Modi, Abe flag off bul­let train project, ink 15 pacts

‘JAI JA­PAN, JAI IN­DIA’ Lead­ers pledge greater role for both na­tions in Asia­Pa­cific

Hindustan Times (Gurgaon) - - News - Jayanth Ja­cob jayanth.ja­cob@htlive.com

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and his Ja­panese coun­ter­part Shinzo Abe launched on Thurs­day the project to build In­dia’s first bul­let train net­work and un­veiled an am­bi­tious con­nec­tiv­ity plan be­tween Asia and Africa, al­most im­me­di­ately draw­ing con­cerns from their com­mon ri­val China.

Abe was in Gu­jarat on a two­day visit for the an­nual sum­mit be­tween the two na­tions, which have be­come in­creas­ingly close as they seek to counter China’s grow­ing in­flu­ence.

Modi and Abe signed 15 agree­ments, in­clud­ing in­creas­ing flights be­tween their cities and col­lab­o­ra­tion in ar­eas of de­fence, se­cu­rity, trade and civil nu­clear en­ergy.

“The grow­ing con­ver­gence be­tween Ja­pan and In­dia on strate­gic and eco­nomic is­sues has ca­pac­ity to stim­u­late the global econ­omy,” Modi said in a press state­ment with Abe, who called his coun­try’s ties with In­dia “spe­cial, strate­gic and global”.

The two lead­ers par­tic­i­pated in the ground-break­ing cer­e­mony for the Ahmedabad-Mum­bai bul­let train project that is set to be com­pleted in 2022. Slated to cost ~1,10,000 crore, trains on this net­work will run at peak speeds of 350 km/hr.

“This is the new In­dia and the flight of its dreams is end­less,” Modi said at the cer­e­mony in Ahmedabad.

The dis­play of warmth be­tween In­dia and Ja­pan drew a re­ac­tion from Bei­jing. “We ad­vo­cate that re­gional coun­tries should stand for di­a­logue with­out con­fronta­tion and work for part­ner­ship in­stead of alliance,” Chi­nese for­eign min­istry spokesper­son Hua Chun­y­ing said.

Modi and Abe later met for the main event of the sum­mit in Gandhinagar, where they de­liv­ered a joint state­ment that stressed on mov­ing “to­ward a free and pros­per­ous Indo-Pa­cific”.

The Ja­panese leader pitched for In­dia as the “fac­tory of the world”, a di­rect chal­lenge to China, which is the global man­u­fac­tur­ing hub.

“Ja­pan in com­mit­ted to Make in In­dia. If Ja­pan’s high-level tech­nique merg­ers with In­dia’s best hu­man re­sources, In­dia will be­come the fac­tory of the world,” Abe said, re­fer­ring to the Modi’s gov­ern­ment’s am­bi­tious plan to turn In­dia into a global man­u­fac­tur­ing pow­er­house.

A cru­cial por­tion of their dec­la­ra­tion was about col­lab­o­rat­ing in Africa, where 54 re­source-rich coun­tries present a ripe mar­ket. The part­ner­ship merges In­dia’s Act-East and Ja­pan’s Indo-Pa­cific strate­gies with their pol­icy for en­gage­ment with the African con­ti­nent, home to 15% of the pop­u­la­tion.

The sup­port of th­ese coun­tries is also vi­tal for New Delhi and Tokyo’s as­pi­ra­tions of a per­ma­nent seat at the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

The un­veil­ing of the strat­egy fol­lows China’s one belt, one road (OBOR) con­nec­tiv­ity plan that also aims to deepen en­gage­ment with Africa and coun­tries in the re­gion.

The joint state­ment called for coun­tries in the re­gion to “en­sure de­vel­op­ment and con­nec­tiv­ity in­fra­struc­ture in an open, trans­par­ent and non-exclusive man­ner based on in­ter­na­tional stan­dards and re­spon­si­ble debt fi­nanc­ing prac­tices, while en­sur­ing re­spect for sovereignty and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity, the rule of law, and the en­vi­ron­ment”.

Th­ese are the very con­cerns In­dia raised while stay­ing away from OBOR since it passes through Pak­istan-oc­cu­pied Kash­mir.

In Bei­jing the for­eign min­istry spokesper­son said Bei­jing was “open and wel­come nor­mal de­vel­op­ment of re­la­tions be­tween the coun­tries in the re­gion. We hope that re­la­tions will be con­ducive to re­gional peace and sta­bil­ity and can play a con­struc­tive role in this re­gard”.

REUTERS

PM Naren­dra Modi and his Ja­panese coun­ter­part Shinzo Abe press a but­ton to sig­nify the launch of the bul­let train project.

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