Japan, India strengthen partnership with expanded Indo-Pacific talks
Japan and India launched a new “Indo-Pacific Dialogue” after a meeting in Tokyo in late March 2018, Kyodo News, a leading news agency in Japan, reported.
The discussions will build on strategic talks and bilateral public-private partnerships, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj announced at a joint news conference. (Pictured: Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, left, greets Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono before their meeting at the Foreign Ministry’s Iikura Annex in Tokyo, on March 29, 2018).
Before the announcement, Japan pledged loans of up to 187 billion yen (U.S. $1.7 billion) for various infrastructure projects in India, according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) website. JICA coordinates development assistance for Japan. This brings Japan’s total investment in India for the fiscal year ending at the end of March to 384.1 billion yen (U.S. $3.6 billion).
“A consensus between Japan and India on the economic front is important for the peace, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region,” Swaraj said at the news conference after the new loan notes were signed, according to Kyodo news.
“Japan has contributed to India’s nation building for many decades as a development partner … we will continue to actively support regional development, including by strengthening connectivity in the Indo-Pacific region,” Kono told reporters at the news conference.
The new projects include a subway system in Mumbai (100 billion yen or U.S. $940 million); roads in North East India near the border of Bangladesh, Bhutan and Burma (38 billion yen or U.S. $357 million); a desalination plant in Chennai in Tamil Nadu (30 billion yen or U.S. $282 million); and sustainable forestry projects in Himachal Pradesh, according to the JICA website.
In recent years, Japan and India have strengthened their economic and security ties to counter China’s mounting aggression, especially in the South and East China seas and Indian Ocean. In 2014, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi first pledged to create a “special strategic and global partnership” to unleash the “untapped potential of Asia’s two largest democracies,” Reuters reported.
Japanese investment in India has surged, making Tokyo its third-largest foreign direct investor, according to Forbes magazine. In the past decade, JICA has provided India with loans worth more than U.S. $25 billion at rates of 0.1 to 1.4 percent, repayable over 30 to 50 years, for infrastructure projects, according to a tally of JICA projects by FORUM.
A key partnership project launched in the past year is a U.S. $17 billion bullet train connecting Mumbai to Ahmedabad that is largely being funded by JICA loans, various news agencies reported. Japan’s Abe was there to see India’s Modi lay the first stone of line in September 2017, a couple of months after the two countries announced the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, which is a joint effort of Japan and India to bolster transportation infrastructure and development across Asia and Africa.
“This is the new India and the flight of its dreams is endless,” Modi said at the groundbreaking ceremony for the rail, according to The Guardian newspaper. “Japan has shown that it’s a true friend of India,” Modi said.