It seems Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is all set to do a Narendra Modi on the Indian prime minister. Meaning if Modi can honour Abe with a roadshow in his hometown (which he did in Gandhinagar in Gujarat last year), Abe is going to go the extra mile when he hosts Modi on his two day working visit to Japan on October 28 and 29.
The extra mile is a visit to Yamanashi prefecture, a resort area south west of Tokyo, followed by a tour of a facility making autonomous systems, dinner at Abe’s home from where the host will personally escort his guest back to Tokyo in the ultimate of bullet train rides.
An indication of the personal touch PM Abe is planning to lend to PM Modi’s visit came earlier this week when Japan’s ambassador to India Kenji Hiramatsu told reporters: “PM Modi gave special attention to PM Abe’s visit to Gandhinagar. We appreciate this personal attention. And we too would like to give him personal attention. We too want to make it a very special occasion.”
Lest we get the impression Modi is on a pleasure trip, perish the thought. India’s Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale underscored this on Thursday: “This is all business with both leaders seeking to leverage their personal rapport and respective national strengths to mutual advantage,” he said.
Gokhale confirmed that top of the agenda is the Indo-Pacific and how to take their collaboration in this sensitive region forward. Also, how to build on the India Japan Africa Growth Corridor plan by possibly bringing in a third partner. The corridor is seen as a response to the China-driven development model where poor countries are burdened with high levels of debt.
Hiramatsu had earlier told reporters that Japan was “pleased to work with the Indian government and companies in Africa”. Speaking of a “free and open Indo-Pacific”, Hiramatsu had also noted that this region stretched from the eastern part of Asia to the eastern part of Africa. Japan also believes that there is convergence of views and approach to the Indo-Pacific where the two countries are concerned.
In Japan, the two prime ministers will kick off negotiations on the Acquisition & Cross Servicing Agreement, basically cooperation in providing logistics support to each other’s militaries. Incidentally, India and Japan are to hold their first joint army exercise in the Indian army’s jungle warfare school in Vairengte, Mizoram. The exercise ‘Dharma Guardian’ is to be held from November 1 to 14.
The two leaders will explore cooperation in military research and development with the focus on unmanned ground vehicles and robotics. Gokhale was non-committal on reports that India was interested in buying the US-2 amphibious plane or Japanese submarines.
Regarding the submarines, Hiramatsu had said earlier this week that the Japanese government has not yet “come to any decision regarding collaboration with India in the submarines sector”.
On the domestic front, India hopes to leverage Japan’s expertise in healthcare for Modi’s signature Ayushman Bharat scheme. Gokhale dismissed fears that land acquisition could set back the Ahmedabad-Mumbai high speed rail project and confirmed that a 190-km stretch of the western Dedicated Freight Corridor has opened. The remaining 490 km will be operational by 2020.
India will seek Japan’s help in developing infrastructure in the north-east. Gokhale said “specific projects had been identified including bridges, roads and for power generation.”
The first 25 teachers trained in the Japanese language had graduated two months ago with 1000 more to go. India had also dispatched to Japan the first batch of technically qualified interns trained at eight skills institutes set up with Japanese help. For more on Modi-Abe, Japan and India, watch this space.
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