cooperation between India, Bangladesh, and Japan is still in its early stages, together with support from other powers in the region such as the United States, Australia, and Southeast Asian countries, the Dhaka-New Delhi-Tokyo partnership could play a major role in shaping the future of the Indo-Pacific region.
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Pratnashree Basu is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata, with the CNED programme. She is a 2017 US Department of State IVLP Fellow ...Read More +
Sohini Bose is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Kolkata with the Strategic Studies Programme. Her area of research is India’s eastern maritime ...Read More +