New Delhi: India and Japan on Saturday inked a number of key agreements ranging from defence, nuclear energy and transportation. One of the pacts was on India’s first bullet train network, which will come up between Mumbai and Ahmedabad at a cost of Rs 98,000 crore.
The strategic pacts were signed after the summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart, Mr Shinzo Abe. They also discussed international and regional issues of mutual importance, including UN Security Council reforms.
After the talks, Mr Modi also announced that “recognising our special relationship, India will extend visa on arrival to all Japanese citizens from 1st March 2016”.
“No friend will matter more in realising India’s economic dreams than Japan,” Mr Modi said, describing Mr Abe as “a personal friend and a great champion of India-Japan partnehip”.
On his part, Mr Abe said, “We have taken [our] relationship to [a] new level and buds have turned into blossom.”
The pacts between the two countries are expected to pave the way for the sale of Japanese defence equipment to India, including the much-sought-after US-2 amphibian aircraft. Both the countries vowed deeper military cooperation, especially in the maritime sphere. India also announced that Japan will be a partner in Malabar naval exercises, taking it from a bilateral naval exercise with the US to a trilateral level on a permanent basis.
In a crucial development, the two countries signed an broadbased MoU for cooperation on civil nuclear energy. This is the first time that Japan has inked such an MoU with any non-NPT (Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty) signatory country.
An agreement on security measures for the protection of classified military information and an amendment protocol of double taxation avoidance agreement were among 16 pacts signed by the two sides.
Briefing the media, foreign secretary S. Jaishankar said that they have reached a substantive agreement on the Indo-Japan nuclear deal and only legal scrubbing was to be taken into consideration. “I would hesitate to put up a timeline because I am not conversant with the Japanese internal procedures and their timelines. But the fact that we have concluded negotiations, the two Prime Ministers have signed the memorandum speaks for itself,” Mr Jaishankar said.
He added that the “Japanese side was assured of the efficacy of the liability solutions that we have found earlier. They have seen that the liability regime is working today. Other producers are satisfied that there is a credible market-based mechanism which will address industry concerns.”
“We have put the NPT issue behind us with Japan’s help in 2008 when the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group decided to make an exception for India and Japan supported making that exception,” Mr Jaishankar said. He pointed out that the “world today accepts that the NPT was a product of a particular time and a particular situation and, sometimes, there are some realities that you need to address which have happened subsequently.” The foreign secretary went on to say that “if the record of the country is responsible and their need is serious, if they have been credible in implementing their commitments, all these have led different countries to consider the need for making exceptions. So, I don’t think the NPT is a particular obstacle to this negotiation.”
While the countries “in principle” agreed on cooperation in civil nuclear energy, Japan also cautioned India that it will be “quite natural” for it to review its cooperation if New Delhi goes for a nuclear test. However, Japan asserted that it does not see India moving in that direction.
In a joint statement issued by the two countries, Mr Modi and Mr Abe welcomed the cooperation agreement and confirmed that it will be signed after the technical details are finalised, including those related to the necessary internal procedures.
The bullet train network will link the country’s financial hub, Mumbai, with Ahmedabad in Mr Modi’s home state, Gujarat. The train will cut travel time on the 505-km route from eight hours to around three.
The Indian Navy was keen on acquiring the amphibian aircraft, which will be a boost to its capacity. This, incidentally, could possibly be a “Make in India” project, following technology transfer from Japan.
To support the “Make in India” initiative, Japan has created a fund of about $12 billion which will be provided to Japanese companies for manufacturing in India. Japan has also pledged $5 billion as part of its overseas development assistance to India.
The two leaders also expressed their concern about the growing threat and “universal reach of extremism” and reiterated their strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations with “zero tolerance”. Japan also decided to provide opportunity to 10,000 young Indian youth in Japan under a student exchange programme.
Describing the defence pacts as “decisive steps in our security cooperation”, Mr Modi said they “will deepen” defence relations and promote defence manufacturing in India. Japan is also looking at an over-Rs 60,000-crore project initiated by India to build six more conventional submarines.
Both the Prime Ministers welcomed Japan’s participation in the Malabar Exercises on a regular basis, as it would help create stronger capabilities to deal with maritime challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, including through enhanced disaster response and mitigation capacity.
Japanese government press secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura replied in the negative when asked if the closer military cooperation was aimed at China, with which Japan is involved in a territorial dispute in the South China Sea. The Japanese official indicated that both the leaders did raise the South China Sea issue and called upon all states to avoid unilateral actions that could lead to tensions in the region.
- Rs 98,000 crore: Projected cost of first bullet train network between Mumbai-Ahmedabad.
- $12 billion fund created by Japan to support “Make in India” initiative.
On the defence
- Transfer of defence equipment and technology
- Security measures for protection of classified military information and many more
All clear for nuclear
- Japan provides a third alternative in terms of nuclear reactors to India.
- At present India uses obsolete Russian nuclear technology and expensive European pressurised reactors from French manufacturer Areva.
- Japan backs India's membership in the dual-use technology denial regimes. This will lead to easier access to uranium