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Dozen milestones on Japan roadmap

Tokyo, Dec. 15: India and Japan today unfolded a road map that both expect will transform the low-key relationship into a major strategic partnership.

The areas of cooperation to which both countries committed themselves in 12 agreements included trade and investment, technology, defence, infrastructure, energy and human resource development. What’s more, the countries laid out an action plan and agreed on creating structures that would implement the plans.

India, so far seen in Japan as the largest recipient of its Overseas Development Assistance, is now poised for a major partnership with Japan.

At their summit meeting here, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, announced a Japan-India Special Economic Partnership Initiative that would promote larger investment from Japan and help develop India’s infrastructure and manufacturing capacity.

The two leaders also decided to start immediate negotiations for the conclusion of a bilateral economic partnership agreement or a comprehensive economic partnership agreement.

In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the two Prime Ministers described their countries as “natural partners”. Singh said he was “deeply satisfied” with the outcome of his visit.

The specific projects and action plans include the Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Calcutta freight corridors, the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridors, the second phase of the Delhi Metro, the development and setting up of integrated transport projects that would connect railways to ports and airports and special economic zones, apart from increased Japanese participation in India’s capital market.

India will see Japanese automobile giants such as Suzuki, Honda, Nissan and Mitsui make major investments. Projects proposed by India for Japanese participation include the 4,000-mw coastal power project at Chayyur, Tamil Nadu, and the 3,000-mw Lohit hydroelectric project in Arunachal Pradesh.

At the functional level, the action plan is topped by the decision to hold annual summit-level meetings alternately in New Delhi and Tokyo as well as such meetings on the sidelines of multilateral events.

The Japanese Prime Minister will visit New Delhi next year. The two foreign ministers will head the strategic dialogue, while a regular “policy dialogue” will take pace between the Indian national security adviser and his Japanese counterpart.

The energy dialogue will be co-chaired by the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission and the Japanese minister for economy, trade and industry. A business leaders’ forum, with 10 members from each side, will supplement the official-level cooperation structures. A Japanese consulate in Bangalore is also among the new initiatives.

If the Japanese language has been a problem for Indian businessmen and professionals, the two sides decided to take care of it. Japan will assist India by setting up Japanese language teaching cells at the seven IITs and by establishing centres of Japanese studies at select Indian institutions and universities. Both sides want a pool of 30,000 Indian learners of Japanese at different levels by 2010.

Nalanda in Bihar, the ancient centre of Buddhist learning, will be revived with Japanese help as an international university.

Foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon called the joint statement “both a vision statement and an action plan”. The most significant thing, however, was both sides’ commitment to make the relationship “truly strategic”.

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