The determined effort by India and Japan to inject life into their bilateral relationship is showing positive results. The meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Japanese premier Yoshihiko Noda, the sixth of the annual India-Japan summits, is a marker of the steady progress. It yielded the first official confirmation since Japan's devastating tsunami-earthquake-Fukushima meltdown that the country has not shut the door on a civilian nuclear deal with India. While Mr. Noda stressed the importance of learning the right lessons from Japan's nuclear accident, it appears that negotiations on a deal to assist India develop peaceful nuclear energy will continue. His pledge of $4.5 billion over the next five years for the development of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, a commitment of financial assistance for two more infrastructure projects — Phase 3 of the Delhi Metro and a biodiversity conservation project in West Bengal — and his interest in sharing high-speed railway technology with India are significant. Japan's enhancement of its currency swap arrangement from $3 billion to $15 billion will help India better manage the rupee's slump against the dollar. This should also boost financial cooperation and economic and trade ties, which are currently far below potential. The Indian side wants more Japanese investment. For its part, Japan, which has just lifted a longstanding ban on the export of weapons, will be looking to sell defence hardware to New Delhi.
Prime Minister Noda's visit capped a year of intense bilateral activity. The Foreign Ministers held a strategic dialogue in October, followed by talks between the defence ministers. In February, the two sides signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement covering trade in goods as well as services; it came into effect in August. Earlier this month, India, Japan, and the United States held their first trilateral strategic dialogue. It is creditable that despite the political instability in Japan, and the scandal-induced paralysis in India, both countries managed to fit in these high-level exchanges. It is crucial that growing India-Japan ties are viewed independently of each country's relations with China. New Delhi and Beijing are engaged in improving relations at various levels, including trade, eventually aiming to amicably resolve the boundary question. China is Japan's biggest trading partner; the two have a bilateral trade of $340 billion that neither can afford to endanger. The fears expressed in a section of China's news media that Mr. Noda's visit is part of a “containment strategy” aimed at Beijing are needless. The Chinese government has done well to play them down.