M A I N   N E W S

Japan visit quest for East: PM
A. J. Philip
Tribune News Service

Tokyo, December 13
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived here this evening on a four-day visit, billed as one of the most ambitious in terms of strengthening bilateral relations between the two large democracies in Asia.

Breaking protocol for a late evening arrival, he was received at Tokyo International Airport, Haneda, by Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso. The visit, rich in economic, political and defence content, is slated to take India-Japan relations to a new high.

Before his departure for Tokyo, the Prime Minister described his visit as "part of the increasing eastern orientation of the India's foreign policy and our quest for greater engagement with countries in the larger East Asia region".

He said in the evolving regional and international environment, India and Japan increasingly found that their long-term political, economic and strategic content were converging.

"Today our bilateral relations are poised to enter a new and dynamic phase, driven by a shared desire to enhance the bilateral relationship.

"I will have the opportunity to discuss with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ways to reinforce the strategic focus on our global partnership, to move to a more comprehensive economic engagement and to develop mutually beneficial cooperation over the entire range of the relationship, including security and terrorism, energy, transport, science and technology and culture", Dr Manmohan Singh said.

Talking to the mediapersons accompanying the Prime Minister aboard Air-India One, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan said the Prime Minister's visit was aimed at strengthening the bilateral relations. It had political, economic and defence-related components which would together enhance the relationship and take it to a higher level.

He recalled what he described as the recent path-breaking visit of Pranab Mukherjee to Japan and said short of a military alliance or grouping, India and Japan would do everything possible to strengthen their defence relations.

The defence forces of the two countries of late have been conducting joint exercises to learn from each other. Be it on safeguarding the sea coast or countering terrorism or fighting piracy, India and Japan have been joining hands as they share many things in common like adherence to non-proliferation and a firm faith in democracy.

Mr Narayanan was hopeful that Japan, which is a member of the Nuclear Suppliers' Group, would support the Indo-US civil nuclear deal.

Prime Minister's Principal Secretary M.K.A. Nair admitted that the Indo-Japanese trade was a fraction of the Sino-Japanese trade but hoped that the Prime Minister's visit would give it a big boost. During the last one year, a large number of trade delegations from Japan have visited India.

The Japanese Economic and Trade Organisation (JETRO) has set up its office in Delhi. The fully-functional India-Japan Study Group has already suggested several ways in which the relationship could be fortified. Its recommendations will go a long way in facilitating greater Japanese investment in India.

Mr Nair said lack of adequate infrastructure was a factor impeding Japanese investments in India. He said the two sides were exploring ways in which this problem could be addressed. In this context, he said the Japanese had suggested the idea of setting up a industrial corridor along the Mumbai-Delhi freight corridor. The Japanese would also like India to set up special economic zones, which would attract more foreign direct investment.

He said the idea was in a formative stage and there was the possibility that the Prime Minister would take it forward when he holds talks with his counterpart. He said the Japanese had shown readiness to support India in infrastructural growth as was manifest in the investment Japan made in the Delhi Metro project.

Mr Nair said a large number of Japanese companies had shown interest in either strengthening their presence in India or setting up new ventures there. Indian information technology companies had also established a presence in Japan. All this, he said, would get a boost with the ongoing visit of the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister who is accompanied by his wife has a busy schedule in Japan. Japan's Foreign Minister and the Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry are slated to hold talks with the Prime Minister tomorrow morning. He will also be given a ceremonial welcome at the official residence of Prime Minister Abe.

The Prime Minister and Ms Gursharan Kaur will also call on the Emperor and the Empress at Imperial Palace. In the afternoon the same day, he will address the joint session of Diet (Japanese Parliament) and inaugurate the Festival of India in Japan.

Officials accompanying the Prime Minister on this trip include Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and Commerce Secretary G.K. Pillai.

Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath, who arrived early in the morning today had wide ranging discussions with Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Akira Aman.

The two ministers signed a memorandum of understanding for upgrading the existing Japan-India dialogue to the level of ministers from the existing official level. This was a reaffirmation of the growing economic engagement between the two countries. The first meeting of the dialogue, to be chaired by Mr Kamal Nath and Mr Akira Amari, will be held in New Delhi soon.

A major understanding reached was with regard to developing an industrial corridor along the Delhi-Mumbai freight corridor. The industrial corridor will have several supporting infrastructure projects such as power facilities, rail connectivity to ports enroute and will also cover development of ports on the west coast of India.

Along this corridor several industrial estates and clusters with high quality infrastructure are proposed to be developed to attract more investment, including from Japan.

The two ministers also agreed that the first meeting of the negotiating group on signing an economic partnership agreement between the two countries should be held very soon.



HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |