India and Japan will hold their second 2 + 2 dialogue on Monday in Tokyo involving the Foreign and Defence Secretaries of both sides in the run-up to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Japan in mid-November, say government sources.
India employs the 2 + 2 format only with Japan to address cross-cutting security and foreign policy issues such as maritime security, cyber security and space, which will be the focus areas during the visit by Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma.
The maiden 2 + 2 India-Japan interaction was held in July 2010. The intention was to make it an annual event but the meeting could not be held last year due to scheduling problems.
After holding the 2 + 2, the two Secretaries will peel off to hold more specialised interactions. Mr. Mathai will first hold Foreign Office Consultations, which will be followed by consultations with the Japanese Vice Foreign Minister. Separately, Mr. Sharma will co-chair the India-Japan Defence Policy Dialogue.
The Foreign Office consultations will focus on the deliverables that could emerge from next month’s meeting between Dr. Singh and his Japanese counterpart, Yoshihiko Noda. They will also review and suggest course-corrections, if any, of several ongoing mega projects such as the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) and the Dedicated Freight Corridor besides exchanging views on the Japanese Overseas Development Assistance component, a big chunk of which accrues annually to India.
The meeting will also consider the political aspects of the relationship by discussing the possibility of the Japanese Defence and Foreign Ministers paying return visits to India. India is aware of the elections announced in Japan but would still like some clarity on such visits.
And, Commerce Secretary S.R. Rao is already in Tokyo for a review of the India-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. Secretary of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion Saurabh Chandra too is in Japan as the head of the inter-Ministerial DMIC Task Force.
Their visits were preceded by the second India-Japan Energy Dialogue this year, which was headed from the Indian side by Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia. One of the major decisions taken at the interaction was the resolve expressed by both countries to end the liquefied natural gas (LNG) discriminatory pricing formula for Asian countries vis-à-vis European nations.
Japan, the largest LNG consumer in the world, and India, the fifth largest, are upset that most of the LNG from the Gulf, mainly Qatar and Oman, is sold to the West at half the price at which it is sold to Asian countries. “It will be a big achievement even if we manage to reduce the gas price for Asian countries like ours by 20 per cent,” say government sources.
While the Prime Minister’s visit is the ostensible reason for the flurry of high-level meetings, a government source said India was hoping for some Japanese investment and projects to flow towards India due to Tokyo’s tension with Beijing.
At the same time, the source pointed out that though the previous Tokyo visit by Dr. Singh in 2010 also took place at the time of China-Japan tensions, all deliverables announced at that time were largely driven by economic consideration rather than geo-political tensions.
Another source was pessimistic about civil nuclear talks with Japan making progress even though other joint initiatives have taken off. “We are badly stuck on a couple of points because of the situation post-Fukushima. There are some initiatives that the ruling Democratic Party of Japan just cannot take,” he said.
Manmohan scheduled to visit Japan in mid-November
India hoping for Japanese investment and projects