Prime Minister Manmohan Singh embarked on a tour to Japan on Thursday, which could transform the face of Indo-Japan relations and have a significant impact on economic and strategic affairs in Asia.
Prime Minister Singh's schedule for the two days of official business is jam-packed. Among other things, he will hold discussions with his counterpart Shinzo Abe, attend a high-profile business luncheon, and meet the Emperor and the Empress.
In a rare honour, he will also address a joint session of the Japanese parliament, the Diet. The gesture is reminiscent of the privilege accorded by Jawaharlal Nehru to Abe's grandfather Nobusuke Kishi to address the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort when he visited India in 1957.
The two PMs are expected to announce the launch of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), and as many as three trade-related agreements are expected to be signed.
More importantly, a 'special' economic partnership is likely to be announced, which will see Japan transferring investment and technology to India, to spur its development in the manner of the East Asian countries and China. This could help India develop its manufacturing sector, which is essential to create wide-based employment and a solid export base.
Equally important will be the developments in the strategic sphere. China's rapid growth has been a preoccupation of the policy establishments of both India and Japan. The visit will take forward the two countries' attempts to devise a strategy to manage relations with their common neighbour.
Both countries also share a common interest to create a regional, and indeed global, architecture that will facilitate the peaceful rise of countries like India, China and Brazil, which has already created tensions in existing multilateral forums like the WTO and the UN. Besides, India and Japan have been emphasizing their shared values - democracy and respect for human rights and the rule of law. Hence, this visit could give a more concrete shape to the emerging strategic partnership.
In addition, steps towards enabling greater people-to-people partnership will be announced, including the announcement of the Indo-Japan Tourism Year 2007.