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Speech by Foreign Secretary at the India-Japan Colloquium in New Delhi (September 08, 2017)

September 08, 2017

  • It is a great pleasure to join you all this morning at the India-Japan Colloquium. As we await the arrival of Prime Minister Abe to India for a bilateral visit in just a few days, today’s colloquium provides an appropriate forum to deliberate on the increasingly substantive and significant India-Japan relationship.
  • The last few years have seen an impressive expansion and deepening of our ‘Special Strategic and Global Partnership’ with Japan. Shared values of openness, democracy and respect for the rule of law combine with convergence of political, economic and strategic interests to create an enduring basis for this stronger partnership. They consequently encourage us to explore our mutual complementarities more effectively and imaginatively than in the past.
  • Japan is one of the few countries with which we have an annual summit at the leadership level. Prime Ministers Modi and Abe have I believe met nine times in the last three years on different occasions. The personal chemistry between them has injected new vigour in this relationship and imparted it greater momentum.
  • Today, the two countries clearly see each other much more strategically. This is expressed through a wide range of contacts and activities, including in areas that are relatively new. Obviously, India’s accelerated economic growth provides new business opportunities for Japanese companies. But the logic of our current cooperation is much deeper. A broader modernization of the Indian economy and society is very much in Japan’s larger interest. This would help create a more multi-polar Asia that, in turn, enables a more multi-polar world. From India’s perspective, as the first successful modernizing example in Asia, Japan offers capabilities and practices that are particularly relevant to India at this juncture. It can also appreciate India’s approach and objectives better than most. This empathy and mutuality has helped to fashion what is truly emerging as one of the more important bilateral relationships in the world.
  • Indian flagship initiatives such as Make in India, Digital India, Skill India and Startup India provide significant new opportunities for further collaboration between the businesses of India and Japan. There is immense potential for Japan's technology, best practices and resources being harnessed to accelerate India’s growth. The enthusiasm of Japanese businesses is reflected in their growing presence in India and in the expansion of their activities. Both sides recognize that they need to devote more attention to continuously improve the enabling environment for Japanese companies to operate in India. While making it easier to do business will itself make an impact, in the case of Japan, it is also important to focus on issues like language, work culture, training and quality of life for expatriates.
  • The role of Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA) in expediting the rapid modernization of other Asian nations in the last many decades is well known. Its relevance to constructing a more efficient infrastructure is particularly noteworthy. In that context, we should recognize the growing significance of the expanded ODA relationship between India and Japan. It definitely plays an important role in accelerating our infrastructure construction. But harmonizing the ODA projects with Japanese investments in India can really help realize the full value of these efforts.
  • Japan is already working with India in priority infrastructure in India like the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor and various Metro Rail projects. The Chennai-Bangalore Industrial Corridor is the next one on the horizon. The flagship project of our relationship, of course, is the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Railway. While all these projects have their own direct economic implications, let me underline that their impact on our overall thinking is perhaps even more important. My generation will recall how much the arrival of the Maruti-Suzuki cars changed not just our way of life but our expectations and assumptions as well. The next one probably feels somewhat the same about the Delhi Metro Rail project. I am confident that the repercussions of the introduction of Shinkansen technology and operations would be even more profound.
  • Even as Japan is working with us as a valued partner in India’s economic transformation, both countries also cooperate with greater ease in international relations. They realize the importance of shaping Asia’s architecture while promoting its growth, development, and stability. As a result, our conversations have got more comfortable on a much broader range of issues. From just comparing notes, we have now moved on to explore the possibilities of collaborating on projects in third countries. Much work awaits us in that regard.
  • The agenda for India-Japan relations has elements today that could not have been contemplated some years ago, certainly not when I had the privilege to serve in Tokyo two decades ago. Cooperation in civil nuclear energy and in defence are two domains that portend the future direction of our ties. The difference that Japan can make to our nuclear industry can be quite substantive. Japan’s openness to supply India with military technology reflects the high level of confidence that the two countries have developed in each other.
  • The growing convergence of views between Japan and India has the capacity to drive Asia’s economy and development and stimulate the global growth. In this regard, the two countries have agreed to cooperate closely to promote connectivity, infrastructure and capacity-building in the regions that occupy the inter-linked waters of the Indo-Pacific. It is obvious that their interaction now has a significance beyond the bilateral. The Asia-Africa Growth Corridor is just one example.
  • Drawing on all these factors, India and Japan stand ready to move their relationship forward with determination. Prime Minister Abe’s forthcoming visit will present an occasion to demonstrate this concretely. The two countries have always enjoyed cordial ties. But in an increasingly uncertain world, they are now purposefully heading towards a more collaborative future. Their success in doing so has significant implications for the world.
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