Japan PM Shinzo Abe’s India Visit Breaking New Ground

Cover Story

The Narendra Modi government’s ‘Act East Look East Policy’ has rightly brought the focus on North East India. Japanese prime minister has pledged to help in the infrastructure and socio-economic development in the region

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to India from December 11-13, 2015 was instrumental in providing the much-needed boost to the relationship between the two countries.

During the summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to a ‘special strategic and global partnership’ premised on closer cooperation, economically and through stronger bonds on defence and security.

The immense investment opportunities in India have led to a renewed focus of the leadership in Japan in its approach to Asia, particularly with India. During the short but productive visit of Shinzo Abe to India, Japan won a lucrative $15 billion contract to help India build its first high-speed rail project. The construction of a Japanese-style bullet train will link Mumbai to Ahmedabad. The Japanese investment in high-speed rail technology has the potential to transform India’s transportation sector. After losing out to China in providing similar technological assistance to Indonesia, the deal with India assumes enormous significance for Japan.

Both Modi and Abe agreed to work toward completing the long-standing discussions on enhancing civilian nuclear cooperation. It will be a mutually beneficial relationship; Japan can profit through the sale of its nuclear technology to a booming market in India, and India benefits from Japan’s high level of expertise in the field.

Both leaders also agreed to the establishment of regular national security consultations and the possibility of greater cooperation in the trade of defence materials. India and France inked two key agreements related to the transfer of defence equipment and technology, and security measures for the protection of classified military information to allow for greater cooperation and facilitate greater intelligence and military information sharing.

The highlight of the visit, no doubt, remains the nuclear agreement signed by Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe.

The importance of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, peaceful resolution of disputes without use or threat of use of force, freedom of navigation and over flight and unimpeded lawful commerce in international waters were highlighted as the principles that must be strictly adhered to.

Japan has agreed to participate regularly in the India-US Malabar exercises in order to ‘help create stronger capabilities to deal with maritime challenges in the Indo-Pacific region’.

There exists huge potential in areas of infrastructure, manufacturing and high technology, including advanced transportation systems, civil nuclear energy, solar power generation, space, biotechnology, rare earths and advanced materials, which was emphasised during the Japanese prime minister’s visit.

To facilitate travel, India has decided that Japanese visitors in all categories will get visas on arrival from March 2016.

The China Factor

The rise of China, which ironically is the top trading partner for both India and Japan, has prompted both Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe to take substantial measures for strengthening the economic, military and strategic ties between the two nations.

Abe has taken steps to empower the Self-Defence Forces, and Modi is investing more than $60 billion in Indian Navy. All these are aimed at deterring China from establishing a foothold in the Indian Ocean.

“I cannot think of a strategic partnership that can exercise a more profound influence on shaping the course of Asia and our interlinked ocean regions more than ours. In a world of intense international engagements, few visits are truly historic or change the course of a relationship. Your visit, Mr Prime Minister, is one,” Modi said at a joint news conference with Abe.

“The biannual Malabar naval exercises will help create stronger capabilities to deal with maritime challenges in the Indo-Pacific region,” the two leaders noted in a joint statement.

Both leaders also called for a ‘peaceful, open, equitable, stable and rule-based order in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond’ in their joint statement.

Bonding between North East India and Japan

There exists a deep bond between the people of North East India and Japan. There has been regular people-to-people interaction between Japan and North East India in the field of education, sport, art and culture. The annual War memorial observation ceremony held every year in Imphal, Manipur further adds to the ties.

The Narendra Modi government’s ‘Act East Look East Policy’ has rightly brought the focus on North East India. Japanese prime minister has pledged to help in the infrastructure and socio-economic development in the region.

In a joint statement with PM Narendra Modi, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe mentioned about Japan’s intention to provide Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan amount of 67 billion yen for the improvement of road network and connectivity in North East India.

It is worth mentioning that Japan is the first country that is allowed to invest in infrastructure development in North East India. Since 1981, Japan is providing ODA loan to North East states in the field of energy, water supply, forestry, urban development and agriculture.

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe also expressed his desire to collaborate in the Indian government’s Digital India, Skill India and Smart City projects, which can have far reaching implications for the region.

With a firm footing both on the economic and strategic fronts, India-Japan relationship is reshaping the complex geopolitical dynamics in Asia. India-Japan ties can zoom ahead; effective leadership and pragmatic policies will help it become the defining relationship of the Asian Century.

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Author

Alankar Srivastava

Author is a Diplomatist Editor.

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    References

    1. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/12/14/national/politics-diplomacy/japan-picked-china-build-indias-high-speed-rail-link-15-billion-deal/#.VpiROFInKap

    2. http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/12/japan-embraces-india-as-china-looms.html

    3. http://www.dailyo.in/politics/india-japan-ties-shinzo-abe-modi-mumbai-bullet-train-shinkansen-nuclear-deal-terrorism/story/1/8065.html

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