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Transcript of Media Briefing by Foreign Secretary on upcoming visit of Prime Minister to Japan

October 26, 2018

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Namaskar and good afternoon friends and welcome to this special briefing on Prime Minister’s visit to Japan which is going to take place from 27-29 October, 2018.

It is my pleasure to have the Foreign Secretary of India Shri Vijay Gokhale and Shri Pranay Verma, Jt. Secretary (East Asia) for this briefing. For this very important upcoming visit after Foreign Secretary’s introductory remarks we have time for questions but please bear in mind that the questions will only be on Prime Minister’s visit to Japan. Over to Foreign Secretary now.

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale:
Thank you Raveesh. Prime Minister is planning a two day visit to Japan i.e. 28 and 29 October and as you all know there is an annual summit that we have with Japan. This will be the 13th such annual summit and fifth for our Prime Minister.

The visit of course is characterized both by the special strategic and global partnership that we have established with Japan and by the personal relationship that the Prime Minister has evolved with his counterpart Prime Minister Abe of Japan. For your information besides the five annual summits during which they have met or will be meeting there are six other occasions on which they have also met in the sidelines of international and multilateral meeting, so they have already met a total of 11 times in the past four and a half years and this will be the 12th such meeting.

The visit of course takes place against the backdrop of shared values with Japan, a common vision that we share with them and shared objectives. Let me just speak to you briefly about the program Prime Minister will follow when he visits Japan. And before I do so I do want to highlight that this is a program that Prime Minister Abe has also taken personal interest in working out. If you recall our Prime Minister also made a special program for Prime Minister Abe during his visit last year to Gandhi Nagar and Ahmedabad.

On Sunday, October 28, our Prime Minister will visit Yamanashi prefecture. This is a prefecture at the Mt. Fuji and it also has a sizeable industrial base. The program as currently envisaged will be informal lunch hosted by Prime Minister Abe at a hotel in view of Mt. Fuji. Thereafter they will take a stroll in the grounds of the hotel and this will be followed by a visit by both leaders to a company which is a leading manufacturer of factory automation systems. It is a very advanced technology company in Yamanashi prefecture. The two leaders will visit together and then Prime Minister Abe will take our Prime Minister to his personal home, his second home in Yamanashi for a private dinner. This is a very special gesture Prime Minister Abe is making. We believe this is the first time that a foreign leader is visiting Prime Minister Abe’s second home or his holiday home. Then both leaders will return the same eveing to Tokyo on the train. Prime Minister Abe will of course be in Yamanashi in advance to greet him on arrival but on return both will travel by train back to Tokyo.

Monday, 29 October is the formal day. It begins with a community function. He will meet members of the Indian community and this will be followed by a few important calls on PM by the Foreign Minister Mr. Taro Kono, by the METI Minister Mr. Seko and by two important Political leaders Mr. Kishida and Mr. NIkali.

Then there will be a series of business events. A call on Prime Minister by a group of Japanese venture capital companies, then a lunch by their top level industry body. This will be followed by a meeting between the India-Japan Business Leaders Forum. This is like the CEO forum that we have with other countries. During that or just after that will be the launch of grand challenge of start-ups which is a new program which encourages Indian and Japanese entrepreneurs to pose start-ups to these venture capital companies and this is the beginning of that process. SO this is something which is a new element. And finally Prime Minister’s address to the business forum jointly hosted by Nikkei, by JETRO and by Keidanren.

The evening will be the official part of the visit that is ceremonial welcome by the Prime Minister of Japan at his office. The delegation level talks, the press statements that will be issued, the exchange of documents and then the official banquet for the delegation by Prime Minister Abe before our Prime Minister departs for Delhi the same evening.

Although the normal official visit also involves call on His Majesty, the Emperor but the Emperor is not in Tokyo on those days. SO as you see the program is short, it is very focused and it is action packed. Several programs are packed together in the time that the Prime Minister will be in Japan.

Very briefly let also give you a sense of the discussions that he will hold during his visit to Tokyo and these discussions will be against the backdrop of Japan both as a major strategic partner for us and as a major development partner for us. So they are both as far as we are concerned so obviously bilateral issues will figure prominently. Japan has been a major contributor to India’s economic development and modernization and is a strategic partner. Exchange of views on regional and multilateral issues will also take place.

On the international and multilateral side these discussions are anchored in a shared approach on values, n having an inclusive global order on having a reformed multilateral order and on initiative that foster trust and connectivity.

It goes without saying that Indo-Pacific will be a major topic of discussion between both leaders. Prime Minister’s vision is already been elaborated at the Shangri-La Dialogue. Prime Minister Abe has separately elaborated his own vision of the Indo-Pacific. If you make a comparison of it you will see a number of areas of convergence, of commonality, of common vision and the two leaders will obviously therefore discuss how we can take this vision forward, present it to the rest of the world and try to see how we can concretize it.

One of the areas which will form part of this discussion will therefore be how we can collaborate in the context of the Indo-Pacific in Asia and in Africa and on capacity building and on infrastructure projects in a trilateral format, in other words India, Japan plus one. Obviously I am not in a position to share any more details in this matter but this is certainly a subject which will be discussed.

The regional security situation will obviously be another topic. We presume that given the interest that Japan has on issues relating to the Korean Peninsula and the DPRK, this matter will be discussed. We will certainly raise the issue of our concerns with the terrorism and other international transport of crimes. This is an issue which has importance to us and I presume we will also exchange views on our relations i.e. the relations that India and Japan have with the various major powers.

Obviously the two leaders are free to discuss any other issue which may come up and it is very difficult for me at this stage to indicate what or whether any issues will come up.

On the bilateral sides there are very substantive issues to be discussed and this will take up a considerable amount of the time that the leaders devote to each other both at the one to one and informal meetings on Sunday and at the more formal meeting on Monday. And foremost will be of course how we further leverage Japan as a development partner for our economic modernization and for the flagship initiatives of Government of India which you already know about, like Skill India, Make in India, Digital India and so on. As well as of course the flagship projects which are already ongoing, the Dedicated Freight Corridor, Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, a number of Metros and of course the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail. These are ongoing projects but obviously stock-taking would be done and we will see what to do beyond this.

One of the agreements we expect to sign will be the second tranche of the ODA loan for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail project. The effort at least of Government of India and of the Prime Minister is to ensure that this completed in time for the 75th anniversary of India’s independence which comes in 2022 and every effort is being made by both governments to see that we reach completion of this and the issues that are in the way are resolved.

Discussion will take place on the Dedicated Freight Corridor which is of course now nearing the end of its project time frame. This is a project of close to 50,000 crores of which Japanese assistance has been of 38,000 crores. That is a very sizeable Japanese assistance that we have received over a period of time and we have highly appreciated Japan’s assistance in this landmark project. Perhaps you know that the trial run of the freight train was done on 15th August this year. The first section of 190 km which I am informed is from New Ateli station to New Phulera station has already been opened on the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor. The next segment of 492 km between Rewari and Marwar is likely to open by the end of this year or very early next year and we are looking at the final completion by March 2020. So the last minute issues or the last mile issues will obviously be discussed although the Prime Minister’s will not go into any specific details, these are left to people at the functional level.

Discussions will also take place on some of the Metro projects, the Chennai Metro for instance, the Delhi Mass Rapid Transit System, some hydro-electric projects, some road projects in cities, these are part of our new proposals ODA program.

The digital partnership is something which will be focused on by the two leaders this time and this of course has a bearing on our own Digital India initiative of the Prime Minister. On our side the nodal point is NITI Aayog, on the Japanese side it is the METI and the areas we are looking at is how we can collaborate in artificial intelligence, in the internet of things and in big data. There are other topics of course but these are the main topics. This will be a focus this time around in the visit.

We are also hoping to have some kind of synergy or integration between our Prime Minister’s program of Ayushman Bharat which is the largest Medicare program of its kind globally and the Japanese program which is called Asia Health and Wellbeing Initiative. How we dovetail this and how we leverage Japan’s strengths in certain areas including medical equipment, hospitals and so on, is something which the two leaders can explore.

In Skills India we had an initiative which is Japan’s Institute of Manufacturing in India and they are now eight of them in operation. In addition we had agreed at the last summit that the technical interns training program will begin. In other words we will send technical interns for training to Japan and the first batch of these interns have left in September this year, so it’s a small beginning but the beginning has been made and we expect to retch it up, these people going over the next year or so.

In the last summit an MoU was also signed on Japanese language teaching, it is an aspect that is particularly important to Japan from the cultural perspective and the first batch of 25 trainee teachers have already passed out of this course in this interim period of one year between the signing of the MoU and this summit, we have actually implemented this program. The first batch of 25 teachers passed out two weeks ago. The target is 1000 teachers, so we have to retch it up this program as well.

Finally, the last summit established an Act East forum. This is part of Prime Minister’s vision of linking the North East of India with ASEAN as part of our Act East and of how we can leverage Japan or Japanese assistance or Japanese development capabilities in achieving this objective. We have had a number of meetings of the Act East Forum again in this one year and we have been able to identify some projects in the North East, some district roads, a couple of bridges, hydro-power stations and forestry projects in two states.

On the economic side and the developmental side I’d say that these are the areas where discussion is likely to take place. Defense and Security is another area which is important from our perspective with Japan particularly because there is a growing focus on our strategic partnership over the years. We have signed a number of vision statements and documents in this regard.

One of the areas we have already agreed to work and where further discussion will take place is research and development in certain areas of importance to us. Unmanned ground vehicle is one, robotics is another. Work has already started, I presume the leaders may wish to review what is happening here. We also have bilateral consultations with them, Tri-service consultations i.e. the army, the navy and the air force have the army to army talks, the air force to air force talks and so on. Civilian side in the Ministry of Defense has these talks.

We have regular exercises with all three services and the coast guards. The first army exercise will actually be taking place while this summit is on i.e. from 29th October onwards, this is the first time that armies will exercise. You of course know that Japan is a partner in the Malabar Exercise.

On the people to people side, the general push that we are giving is to link the prefectures of Japan to states. We would also want to encourage more parliamentary groups to visit on both sides. Perhaps some of you were aware that just last month a parliamentary group of young parliamentarians from Japan led by by Shinzo Koizumi, who is the son of the former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, visited India.

Lastly I want to flag that Prime Minister in his speech of the G20 in the last G20 summit in Hamburg and also when we held the Asian Disaster Infrastructure Conference in 2016, spoke about the disaster management and disaster assistance space internationally, globally, regionally being vacant and the importance of filling this space by trying to build an informal coalition. That idea is very much something that government is working on and in that regard Japan is of course a critical partner not only because of its vast technology and experience in handling natural disasters but also because of the Sendai Framework which emerged after the Tsunami as a global framework to build resilient infrastructure which can withstand disaster to build back better in colloquial terms. So this is also going to form a part of the discussion.

Perhaps I will stop there. This is as much I could share with you regarding the visit. I will take a few questions but they will be related to the visit and to the Japan.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you very much sir. We will take questions in batches of three.

Question: Could you tell us a little bit about the Naval Logistics Pact that we are likely to ink with Japan which is in the lines of the US?

Question: How much connectivity will be the focus, we know Japan is involved in India’s North East, so can you just brief us about Japan’s connectivity projects in North East and how they plan to connect neighboring countries of Bangladesh and Myanmar?

Question: India and Japan have already concluded Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, what is the status of this agreement? Are the Japanese nuclear companies eligible to supply nuclear components to India now?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: Thank you. What you call the Naval Logistics Pact, I presume you are referring to ACSA. Now this is a matter which is likely to be discussed between the two sides. We may start negotiations, it is not something which we are expecting to conclude or to announce during this visit.

On the connectivity issue and the issue of nuclear cooperation I will ask my colleague, Jt. Secretary East Asia to respond. I just want to say that we are focusing at this stage in leveraging Japan’s capacity to enhance connectivity within the North East. So that is why I mentioned district roads in particular or bridges across key rivers on bio-diversity and forestry projects in these states. For example better utilization of bamboo as a product which can create sustainable jobs. So the focus is not on connecting the North East, at this stage, to the neighborhood through Japan’s assistance but within the North East. But I will ask my colleague to share a few details.

Jt. Secretary (East Asia), Shri Pranay Verma: Thank you sir. On the connectivity I don’t think I have much to add after what you mentioned. It is basically developing our North Eastern region in connectivity and leveraging Japanese capabilities there.

On the civil nuclear cooperation, as you would have noted there was a Joint Working Group which was constituted after the last summit to discuss specific cooperation areas and the JWG has met a couple of times since the last summit and there has been progress in the discussion. Exactly how it will play out, we of course welcome Japan’s participation in our civil nuclear program and the discussions are now about in what specific projects and in what specific way Japan can step in. I think those are matters of detail which are being discussed under the aegis of joint working group but clearly we look at Japan as an important partner particularly with the civil nuclear agreement in place to augment our civil nuclear capacity. Thank you.

Question: There is natural curiosity about Japanese Prime Minister Mr. Shinzo Abe’s visit to China just a little before he welcomes likeminded friend Mr. Modi in Japan. With this new found equation between Japan and China that is emerging, is it in anyway going to impact Japan’s relations with India?

Question: Given the fact that India and Japan are special strategic and global partners, one of the major issues that is haunting among all the smaller nations around us is the question of infrastructure building and China is building or offering vigorously for infrastructure building in all the smaller nations with which India’s interest even Japanese interest might be affected and are getting affected, they are also getting indebted. So is there any proposal between India and Japan and in this visit of the Prime Minister are they going to discuss about infrastructure building in other nations?

Question: Japan ke saath jo hamara high speed train ka agreement hua thaa to time line thii, to kya aap us progress se aap santusht hain, kya aapko lagta hai agar project isi tarah se aagey badhaa to time se poora ho jayega?

(The high speed rail agreement that we signed with Japan and its time line, are you satisfied with its progress? Do you think the project will complete in the stipulated time period?)

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: I understand Prime Minister Abe is visiting from today onwards, I think from 25th to 27th, so as of now we have no reports about the visit. Of course this is his first bilateral visit to China in the last few years that he has been Prime Minister but I have absolutely no hesitation in saying that his visit to China will have no impact on our bilateral relationship.

We have a very deep relationship, a very diverse relationship. We have two governments committed to this relationship and we have a shared vision of not only our bilateral relations but of regional and global perspective which is reflected also in the Indo-Pacific. So I can say with confidence that not only there will be no impact on this relationship but we also welcome the improvement of relations between China and Japan because in our view an Indo-Pacific which is inclusive, which brings everybody board is the view that our Prime Minister has spoken about.

Regarding the second question, that is a very critical question and I am glad you asked it. We actually have a specific example in Sri Lanka where India, Japan and Sri Lanka working together on an LNG terminal. This is already an ongoing project so I would certainly say that the two leaders will discuss how we can collaborate in a similar fashion perhaps in other countries in our neighborhood or in our near abroad. Let me broaden it because we are now defining our neighborhood as a neighborhood defined by oceans and not necessary by land. I would not wish to say anything further in this matter but I expect that there will be some specific outcomes as a result of the discussions.

Aapne jo high speed rail ki baat kii, hamein to abhi tak aise lag raha hai ki hum 2022 tak kar payenge. Haan kuch aise mudde hain jaise land acquisition ke mudde hain, Maharashtra mein Palghar district mein lekin jahan tak hamein bataya jaa raha hai ye land acquisition December-January tak sort ho jaayega. To hamari to poori koshish hai ki is project ko 2022 tak rail sewa aarambha karein. Dono teams isko constantly monitor kar rahe hain aur shayad dono pradhanmantri bhi iske baare mein baat karenge.

(High speed rail that you talked about, till now we believe that we will be able to complete it by 2022. Yes there are certain issues like land acquisition specifically in Palghar district of Maharashtra, we have been told that it will be completed by December-January. So it will be our whole hearted attempt to start the rail in 2022. Both the teams are constantly monitoring its progress and perhaps both the Prime Ministers will also have discussion on it.)

Question from PTI: You spoke about possible discussions on boosting defense ties, so can you expect any kind of announcement on US2 amphibious aircraft proposal as it is a long pending proposal and what are the other areas that we are going to focus in the context of evolving security situation in the region and considering our expanding global strategic partnership?

Question: The Prime Minister has been very focused on the international army raising of the flag, so why no visit to the Renkoji Temple?

Question: Japan and India are trying to build a road which facilitates connectivity which is considered parallel to China’s BRI. Instead does it not makes sense for all the three countries getting together and connecting Asia, Europe and Africa by putting their resources?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: On specific defense platforms you would have to ask the Defense Ministry. I cannot comment on behalf of the Ministry of External Affairs. What I can say is that for us this is an important defense and strategic relationship and the two leaders will not get into details but will review the manner in which we are conducting it, the modalities that we are doing it with and give a direction as to what we expect to do in future which I presume is what will come out of the discussions and perhaps be reflected in joint statement or in their press statements. So may I request you to wait for that.

Regarding the second question, the programming of any visit is dependent on many factors. So keeping everything in mind I have already given you Prime Minister’s program and I don’t have any further comments in that matter.

As for the last question, whatever you have said the issue is that we are ready to collaborate in infrastructure construction bilaterally or multilaterally or with many partners. The issue is of following certain international norms and procedures of transparency, sustainability and of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. Within these principles that we have defined, we have neither denied nor shut the door for collaboration with anybody. But specifically on this visit the objective will be to discuss, as I said, how India and Japan can work together for capacity building and certain infrastructure and connectivity projects with third countries in our expanded neighborhood.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We will have the last round of three questions now.

Question from The Hindu: In 2014 when the Prime Minister had visited Japan in Tokyo and in his speech talked very specifically about hegemonistic attitudes of countries in the region indicating China at the time and the issue in the South China Sea. When you said that the two Prime Ministers will discuss the Indo-Pacific, you are essentially talking about projects, what about the security situation, are we talking about strengthening India-Japan security cooperation in the South China Sea in particular?

Question from The Mint: Just need a clarification actually. You said that when it comes to India-Japan plus one you can’t elaborate but just to understand, is this in the context of Asia Africa Growth Corridor and are we expecting any concrete outcomes in terms of, we heard the launch of this two years ago, last year I don’t think there was much in the joint statement, so are we expecting any concrete announcements, outcomes this time?

Question: Will you please elaborate on Acquisition Cross Service Agreement (ACSA) scope?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: Perhaps I should have clarified that the discussion on Indo-Pacific is not limited to just connectivity and infrastructure. Of course it will relate also to the political and security situation in the whole area and how we can advance this whole concept in the manner in which the Prime Minister spelt it out in the Shangri-La dialogue. That may or may not involve necessarily discussing bilateral collaboration on certain specific actions that we do but it will certainly involve the review of the situation. So connectivity is only one part of it. Indo-pacific concept has a connectivity element and then an economic element and it also has geo-political geo strategic element as well to it.

As far as the second question is concerned, yes, Asia-Africa Growth Corridor will be discussed. We are looking at certain specific projects but at this stage we are still in discussion mode. I hope that we will come out with something concrete but considerable progress has been made in last few months in looking at where we can specifically collaborate bearing in mind that we have two different models for collaboration and certain differences in our internal systems as well and our regulations as well. So it takes a while to synergize the two if we are meeting to on a single project but I would certainly believe that we are moving in that direction and I will request you to wait for the outcome of the visit.

As regards to the last question, the ACSA or the mutual logistics support agreement which is the general term is something which we are likely to start discussing but we are not expecting to conclude or announce anything during this visit. As for specific details you would have to seek it from Ministry of Defense because I am not aware of what specific details go into a mutual logistics support agreement. Thank you.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you sir. With this we conclude our special briefing on Prime Minister’s visit to Japan. Thank you all.


New Delhi,
October 25, 2018

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