Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived here on Monday for a bilateral summit with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe at a juncture when the latter has embarked on an ambitious plan to revive his country’s economy seriously hit by stagflation and India is pressing Tokyo to give Indian companies access to its markets to bridge the huge trade deficit.
Deepening of strategic partnership, especially defence cooperation, and a push for an early conclusion of a bilateral agreement on civil nuclear cooperation are also high on the agenda of Dr. Singh.
India has invited Japan to hold military exercises in the Indian Ocean. During his three-day visit, he is scheduled to meet the whole spectrum of political and economic leaders in a bid to garner support particularly on the civil nuclear issue as it is a sensitive and divisive issue in the Japanese society.
Negotiations on the civil nuclear cooperation agreement have slowed down after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011. Both sides are looking afresh on some aspects of the possible deal keeping in mind the concerns on safety triggered by the Fukushima mishap.
The visit is viewed with interest in view of the recent border tensions between India and China and the subsequent visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. However, Indian officials maintained that the visit of the Prime Minister was purely bilateral in nature. “We are not in the business of containment or encirclement. It does not make sense to hold relations with a country a hostage to another.”
In his departure statement, the Prime Minister described Japan as a ‘key regional and global partner for India’ and maintained that there is a growing congruence in the interests of both the countries. The visit will also allow the two governments to take stock of the progress in flagship projects such as the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor and the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.
Delhi-Mumbai Corridor is a mega infrastructure project of $90 billion, with financial & technical aid from Japan, covering an overall length of 1,483 km passing through the six States. Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) covers 2,762-km-long two routes — the Eastern Corridor from Ludhiana to Dankuni and the Western Corridor from Jawahar Lal Nehru Port at Nhava Sheva in Navi Mumbai to Tughlakabad, Delhi/Dadri. Japan is keen in promoting in bullet train project in India.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister will call on Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, who will host a lunch for him. The Emperor will be visiting India though the dates are yet to be worked out.
Dr. Singh will also attend a business luncheon hosted by Keidanren, the Japanese business federation representing over 1,200 companies, and later address a reception jointly hosted by the Japan-India Association, the Japan-India Parliamentary Friendship League and the Friendship Exchange Council.
Coinciding with the visit of the Prime Minister, the fourth meeting of the India-Japan Business Leaders Forum will take place on Wednesday. A joint statement will be presented Dr. Singh and Mr. Abe after the meeting with the members of the Forum.