Millennium Post

Indo-Japan trade revitalised

India and Japan are likely to expand their relationship, taking it to the next level during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to India for the annual bilateral summit next week. Considering the recent development in the region, a lot would be at stake for both Tokyo and New Delhi, especially on the security front. While India was enmeshed in the standoff over Doklam with China, North Korea's tomfooleries have upset the security equations in Northeast Asia. During this visit, Abe would be laying the foundation stone for the construction of India's first high-speed railway corridor between commercial capital Mumbai and Ahmedabad. As Abe's visit defines the close security and strategic embrace that has been in the making for several years between India and Japan, the visiting Prime Minister is most likely to export its famous Shinkansen (bullet train) technology. It may be noted that the Shinkansen network, which opened in 1964, has a glorious safety record—not a single accident in the 53 years that it has been in operation. At that time, Japan took a deliberate decision to boost its domestic economy by developing a high-speed rail corridor rather than a network of expressways. With an eye on expanding economic ties and making India a hub of Japanese investments, Abe would also launch mega initiatives including Suzuki Motor Corporation's car factory and a second industrial park and lay the foundation stone for a lithium-ion battery plant, subsequently paving way for Japan International Cooperation Agency-sponsored manufacturing projects in Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Rajasthan under the 'Make in India' initiative. Even in Tokyo, people refer to Modi as a man with a vision and commitment. And, everyone knows that Modi is a big fan of Abe. The mutual admiration between the leaders of India and Japan is a well-known fact, as is the fact that Modi has expressed respect for Abe's style of functioning – right from the days he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. Japanese investments in India surged to a high of 80 per cent reaching 4.7 billion USD in 2016-17 from 2.6 billion USD in 2015-16, flowing into diverse sectors such as retail, textiles, consumer durables, food and beverages, and banking. Besides, Tokyo is also trying to retain its driver's seat into the high-stakes tussle for influence in the Indian Ocean region, particularly in the light of Beijing's growing aggressiveness in the region. On the other hand, the construction of the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka by China was a wake-up call for New Delhi as Beijing has now entered what many in India considered its own backyard. With its non-participation in Beijing's signature One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, India has already given a clear message of adopting alternate models of infrastructure development. Apart from the projects like the India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) trilateral highway, India is also collaborating with Japan in the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) initiative, to pool together towards building infrastructure in Africa. While India is hoping to upgrade its industries and infrastructure by importing and making use of advanced Japanese technology, Japan is eying on the enormous market avenues and huge human resources abundantly available here. The India-Japan comprehensive economic partnership agreement, signed in 2011, also covered goods and services, the free movement of visitors and workers, investments, intellectual property rights and even customs formalities. The visa-on-arrival facility has also made it easier for Japanese business establishments to work in India. As Japan maintains a base in Djibouti, the Indian Ocean is a key rivulet for the net energy importer, while a maritime cooperation deal could also mark a new high. Incidentally, the two nations also hold a bilateral naval exercise, the JIMEX, since 2012. Even in the field of civilian nuclear energy, much is expected to take place. Not to forget, Japan is the only country that had been allowed to invest in North-East India and the Andaman and Nicobar islands. The two nations have already underlined Africa and Southeast Asia as the primary turfs for their mutual focus. Japan also provided clear-cut support to India's stance on the Doklam faceoff. It puts a reciprocal obligation on India in the event of Japan's rough-talk with China. Given the huge cohesion of their interests, Abe's upcoming India visit could script a new chapter in the existing Indo-Japan relationship. Both the nations know that only with this bonding, can they check other forces in Asia.

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