In­dia-Ja­pan re­la­tions are spe­cial

The Sunday Guardian - - World -

The lay­ing of the foun­da­tion stone of the Rs 1.08 lakh crore ($ 17 bil­lion) Mum­bai-Ahmed­abad bul­let train project, based on Ja­pan’s Shinkansen tech­nol­ogy, is a land­mark mo­ment in the long his­tory of In­dia-Ja­pan friend­ship span­ning decades. As Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi said in his speech at the foun­da­tion stone lay­ing cer­e­mony in Ahmed­abad on Thurs­day, the bul­let train is “in a way a project be­ing con­structed for free”, with Ja­pan pro­vid­ing In­dia with a fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance of Rs 88,000 crore at a mere 0.1% in­ter­est, to be re­paid in 50 years. Even the re­pay­ment will start af­ter 15 years from now. These are im­mensely le­nient terms that will go a long way in strength­en­ing In­di­aJa­pan re­la­tions fur­ther. The train is ex­pected to bring ma­jor eco­nomic devel­op­ment to the cor­ri­dor through which it passes, with the Prime Min­is­ter promis­ing that the area be­tween the two cities will be con­verted into a sin­gle eco­nomic zone. The govern­ment must en­sure the rapid im­ple­men­ta­tion of the project, with strict ad­her­ence to dead­line. It is im­per­a­tive to es­cape the trap of the bu­reau­cratic red tape, which has a rather du­bi­ous his­tory of sab­o­tag­ing the very best of in­ten­tions by an un­matched dis­play of lethargy.

The bul­let train is but just one area of In­dia-Ja­pan re­la­tions. From de­fence part­ner­ship to co­op­er­a­tion in business, sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, ur­ban devel­op­ment, and plans to de­velop an Asia-Africa Growth Cor­ri­dor, the coun­tries have got cov­ered a vast area of mu­tual in­ter­ests be­tween the two of them. In­dia-Ja­pan re­la­tions have got a ma­jor boost, es­pe­cially un­der Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s Act East pol­icy. Ja­pan too has been re­cip­ro­cat­ing PM Modi’s over­tures in a very big way, with the Ja­panese in­vest­ing $4.7 bil­lion in In­dia in 2016-17—80% higher than in 2015-2016.

In­di­ans have taken note with grat­i­tude that Ja­pan was the only coun­try to sup­port In­dia openly dur­ing the trou­ble in Dok­lam. Sim­i­larly, the Ja­panese too have ap­pre­ci­ated In­dian con­dem­na­tion of North Korea’s act of threat­en­ing the Ja­panese islands with an­ni­hi­la­tion al­most daily.

In this con­text, men­tion must be made of how the Ja­panese have con­sid­ered In­dia to be a friend sym­pa­thetic to their tri­als and tribu­la­tions right from the time of the Sec­ond World War. Not many in In­dia may know that Tokyo has a mon­u­ment ded­i­cated to an In­dian judge, Jus­tice Rad­habinod Pal, who gave a dis­sent­ing judge­ment in the Tokyo tri­als—equiv­a­lent to the Nurem­berg tri­als—held by the Al­lied forces to try the Ja­panese par­tic­i­pants in the war. Jus­tice Pal re­fused to en­dorse the hypocrisy of the ex­er­cise, where while Ja­pan was rightly tried for wartime atrocities, but not the United States, which com­mit­ted the grave war crime of oblit­er­at­ing the two Ja­panese cities of Hiroshima and Na­gasaki, killing and maim­ing for life mil­lions of res­i­dents and even fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. Ja­pan’s link to In­dian free­dom fighter Sub­has Chandra Bose is well known. Both Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore en­hanced their own be­liefs and philoso­phies through their in­ter­ac­tions with Ja­panese philoso­phers and thinkers. Numer­ous such sim­i­lar ex­changes have been tak­ing place be­tween the two ro­bust democ­ra­cies of In­dia and Ja­pan over the years.

This was Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s fourth visit to In­dia as the head of his govern­ment. When he first vis­ited In­dia as PM ten years ago in 2007, he quoted from a 1655 book by Mughal prince Dara Shikoh, Con­flu­ence of the Two Seas, to say, “We are now at a point at which the Con­flu­ence of the Two Seas is com­ing into be­ing. The Pa­cific and the In­dian Oceans are now bring­ing about a dy­namic cou­pling as seas of free­dom and of pros­per­ity. A ‘broader Asia’ that broke away ge­o­graph­i­cal bound­aries is now be­gin­ning to take on a dis­tinct form. Our two coun­tries have the abil­ity—and the re­spon­si­bil­ity— to en­sure that it broad­ens yet fur­ther and to nur­ture and en­rich these seas to be­come seas of clear­est trans­parence.” Dur­ing his lat­est visit, PM Abe said, “In­dia is tremen­dously spe­cial to Ja­pan.” So is Ja­pan to In­dia.

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