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Abe presents vision of a ‘broader Asia’

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Closer alignments: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari at the Parliament House complex in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Closer alignments: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari at the Parliament House complex in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Sandeep Dikshit

Addressing Parliamentarians, he calls on India to contribute to make it a reality

NEW DELHI: Seven years after Bill Clinton spoke in Parliament to a tumultuous reception, it was the turn of another overseas head of state, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to address a joint session of Parliament during which he set out his vision of a “Broader Asia” with India as a prominent participant.

Speaking in the Central Hall of Parliament on Wednesday, Mr. Abe called on India to contribute to the concept’s success by aligning more closely with Japan on a range of issues.

In pursuit of the “Broader Asia” concept, Japan is promoting several other concepts. One of them, in which India would be a crucial element, is building an “arc of freedom and prosperity” along the outer rim of the Euroasian continent. Freedom, democracy and the respect for basic human rights would be the common fundamental values of all participating countries.

(Mr. Abe’s close aide had said on Tuesday that China needed to work more on the democracy and human rights fronts.)

In case Japan and India come together in a strategic relationship, Mr. Abe felt the “Broader Asia” concept would then span the entire Pacific Ocean along with two non-Asian entities, U.S. and Australia.

In addition, India and Japan must join forces with “like-minded countries” to ensure the security of sea-lanes through which most of the world’s trade in oil passes. His reiteration of the idea comes a fortnight before five countries — India, the U.S., Australia, Singapore and Japan — will hold the biggest-ever naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal.

The Japanese Prime Minister also spoke of a post-Kyoto protocol arrangement — “Cool Earth 50” — that would attempt to reconcile the viewpoints of developed and developing countries in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by the year 2050. The Kyoto protocol has had little success with the European Union unilaterally undertaking cuts in greenhouse emissions and the north and the south differing over the methodology for such cuts.

Urging a quick sealing of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with India in order to quadruple bilateral trade in three years, Mr. Abe said Japan would be involved in different ways in India’s mega infrastructure projects — financially in the rail freight corridor projects and help in finding funding for the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor in which one freight corridor will be the backbone.

With the previous Prime Ministerial agreement to train 30,000 Indians in Japanese language becoming a non-starter, Mr. Abe offered to host 500 youth of which 100 will study or teach Japanese. “This is not only an investment for the two countries but also for the future of ‘Broader Asia’,” he said.

Pointing out that the Japanese were enamoured of Indian dance forms, especially Bharatanatyam and Kathak, in which the contrasts of the static and the dynamic are lively and the breathing of the dancers and musicians perfectly match the rhythms, Mr. Abe hoped that India and Japan too would exhibit this type of perfect match.

Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee underlined the commonalities between the two countries, including a shared cultural past, since the 6th century, intensive economic and literary exchanges and the commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Welcoming Mr. Abe, Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari hoped that the strategic and global partnership envisaged by both countries would help them realise Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision of a resurgent Asia in which the continent takes “her rightful place with the other continents.”

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