With economics and Asian vision, Manmohan begins Japan visit
By Manish Chand,
Tokyo, Dec 13 (IANS) Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh began his four-day visit to Japan Wednesday on an upbeat note with the two Asian powers agreeing to develop an industrial corridor connecting Delhi and Mumbai and resolving to take their ties to a new level of strategic partnership.
Ahead of Manmohan Singh's talks with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe Friday, India also appeared optimistic about winning Japan's support for its quest for global civil nuclear cooperation at the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) of which Tokyo is an influential member.
Manmohan Singh arrived here in the evening to the beckoning lights of this vibrant metropolis and was received at the Haneda airport by Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso.
What imbues Manmohan Singh's visit with historical significance is the determination of Asia's leading economies to forge strategic ties in the context of an emerging Asian architecture.
Manmohan Singh's visit is expected to "reinforce the strategic focus" of a growing global partnership between India and Japan as part of "increasing eastern orientation" of New Delhi's foreign policy.
"I will have the opportunity to discuss with Prime Minister Abe ways to reinforce the strategic focus in our global partnership, to move to a more comprehensive economic engagement and to develop mutually beneficial cooperation over the entire range of relationships, including security and terrorism, energy, transport, science and technology and culture," Manmohan Singh said in New Delhi before leaving for Tokyo.
Japan, on its part, is impressed by the "dynamism and energy of India" in the words of Abe and is leaving no stone unturned to make the Manmohan Singh-Abe summit Friday a big success.
From New Delhi's point of view, getting Tokyo's support at the NSG and attracting Japanese investment in infrastructure will be of crucial importance.
"Japan understands our needs for nuclear energy. Japan would not be unwilling to support us at the Nuclear Suppliers Group," National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan told reporters in a mid-air press conference aboard Air India One.
"This is going to be one of important issues the prime minister will be discussing with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Friday," he stressed.
Japan is the first NSG member Manmohan Singh is visiting after the US Congress enacted a landmark legislation approving civil nuclear cooperation with India.
Getting Tokyo's support - the only country to be attacked by nuclear weapons and known for its uncompromising views on non-proliferation - will be a tough call for New Delhi, but if one goes by recent statements of the Japanese foreign ministry, it is very likely that Tokyo will not be an obstacle to India at the NSG.
A clutch of agreements in the economic field and stepping up of people-to-people and cultural contacts, including one for more direct flights between New Delhi and Tokyo, are likely to be signed during the visit.
Manmohan Singh will Thursday address a joint session of Diet, the Japanese parliament - a rare honour for visiting foreign dignitaries - and launch the Festival of India here later in the evening.
The efforts of the Asian powers to boost trade and investment between them received an added impetus Wednesday with India reaching an understanding with Japan on developing a Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor.
India and Japan also agreed that the first meeting of the negotiating group on signing an economic partnership agreement (EPA) between the two countries should be held very soon. Besides trade in goods and services, the EPA would also include investment promotion and intellectual property rights.
The proposed industrial corridor will be developed along the Delhi-Mumbai multi-modal freight route and will be equipped with an array of infrastructural facilities such as power facilities, rail connectivity to ports en route and development of ports on the western coast of India.
An understanding on the industrial corridor was reached after Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath held wide-ranging talks with Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Akira Amari Wednesday.