Narendra Modi delighted his Japanese hosts on Monday, the key day of his state visit, with an apparent swipe at China and an offer to facilitate business from Japan.
Modi, addressing Japanese industrialists, said that expansionism would never lead to progress in the modern world, and referred to encroachment and capture of others’ territory, a possible allusion to China’s claim on the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands.
Japan’s relations with China, never cordial, have steadily worsened under PM Shinzo Abe, and the Japanese are trying to build ties with India to counter their traditional rivals.
“If you look all around you, we see the expansionism of the 18th century,” Modi said. “In the 21st century, if Asia is to lead the world, India and Japan should together raise the prestige of the path of development.”
Modi also promised to set up a special management team for facilitating business with Japan directly under the Prime Minister’s Office, even offering to include two nominees of Japanese business.
“This is very positive,” said Takashi Shimada, president of the Indo Business Centre consultancy. “But we need to see some specifics, some follow ups and some early success.”
The third day in Narendra Modi’s Japan trip, which could see a flurry of dealmaking, got off to a quiet start with a visit to an elementary school next to his Tokyo hotel.
Modi, who has come across as relaxed and cheerful on this trip, mingled with students and teachers at the 136-year-old Taimei Elementary, a minute’s car ride away from the Imperial Hotel where the Indian delegation is staying. “We are trying to teach Japanese language in our schools, and we need teachers for that. I invite you all to come to India and teach,” Modi said.
The morning was devoted to courtesy calls by senior ministers from the Abe cabinet — foreign minister Fumio Kishida, finance minister Taro Aso and economy minister Toshimitus Motegi.
Modi also played host to land infrastructure and tourism minister Akihiro Ohta and defence minister Itsumori Onodera.
The central event of the day was the official welcome ceremony at the Akasaka Palace, followed by a tea ceremony, a meeting with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, talks between the two delegations and the signing of agreements. Abe, who travelled to Kyoto to welcome Modi when he got there on Saturday, hosted a banquet at the palace for his Indian counterpart.
The Japanese have laid on the hospitality for Modi and his delegation, eyeing lucrative infrastructure deals and a chance to cock a snook at their Chinese rivals.
The Indian side is keen on getting a civilian nuclear deal through which will enable Japanese companies to supply components to nuclear reactors. The Japanese have been pressing for additional guarantees that the Indians will not test again; India has been resisting this on the grounds that it has already agreed to a moratorium on testing.
Other items on the table include negotiations for the US-2 amphibious rescue and reconnaissance plane, investments in desalination plants and the Japanese bullet train.