Business mantra on his lips, Abe heads to India

Monday, 20 August 2007, 07:00 Hrs
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New Delhi: India and Japan are set to energise their business and strategic ties to craft a new Asian order during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's three-day visit that begins Tuesday.

Abe, whose weeklong tour that will also take him to Malaysia and Indonesia, comes here after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Tokyo in December 2006. Accompanying him are 243 executives from companies including Toyota Motors Corp and Canon.

Abe's return visit to India in less than a year symbolises new energy in the growing ties between the two Asian powers.

Although the 52-year-old comes to India at a time when his political stock has taken a beating after losing the July 29 polls, the broad contours of his foreign policy remains very much the same, with its focus on creating a pivotal place for Japan in Asia where India and China are seen as major rising powers.

From India's point of view, Abe comes at an opportune time when New Delhi is running against time to get the much-needed backing of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for its path-breaking nuclear deal with the US.

Incidentally, Abe will be the first head of government of an NSG country to come to India after it finalised a civil nuclear cooperation pact with the US.

When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets Abe Wednesday, he is sure to seek Tokyo's support in NSG that will re-open doors of global nuclear commerce for New Delhi, official sources told IANS.

Although Abe will be cautious given Japan's sensitivity on the nuclear issue, he may offer assurance to the Indian prime minister privately about Tokyo's support for the nuclear deal in the NSG, informed sources said.

In a special gesture that will underline the new warmth in India-Japan ties, Abe will address the joint session of the Indian parliament Wednesday.

In a way, India will be reciprocating the special welcome that was accorded to Manmohan Singh who addressed the joint session of the Japanese parliament last year - a stirring address that earned him a standing ovation from Japanese MPs who are otherwise known for their frosty reserve.

Nuclear discussions apart, boosting business ties and making real the promise of more Japanese investment in India that is trickling in slowly will also figure in the talks.

At least 100 top corporate honchos representing names like Mitsui, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Honda and Orix are expected to accompany Abe - strong evidence that Japan Inc had finally turned its gaze on the booming Indian economy and a cash-rich middle class.

This new economic focus on India will be crystallised in the $90 billion Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor that will span an area of 1,483 km and encompass diverse sectors such as roads, ports, industrial parks and SEZs. Abe is likely to announce a Japanese contribution of around $250 million project development fund for the corridor.

The visit is also expected to provide a fresh thrust to the negotiations between the two sides to conclude a comprehensive economic partnership agreement that will multiply their bilateral trade manifold.

Japan will offer around 400 billion yen ($3.44 billion) in low-interest loans as official development aid (ODA) to help fund the construction of a freight line between New Delhi and Mumbai as part of the industrial corridor project, the Sankei Shimbun, a Japanese daily, reported this week.

The two sides will also focus on expanding strategic cooperation on issues like UN reforms, the East Asian Community and the quadrilateral dialogue, comprising India, US, Australia and Japan that held their inaugural meet in Manila in May.

Abe's visit will also highlight the shared Buddhist heritage and the desire of both countries to expand educational linkages.

Abe will be accompanied by vice-chancellors of 12 leading Japanese universities and top academics who will hold talks with their Indian counterparts on starting exchange programmes and research projects between the two countries.

The Japanese leader goes to Kolkata Thursday where he is likely to meet relatives of Indian independence hero Subhas Chandra Bose, who sought Japanese help to liberate India during World War II.

He will also meet the son of Radha Binodbihari Pal, the sole dissenting judge in the Allied Tribunal that condemned many Japanese leaders for wartime crimes.

In his dissenting judgment, Pal had rejected the authority of the tribunal, calling it a "sham employment of legal process for the satisfaction of a thirst for revenge".

"Justice Pal is someone who is associated with Japan. I am looking forward to meeting him to ask about his father," Abe told reporters recently in Tokyo.
Source: IANS
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