NATIONAL

Malabar drills aim at giving regional security, says Japan

Better bonding:Kenji Hiramatsu said his country’s relations with India had a solid base.S.R. Raghunathan

Better bonding:Kenji Hiramatsu said his country’s relations with India had a solid base.S.R. Raghunathan  

The trilateral Naval exercise, Malabar 2017, involving India, the U.S. and Japan, is strategically very important and meant to maintain the rule of law and maritime security in the region, Japanese Ambassador to India, Kenji Hiramatsu said on Friday.

In an interview to The Hindu , Mr Hiramatsu said, “This is very significant politically and [of] very symbolic value that the three countries are working together to safeguard the rule of law and maritime security in this region.”

Earlier this week, Indian and U.S. Naval officials had said the exercise was not aimed at China in the light of Beijing’s repeated concerns about the joint exercises.

The Ambassador said his country’s relations with India had a solid base, “for safeguarding peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region” adding that there could be more exchanges involving ground and air forces and an exchange of personnel in various areas.

Cooperation in Africa

Asked whether the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor project — envisaging an India-Japan collaboration in Africa — was to counter China’s Belt and Road project, the Ambassador said it was not aimed at any specific initiative.

“Our Prime Minister [Shinzo Abe] had already said it [Asia-Africa Growth Corridor] was for a free and open Indo-Pacific region and to make this region more inter-connected and prosperous. We are not particularly counter-balancing to some initiative. We are convinced this initiative is important for prosperity and security of this region,” he said.

Concrete plans

On whether India and Japan would take up specific pilot projects in Africa, the Ambassador said there was a “good win-win situation”.

“We think that India has vast experience, network in eastern part of Africa. We have good technology and financing to support African development,” Mr Hiramatsu said, adding that Japan has been working with Indian officials and businessmen for “a concrete development plan” in Africa.

On the next steps in the on the civil nuclear agreement, signed between the two countries last year, given the Diet’s approval of the pact recently, the Ambassador expressed the hope that there would be discussion “in due course of time.”

Happy with GST

Mr. Hiramatsu said the political situation was stable in India and this was one of the attractions for Japanese investors.

The Ambassador added that Japanese investors in India were “very happy” with roll out of the GST. “We were waiting for this for many years. This is very good for facilitating smooth transportation from one State to another and it is a very simple tax system,” he said.

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