Japan ignoring potential India offers: Singapore PM

By agencies   |   Wednesday, 25 May 2005, 07:00 Hrs
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TOKYO: Japan is lagging behind China and Southeast Asian nations in developing ties with India, which is becoming a key player in the region, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

"Within Asia, India is a key player which is opening up to the world, and which can potentially play as large a role as China," Lee told a forum in Tokyo hosted by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun business daily.

Lee said that India's economic ties were growing with both the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as China and that momentum was building within India to reform its formerly state-directed economy.

But "the links between Japan and India are not fully developed," Lee said on Wednesday.

"Psychologically, many Japanese companies think of India as a far away and unfamiliar country. But India presents opportunities that are not to be missed," he said.

He said ASEAN, which includes Singapore, could serve as "the bridge" between Japan and India due to its geographical proximity and cultural connections.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi traveled in April to India saying he wanted to "strongly emphasize that India has Japan as a friend in Asia."

His visit to India, a fellow candidate for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, came as Japan's relations with China have hit rock bottom.

Koizumi called for a boost in trade between Japan and India, which now stands at $4.4 billion, but which India's Commerce Minister Kamal Nath said should be able to hit $10 billion in three years.

But that does not compare with trade between India and China. Despite going to war in 1962 the world's two most populous nations now conduct $13.6 billion of trade a year and have called for a boost to $30 billion by 2010.

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