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Foreign Secretary’s Remarks at the Opening Session of the India-Japan Forum (July 20, 2021)

July 20, 2021

H.E. Mr. Motegi Toshimitsu, Hon’ble Foreign Minister of Japan;
Shri N. K. Singh, Chairman of the 15th Finance Commission, Co-Chair of the India-Japan Forum and Trustee, Ananta Aspen Centre;
Senior Government Functionaries, Representatives of Think Tanks, Captains of Industry, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends

Namaste and Konnichiwa,

It is my great pleasure to welcome all participants to the inaugural session of the India-Japan Forum convened by the Ministry of External Affairs of India and the Ananta Aspen Centre.

2. India and Japan have always enjoyed the warmest of relations. Japan has been a strong and invaluable partner in our developmental journey. What lends strength to this relationship are the age-old cultural linkages and shared values of democracy, freedom and the rule of law. In fact, as External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar noted recently, the partnership between India and Japan is seen today as among the most natural and close in the region.

3. The evolving geopolitical situation, with the focus shifting decisively towards the Indo-Pacific region and a deeper understanding of the complementarities between our two countries, has further enhanced this partnership. In this process, interactions between our people, businesses and think-tanks have played a critical role.

4. In fact, it was in this context that the idea of the India-Japan Forum emerged. A forum which would bring together eminent leaders, not only from government, but from think-tanks, academia, industry and the media, to exchange ideas and develop a joint agenda for furthering cooperation.

5. I am happy to note that eminent personalities from both our countries representing different walks of life will participate at the discussions today. I am confident that this will serve as a vibrant platform for the shared objective of strengthening the India-Japan partnership for the benefit of our two countries.

6. In the last decade, and particularly since 2014, when we elevated our relationship to a Special Strategic and Global Partnership, we have achieved several milestones in the strategic and economic spheres.

7. Increasing investments by Japanese companies in India, for the development of infrastructure or partnerships in skill development, have deepened the India-Japan economic engagement over the years.

8. Progress in the economic pillar of our ties has been accompanied by an increasing convergence in our strategic outlook towards the region. This is reflected in our shared vision for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. This convergence is not only seen in bilateral exchanges but also in the increasing comfort in working with other like-minded partners through plurilateral forums, involving other partners. In addition, Quad consultations along with the US and Australia provide a platform for these four countries to explore ways to synergize their respective efforts towards the region.

9. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only generated severe economic stresses but would have a long term impact on the geo-political situation. While this period may be characterized by flux and a sense of heightened insecurity, the growing convergence of the India and Japan on strategic and economic issues has the potential to shape a multi-polar world that is more peaceful, secure and sustainable. As the Prime Minister recently stated, "the friendship between India and Japan has become more relevant to our partnership, global stability and prosperity in this COVID pandemic era.”

10. 2022 will mark the 70th anniversary of establishment of our diplomatic relations. As we work towards dealing with the impact of the pandemic, there are new opportunities for enhanced cooperation between our two countries.

11. India and Japan have in recent years enhanced their defence and strategic ties. Japan is the only partner with which India has an Annual Summit as well as a 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministers dialogue. We have signed an Agreement on Reciprocal Provision of Supplies and Services. There is an increasing regularity of exercises between our respective forces. Cooperation between India and Japan on defence, equipment and technology holds immense potential and needs to be deepened further.

12. The India-Japan relationship also has a growing salience on India’s Act East Policy. Connectivity and other developmental projects being implemented under the India-Japan Act East Forum, which the Japanese Ambassador and I co-chair, are contributing to the development of the North Eastern region of India. This assumes greater significance given that the North East is India’s gateway to South East Asia.

13. India and Japan are continuing to enhance their ability to work with other partners in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. We are looking at deepening our cooperation in third countries, moving beyond India’s immediate neighbourhood to the Russian Far East and the Pacific Island States. Japan’s participation as the lead partner in the ‘connectivity pillar’ of the Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019 is greatly welcome and will provide significant impetus to this initiative.

14. Both countries are taking initiatives to re-work supply chains to make them more reliable. An important step in this direction has been the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative that India and Japan, in partnership with Australia, have launched recently. The three countries have started working-level interactions on a range of issues under this framework.

15. There is scope for creating new partnerships in the economic domain, including in manufacturing, agriculture, digital technologies, start-ups and clean energy.

16. People-to-people linkages are a critical pillar of our relationship. Our partnership in Skill Development has gained prominence in recent years, with Japanese companies establishing 16 Japan-India Institutes of Manufacturing and 5 Japanese Endowed Courses to skill Indian youth in Japanese work culture and manufacturing processes. An example is that of Maruti Suzuki which brought in Japanese concepts like Kaizen or ‘Continuous Improvement’ leading to enhanced productivity. During the inauguration of the Zen Garden and Kaizen Academy in Ahmedabad recently, the Prime Minister noted Kaizen’s positive impact on governance in India. With the signing of the agreement on Specified Skill Workers earlier this year, the movement of skilled human resources from India to Japan will get a further boost. The time may have come for the two sides to consider a Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement to facilitate mobility and migration of professionals and highly-skilled workers, on lines that India has signed with other countries.

17. I am confident that your deliberations today will help us in charting the course for deepening our bilateral partnership. I thank you all of our esteemed participants for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts.

18. Before I conclude I would also like to convey our best wishes for a very successful Tokyo-2020 Olympics to our Japanese friends.

Thank you
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