It is a well known fact that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have shared special chemistry with each other since a long time which dates back to the time when Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. Both India and Japan have come a long way in forging a special relation with each other ever since Modi became Prime Minister three years ago. But in last one year or so we have witnessed a quantum leap in relations between India and Japan for which both Modi and Abe are equally responsible.
As we all know, Shinzo Abe came to India on a two day visit from September 13 to 14 to attend the 12th Indo-Japan annual summit held at Ahmedabad. PM Modi, PM Abe and his wife set-off on a 8 km roadshow in an open-roof jeep for the legendary Sabarmati Ashram where Mahatma Gandhi had spent a significant time of his life and they were accorded a grand welcome throughout the route. PM Modi presented a marble idol of Mahatma Gandhi’s “Three Wise Monkeys” to his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe as the monkeys are a symbol of the adage “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” which is believed to have its origin in Japan.
It would be pertinent to note that India and Japan on September 14, 2017 during the 12th Indo-Japan summit signed 15 Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs), which dealt with wide ranging issues such as bilateral relations, defence and security cooperation and supporting each other for a permanent seat in the United Nations expanded Security Council. This is truly a landmark development. People of both the countries must feel happy about it.
It merits no reiteration that the track record of both India and Japan is impeccable and therefore both are strong contenders to bag a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. While it cannot be denied that no figure was released on how much Japanese companies planned to invest in India, some sources said that it would be around Rs 5 lakh crore, including the flagship bullet train project from Ahmedabad to Mumbai. Now let us go through the 15 key MoUs signed between India and Japan. They are as follows: –
Disaster Risk Management
1. Memorandum of Cooperation between the Home Ministry and the Cabinet Office of Japan. Cooperation and collaboration in the field of disaster risk reduction and to share the experiences, knowledge and policies on disaster prevention.
2. Further strengthening bilateral relations and cooperation in the field of Japanese language education in India between Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Japan.
3. India Japan Act East Forum signed to enhance connectivity and promote developmental projects in the North Eastern Region of India.
Economic & Commercial
4. Aims to send fresh food from Japan to India in cool boxes for Japanese in India.
5. India-Japan Investment Promotion Roadmap between DIPP and METI to facilitate and accelerate the Japanese investments in India.
6. Agreement between METI and Gujarat Government to cooperate in infrastructure development on ‘Japan-India special programme for Make in India’ in Mandal Bechraj-Khoraj in Gujarat .
Civil Aviation: Open Skies
7. Exchange of record of decisions (RoD) on Civil Aviation Cooperation (Open Sky). Indian and Japanese carriers can now fly unlimited number of flights to the select cities of each other’s countries.
Science & Technology
8. Deal for International Joint Exchange Programme signed between interdisciplinary theoretical and mathematical sciences programme (ITHEMS), RIKEN and National Centres for Biological Sciences (Simons-NCBS) to establish a Joint Exchange Programme to identify and foster talented young scientists from both India and Japan to collaborate in the field of theoretical biology.
9. Joint Research Contract between National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science & Technology (AIST), Japan and Department of Biotechnology (DBT) to conduct joint research and to establish an International Center named as “DBT-AIST International Center for Translational & Environmental Research (DAICENTER)” at AIST, Japan.
10. MoU b etween DBT and National Institute of Advanced Science & Technology (AIST). To promote research collaboration between DBT Research Institutes and AIST in the field of life sciences and biotechnology.
11. International Academic and Sports Exchange between Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education (LNIPE) and Nippon Sports Science University, Japan (NSSU). To facilitate and deepen international education cooperation and exchanges between the sports bodies.
12. International Academic and Sports Exchange between Sports Authority of India and Nippon Sports Science University, Japan.
13. Letter of intent between Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education (LNIPE) and University of Tsukuba, Japan.
14. Letter of intent between Sports Authority of India and University of Tsukuba, Japan.
15. MoU between RIS and IDE-JETRO for promotion of Cooperation in Research Related Activities. To promote institutional cooperation between RIS and IDE-JETRO to strengthen research and effectiveness of dissemination of research findings.
Let me hasten to add here that adding an icing on the cake in the relations between India and Japan is the launching by Prime Minister Narendra Modii and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe of the 508-km long bullet train project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. It will take 2 hours and 58 minutes to cover the 508 km stretch. The project cost is estimated at Rs 1.10 lakh crore.
Truth be told, Modi thanked Abe for the “big gift from Japan to India” even as the Japanese PM attributed it to the “special bond” between the two nations. Speaking at the jam packed Sabarmati Railway Stadium, Abe hoped the first bullet train in India would soon make its route to other parts of the country. He also said amid a huge applause that, “The next time I am in India, I wish to ride the Shinkansen with Mr Modi and enjoy the beautiful scenery of India through the windows”.
To put things in perspective, Abe said after the two leaders pressed a button, unveiling a plaque that, “A strong India is in Japan’s interest and a strong Japan is in India’s interest”. There can be no denying it and this alone explains why both India and Japan have agreed to work together and cooperate on multiple fronts. He said the first letters of his country, ‘Ja’, and that of India, ‘I’, together make up the word “Jai” or victory. After starting his speech with “Namaskar” and ending it with a “Dhanyavad” said proudly that, “Jai India, Jai Japan”.
It must be brought out here that India’s first bullet train is being built with a Japanese soft loan of Rs 88,000 crore, which India will pay back in the next 50 years at 0.1 percent interest. Modi was candid enough to admit that this was not a loan but a gift. He very rightly said that, “We are building India’s first bullet train practically free”.
It also must be brought out here that the target for the completion of India’s first bullet train is December 2023, though officials say there are indications that the Government may seek an earlier deadline of 2022. A 21-km-long tunnel will be built between Bolsar and Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai, of which seven km will be under the sea. Initially, the train will have 10 coaches with a total seating capacity of 750 passengers. Later, it is proposed to have 16 coaches with a seating capacity of 1250 passengers.
Be it noted, the bullet train will have 12 stops of 165 seconds each. The proposed stations are Mumbai, Thane, Virar, Bolsar, Vapi, Bilimora, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, Ahmedabad and Sabarmati. This ambitious project will reduce the travel time between Ahmedabad and Mumbai from seven hours to less than three hours. PM Modi was very elated and called Abe his “close friend” which the latter also reciprocated.
To be sure, Modi made a candid admission that, “The dreams and ambitions of this ‘new India’ are limitless. India has taken a big leap today to fulfil a long-held dream. Fast trains, top technology will bring us top growth, employment and progress.” He also added that, “India has taken a big leap today to fulfil a long-held dream. Fast trains, top technology will bring us top growth, employment and progress.”
While mincing no words in expressing his gratitude to Abe, Modi said that, “Japan too has shown today what a great friend it is to India. India’s first bullet train project is a symbol of this friendship. Abe has ensured this project sticks to time.” He also added further that, “This is not the time to progress at low speed. The speed of this country’s progress now depends on the high-speed connectivity”. Modi also castigated the Opposition for criticising the project without any valid reason. Modi certainly has a valid point here.
Simply put, Modi said that, “They first asked where’s the bullet train and now say why the bullet train”. In 1964, Modi said that Japan started the bullet train and now this technology was in 15 countries. He also said while justifying his decision to bring such a transportation marvel to India that, “From Europe to China, the bullet train’s image can be seen everywhere. Not just economical but also societal changes have been brought about by these trains”.
It is imperative to note here that the target for its completion is December 2023, though officials say there are indications that the Government may seek an earlier deadline of 2022. The train will stop at each of the 12 railway stations on the route, but only for 165 seconds. A 21-km-long tunnel will be dug between Boisar and BKC in Mumbai, of which 7 km will be under water. The two Prime Ministers also laid the foundation for an institute that will come up in Vadodara where nearly 4,000 people will be skilled for the bullet train project.
It also warms the inner cockles of my heart to learn that in a stern message to Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in their joint statement strongly pitched for a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach towards terrorism. In the statement signed after their bilateral talks in Gandhinagar in Gujarat on September 14, the two leaders asked Islamabad to bring to book the perpetrators of terror strikes, including those involved in the Mumbai (2008) and Pathankot (2016) attacks. They also called upon international community to work towards rooting out terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, disrupting terrorist networks and financing channels and halting cross-border movement of terrorists. The joint statement said, “They (Modi and Abe) looked forward to convening the fifth Japan-India Consultation on Terrorism and to strengthening cooperation against terrorist threats.”
Needless to say, while making it clear that India and Japan will be intensifying their collaboration in the counterterrorism measure, Modi and Abe in their joint statement underlined the need for all countries to ensure that their territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other nations. They also expressed firm resolve towards strengthening international cooperation to address the challenges of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism. It is a no-brainer that to eliminate terrorism all peace loving countries have to come forward and unitedly take collective steps to ensure that this Frankenstein monster is crushed once and for all!
What should not be missed out here is that the joint statement very categorically said that, “They emphasized the need for stronger international partnership in countering terrorism and violent extremism, including through increased sharing of information and intelligence. They called for enhanced bilateral cooperation in this regard.” Also, India and Japan will jointly hold a consultation on terrorism in the coming months.
Truly speaking, while condemning the growing menace of terrorism and violent extremism, the two PMs shared the view that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations is a global scourge that must be forcefully combated through concerted global action in the spirit of “zero tolerance”. Accordingly, the leaders called upon all UN-member countries to implement the UNSC Resolution 1267 and other relevant resolutions designating terrorist entities and emphasized the need for stronger international partnership in countering terrorism and violent extremism, including through increased sharing of information and intelligence.
As it turned out, the two PMs also reiterated their desire and determination to work together to maintain and promote peace, stability and development in the Indo-Pacific region. They also both reaffirmed the importance of freedom of navigation, overflight and unimpeded lawful commerce in accordance with international laws. The joint statement said that, “They also highlighted the importance of peaceful resolution of disputes, including through full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force, and in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law, notably the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
It is of immense significance that a memorandum of understanding to set up India Japan Act East Forum with an aim to align India’s Act East Policy with Japan’s Free and Open Asia-Pacific strategy in the backdrop of China’s One Belt One Road initiative is among the major agreements signed while Abe was in India for the 12th Indo-Japan annual summit. The forum will enhance connectivity and promote developmental projects in India’s Northeast region in an efficient and effective manner, according to the MoU signed following the summit in Gandhinagar on September 14. It must be said here that Japan has a historic connection with the Northeast and is among the few countries that India has allowed a presence in the eight landlocked states which are the country’s gateway to the Association of Southeast Asian Nation members.
While craving for the exclusive indulgence of my esteemed readers, let me inform them that India and Japan on September 14 also signed a document on Japanese loan and aid for highway development in the Northeast that can complement India’s connectivity initiatives in Bangladesh, Myanmar and beyond, besides BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal) and BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) Motor Vehicle Agreements. Japan will extend a loan of Rs 2,239 crore to India for ‘North East Road Network Connectivity Improvement Project’ to improve the National Highway 40 (NH-40) and construct a bypass on NH-54 in the Northeast. The project is expected to contribute to the improvement of the intra-regional and international connectivity through regional economic development.
For my esteemed readers exclusive indulgence, let me also inform them that Japan is keen to expand infrastructure projects in Southeast Asia amid China’s OBOR initiative and along with India, it is exploring opportunities to develop projects in ASEAN. This is part of Indo-Japan corridor conceived last year for the Indo-Pacific region that also extends to Eastern Africa under Asia Africa Growth Corridor which is an initiative that would provide an alternative to OBOR, which is being implemented in a non-transparent fashion dictated by China’s interests. Both countries agree that improving connectivity between Asia and Africa is vital for achieving prosperity of the entire region.
It also cannot be lost on us that the two countries have decided to seek synergy between India’s ‘Act East’ Policy and Japan’s Expanded Partnership for Quality Infrastructure’, by closely coordinating, bilaterally and with other partners, for better regional integration and improved connectivity as well as industrial networks based on principles of mutual consultation and trust. Briefly stated, the development of the Northeast is a priority for India and a key to promote its Act East Policy. Japan has also placed a special emphasis on cooperation in the Northeast for its geographical importance of connecting India to Southeast Asia and historical ties. We all know fully well that Japanese forces had fought British in Manipur during World War II.
It is a matter of great satisfaction to note that apart from fresh investment proposals at the summit, Modi claimed that Japan’s foreign direct investment (FDI) to India had actually trebled in the past few years which is a testimony to the growing economic ties. So far, around $ 25.7 billion has flown in as FDI from Japan and the plan is to double this by 2019. Modi and Abe also used the summit to jointly condemn North Korea’s latest nuclear test and uranium enrichment activities, urging the hermit nation to comply with UNSC resolutions.
To say the least, the talks were not just confined to economic and diplomatic cooperation. Japan has agreed to help India build a convention centre in Varanasi. Calling it a symbol of cultural cooperation between the two countries, Modi said that Abe had conceptualized it during his last visit to the town. Japan and India also welcomed the renewed momentum for trilateral cooperation with the US and Australia and resolved to work with regional partners to ensure a rule-based order in the Indo-Pacific region.
Let me be direct in saying: India and Japan have both realised that to counter China’s hegemony they have to act in unison. Both countries are not on very good terms with China. Japan has also realized that India can be a good partner in security related matters and an alliance will benefit not just India but also Japan which is not so strong militarily.
Kanwal Sibal who is an eminent, most sought after expert in analyzing most complicated foreign affairs and is one of the most reputed former Foreign Secretary of India very rightly points out that, “Both, India and Japan, have problems with China on territorial issues and on Beijing’s muscle-flexing. Japan has long been China’s rival in the western Pacific; now India is seen as China’s potential rival in Asia. China’s hegemonic ambitions in Asia are becoming increasingly apparent. If China succeeded in its quest for dominating Asia, it would be at the cost of India and Japan, and neither country would accept the situation. So far Japan has relied on the US for its security but with Obama failing to oppose China’s expansionism in the South China Sea and Trump questioning the assumptions underlying the US-Japan alliance and creating uncertainty about the future course of US foreign policy, Abe has tried to widen his security options by reaching out to India, which alone in Asia, by virtue of its size, growing economic strength and substantial military capabilities, can check China’s ambitions. Therefore, while the alliance with the US remains the anchor of Japan’s security policies, Tokyo is enlarging its security base by drawing closer to India.”
All said and done, both India and Japan have a lot to gain from each other. It is most heartening to note that in last few years there has been a quantum leap in relations between India and Japan and both countries have come a lot closer to each other than earlier. It is certainly a matter of some concern that there has been a decline in India-Japan trade from $18.61 billion in 2012-13 to $13.48 billion in 2016-17, though Japanese investments in India have increased. This needs to be set right on a war footing. It cannot be ignored that earlier it was Abe who was the driving force in making the India-Japan Civil Nuclear Agreement operational. Abe’s visit has certainly come as a shot in the arm in the bilateral relations between India and Japan and India has many reasons to cheer for this visit.
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.