M.J. Akbar, Minister of State for External Affairs, said Prime Minister’s Visit to Japan on 11-12 November 2016 for Annual Summit meeting with Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe has cemented the bilateral ties and upgraded relations.
This was Prime Minister Modi’s second visit to Japan, the first being in August-September 2014. During that visit the two sides had upgraded bilateral relationship to Special Strategic and Global Partnership.
Since then the two sides have moved purposefully to infuse greater content and substance to bilateral partnership. During the visit of Prime Minister, visible progress was achieved across the three pillars of bilateral engagement namely, strategic, economic and people-to-people. Ten agreements covering diverse fields of engagement were signed during the visit.
Prime Minister’s programme included an audience with the Emperor; interaction with business leaders; bilateral discussions with Prime Minister Abe in delegation as well as restricted format; signing and witnessing of bilateral agreements; Joint Press Statement with PM Abe; official Banquet; visit to Kobe to see Kawasaki High Speed Rail facility; official lunch by PM Abe in Kobe; and address to Indian community in Kobe.
During Prime Minister’s interaction with captains of industries of two countries, there was appreciation for the reform process unleashed by the Government to facilitate ‘Make in India’. Japanese industrialists were particularly appreciative of the recent legislative initiatives such as GST, Bankruptcy law and other measures, including by various State Governments, to enhance ease of doing business. While conveying their desire to enhance investment in India, the Japanese business leaders requested PM for further liberalization of investment policies and simplification of taxation and administrative processes.
Prime Minister, in his address to the business leaders of Japan, urged them to seize the opportunities offered by India. He conveyed his determination to persevere with the reform process to make India an even better destination to do business.
Prime Minister’s discussions with Prime Minister Abe were wide ranging and covered bilateral, regional and international issues. As a special gesture, Prime Minister Abe travelled together with Prime Minister on Shinkansen High Speed Train to visit Kawasaki High Speed Rail facility in Kobe. Prime Minister Abe spent about 9 hours during a crucial Diet (Parliament) session with Prime Minister Modi, which conveys the importance that PM Abe attached to the visit.
During discussions, Japanese side was sensitized of our concerns on cross-border terrorism. Prime Minister Abe condemned terrorism in strongest terms in all its forms and manifestations in the spirit of zero tolerance. He joined Prime Minister in calling on all countries to implement the UNSC Resolution 1267 and other relevant resolutions designating terrorist entities.
A call was issued for elimination of terrorist safe havens and infrastructure. All countries were urged to deal effectively with trans-national terrorism emanating from their territory and to stop cross-border movement of terrorists. PM Abe along with Prime Minister called upon Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of terrorist attacks, including November 2008 Mumbai attack and 2016 Pathankot attack, to justice.
A significant outcome of the visit was signing of the Agreement on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. This agreement opens up new avenues of civil nuclear energy cooperation with international partners. This will help rapidly expand the non-fossil fuel segment of energy production and contribute to India’s keeping its commitments under the Paris Agreement.
The Agreement is the first of its kind that Japan has signed with a non-signatory to the NPT and underlines international recognition of our responsible record. It has taken six years of negotiations and is the product of work spanning two Governments. The basic features are similar to those of civil nuclear cooperation agreement we have concluded with other partners and include reprocessing consent and administrative arrangements. It has a termination clause that is not new and is in fact almost identical to the provision in the US Agreement.
India appreciates the special sensitivities of Japan on nuclear issues. It was felt that a note on views expressed by the Japanese side in the above context, could be recorded. Such a record, to be balanced, also needs an accurate depiction of India’s position. The ‘Note on Views and Understanding’ reiterates the commitments that India made in September 2008. No change is envisaged from those commitments and no additional commitments have been made by India. The Agreement also focuses more heavily on modern safety in the light of Japan’s experiences 2011.
The other significant achievement of the visit was initiation of a Manufacturing Skill Transfer Promotion Programme. It is first of a kind arrangement in India, which is aimed at bridging a skill gap in high tech manufacturing in India. Under this programme, Japan-India Institute of Manufacturing (JIM) will be set up to train 30,000 Indian youth over 10 years in floor shop engineering skills. In addition, Japanese endowment courses will be instituted in select engineering and technology colleges of India.
Coupled with Japan’s earlier commitment of 3.5 trillion Yen Investment Promotion Partnership of September 2014 and 1.5 trillion Yen Make in India finance facility of December 2015, this skill development programme could be an effective game changer in augmenting manufacturing in India. It would also help to better integrate India in global supply chains.
There was appreciation of progress in carrying forward the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail project. It was agreed that the construction of the High Speed Rail line will commence in 2018 and it will become operational in 2023. The importance of skill transfer, technological upgradation and technology localization was emphasised. The implementation of the first High Speed Rail line will be important marker for any future High Speed Rail projects.
The two Prime Ministers reviewed the defence and security cooperation and expressed satisfaction at broad basing and deepening of this cooperation. They felt that India-Japan relationship is one of the key relationships of 21st century, which will play a critical role in ensuring peace, stability and prosperity in the region. There was mutual understanding on enhancing cooperation in infrastructure building including through Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA). In view of the enhanced mutual trust and understanding, the two Prime Ministers agreed to explore possibility of ODA driven cooperation with other partner countries in trilateral format.
The importance of investing in people for a durable partnership was emphasised. PM Abe conveyed his intention to enhance tourism cooperation through liberalization and facilitation of visa. He also offered greater scholarship and internship opportunities for Indian youth. Both sides agreed to further strengthen cooperation in science & technology including through collaborative projects. One area which was of importance is joint projects in stem cell using iPS technology of Nobel Laureate Prof. Yamanaka, which holds promise for treating genetic disorders prevalent in Indian tribal belts. It was agreed to mark 2017 as the Year of Friendly Exchanges.
Overall, the visit was a success. It achieved concrete outcomes, strengthening the three pillars of bilateral relations in a balanced manner. The excellent personal rapport that Prime Minster enjoys with PM Abe helped in advancing areas of mutual interest, said the minister in his statement made in the Rajya Sabha.