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Surging ties with Japan

06:17 AM Jun 02, 2019 |

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Nodas recent one- day Delhi visit for asummit with Manmohan Singh had ahighly positive outcome

DESPITE its dismal and depressing domestic situation this country has had quite a few foreign policy successes to its credit of which not enough notice is taken because of the very high- pitched discord. One such is the highly positive outcome of the oneday visit to Delhi recently of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. He had come for a summit meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh under an institutionalized arrangement.

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Their Delhi meeting was the sixth in the series.

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Of a whole lot of the joint decisions – the 10- page official communiqué lists 35 – the most important is that despite Japans tsunami- earthquake- Fukushima meltdown and a whole lot of agitations against nuclear power in this country, the two countries remain committed to civil nuclear cooperation. Negotiations for this purpose are being intensified. India has already concluded nuclear cooperation deals with the United States, Russia, France, Britain, Canada, South Korea, Argentina, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Namibia.

Given this countrys ambitious plan to have 20,000 MW of nuclear power by 2020, nuclear cooperation with Japan is vital, especially in view of the potential for tapping the remarkable expertise of Japanese companies in nuclear power technology. This would also enable us to draw on Japanese funds in a sector where enormous investment is needed. Japan has huge cash; India is investment hungry. For its part, Japan may also want to partake in a sector of energy that is eyed by many countries.

Hitherto the bilateral energy cooperation between the two countries has been confined to renewable energy obviously because of Japanese inhibitions about India being a nuclear weapon power without having signed the NPT. But there is no reason why this state of affairs can be ended.

Furthermore, not long ago Japan had the bitter experience of being denied by China rare earths needed for almost everything from missiles to mobile phones. There is therefore considerable scope for cooperation in this strategic area as well, particularly after Tokyo has indicated its desire to allow the export of weapons to friendly countries.

Also welcome is Nodas pledge to provide $ 4.5 billion over the next five years for the development of Delhi- Mumbai Industrial Corridor. He also made two other commitments to improve this countrys appalling infrastructure. One of these is the third phase of the Delhi Metro in which Japan has collaborated also in the past, and the other for a biodiversity conservation project in West Bengal. No less significant is Nodas willingness to share with India highspeed railway technology.

Of extraordinary importance is Japans enhancement of its currency swap arrangement from $ 3 billion to $ 15 billion. At a time when the rupee is falling continuously against the dollar, this would help stabilize the Indian currency.

Despite all these encouraging sign, it has to be recognized that Japans trade with and investment in this country are so meager as to be measly. There are no fewer than 1,000 Japanese companies operating in India. Yet, of their investment of a trillion dollars they have invested in this country only one per cent.

Apparently, Japan still considers China to be a much better destination for investment.

This might explain why Japans trade with India is just a fourth of its trade with China, its biggest trading partner.

Even so, it cannot be overlooked that the Japanese Premiers visit came at the end of intense bilateral activity. Foreign Ministers of the two countries met in November and Defence Ministers soon afterwards. In February last, the two countries signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement that came into effect in August. Outside world took a greater notice of the trilateral meeting in December – at Washington in December at official, not political, level – of the US, Japan and India.

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