Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe will look at ways to enhance “multifaceted” relations between the two countries and carry forward their special strategic and global partnership when they meet for the annual Summit on Wednesday. Abe begins his two-day visit on Wednesday during which he and Modi will hold the 12th India-Japan annual Summit in Gujarat capital Gandhinagar. The summit takes place amid rising tension in the Far East after North Korea tested a hydrogen bomb, launched a ballistic missile over Japan, and the growing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea. This will be the fourth annual summit between Modi and Abe, during which the focus of talks is expected to be on trade, defence and infrastructure. The two leaders have met 10 times in the last three years, with the last being on the sidelines of the G20 Summit at Hamburg in July.
Prime Minister Modi had visited Japan in November last year while Abe visited India in December 2015. “The two leaders will review the recent progress in the multifaceted cooperation between India and Japan under the framework of their special strategic and global partnership and will set its future direction,” MEA said in a statement. On September 14, Abe will attend the ground breaking ceremony of the Mumbai-Ahemdabad high-speed railway, a flagship programme of the India-Japan collaboration, marking the commencement of the project, also known as bullet train project.
Through a video link, the two prime ministers will attend the ground-breaking ceremony of the ‘High-Speed Railway Training Institute’ being set up in Vadodara.
On the same day, the two sides will hold delegation level talks. Apart from attending a business plenary, the two leaders will also take a tour of Dandi Kutir in Gandhinagar, which is India’s largest museum showcasing the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. India-Japan ties are on an upswing in a range of areas, including defence and security. At their annual defence dialogue last week, the two countries had resolved to collaborate closely in defence production, including on dual use technology. When asked about the talks on defence between the two sides, Pranay Verma, joint secretary (East Asia), did not go into details, but noted that defence cooperation remains an area of priority between New Delhi and Tokyo. On being asked about the sale of amphibious aircraft ShinMaywa US-2 to India, Verma said, “I wouldn’t really venture into prejudging on what is going to be the outcome. Outcomes are under discussions right now and it won’t be proper for me to comment at this stage.”
Verma was responding to media queries at a briefing on Abe’s visit. Replying to a question on whether work on any project had commenced after the Indo-Japan civil nuclear cooperation deal came into force in July this year, Verma said it is for the two sides to start discussions to look at how to take this forward in a manner that contributes to India’s civil nuclear programme. The nuclear pact, signed in November 2016, is expected to help foreign players build atomic power reactors in India with equipment from Japan. Responding to a question on Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, Verma said, talks were going on and India was looking at collaboration with Japan in third countries. “This (the talks) is acquiring gradual maturity.” The initiative is not only being discussed between India and Japan, but also with third countries, Verma added.
Launched in May this year, the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) is an economic cooperation agreement between the governments of India and Japan. Verma said development in northeast India is an area where the two nations have agreed to cooperate. “Discussions are clearly to begin in depth….what kind of projects and what sectors…it will be in consultation with the stakeholders, with the concerned departments of government of India as well as the northeastern states. That is still a work in progress,” he said. Replying to a question on the comments of Japanese envoy to India on freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea, Verma did not give a direct answer.
He said the previous joint statements by the two countries clearly articulated the views of both. India has been a strong votary of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and maintains that the dispute should be resolved according to the United Nations Convention of Law of Sea (UNCLOS).